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Summer 'School'

The High School Musical cast is wrapping up filming on the sequel, set to air Aug. 17 on the Disney Channel.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published May 7, 2007


ST. GEORGE, Utah

It's the start of summer, and Sharpay Evans is lounging poolside at the resort her family owns, looking forward to forgetting about that whole mess with Troy and Gabriella winning the lead roles in the high school musical.

Hold it right there: Troy and his basketball teammates are approaching the pool. The look of disbelief and disgust on Sharpay's face says it all - take after take.

In reality it's not the summer. It's actually a hot April day in the southwestern corner of Utah, and Ashley Tisdale, who plays Sharpay, and her co-stars from the mega-hit Disney TV movie High School Musical are gathered for the final weeks of filming the movie's sequel.

"It's been so much fun. The team is back and more dedicated to making a great picture than ever, " said director-choreographer Kenny Ortega.

The reunion for the sequel, scheduled to air Aug. 17 on the Disney Channel, feels very much like a case of life imitating popular teen movie. Most of the cast and crew are staying in rental houses at the pueblo-style Entrada Country Club, where they've been filming since March, and there's a summer camp vibe.

In High School Musical 2, Sharpay and her cloyingly jaunty brother, Ryan Lucas Grabeel, have retreated for the summer to their family's resort. They soon find out that their fellow East High Wildcats are all around, having gotten summer jobs as caddies, lifeguards and such.

After the enormous success of the first movie, the lead cast members scattered for the many opportunities that followed. Zac Efron, who plays dreamy Troy Bolton, leaped to a feature film: He'll appear alongside John Travolta in Hairspray this year. Tisdale and Corbin Bleu, who plays Troy's best friend, Chad, each recorded their own albums.

But, Ortega said, there was no question about the cast's commitment to the second film. The cast and crew, he said, feel they owe it to the fans to make a great sequel.

It's hard to get much bigger than High School Musical. Since it premiered on the Disney Channel in January 2006, more than 100-million people, mostly teens, preteens and parents, have watched basketball player Troy and shy, studious Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens) turn their school upside down by stepping out of their comfort zones and trying out for the school musical.

The movie's soundtrack was the top-selling album of last year, with more than 3.7-million copies sold. Fans have also bought more than 7.5-million copies of the film DVD, according to Disney.

"The expectations are enormous, " said co-producer Don Schain. "I think it's fair to say everyone is feeling additional pressure because of those things."

The pressure might only get bigger with a planned third film, which will be a feature for release in theaters, said producer Bill Borden.

"Originally we pitched three movies: the first one, school's out for summer and the final year with prom and graduation, " Borden said.

But first there's HSM 2 this summer.

With all the kids reunited at the resort, everyone's thoughts turn, naturally, to the resort's annual end-of-season talent show. Sharpay has her sights set on Troy this time and enlists her brother, Ryan, to help her drive a wedge between Troy and Gabriella.

"Does he sell out and go for Sharpay's world? Or does he decide to be true to himself?" Borden teases.

Tune in Aug. 17 to find out.

GET'CHA HEAD IN THE GAME: Here's a quick tutorial on who's who from the first musical. They're all back for the sequel.

Find your inner Troy The High School Musical stars and producers think the movie has been so successful because kids really identify with the characters. So, which character are you most like and why? Who can't you wait to see in HSM 2? E-mail Xpress at floridian@sptimes.com and give us your opinions. Include your name, age, grade, school and a number where you can be reached. Make sure you put "Xpress - High School Musical" in the subject line. We may print some of our favorites later.

1. Zac Efron Troy Bolton

The basketball team captain who shows his softer side in the school musical.

2. Vanessa Hudgens Gabriella Montez

The smart girl who captures Troy's heart with her beautiful singing voice.

3. Ashley Tisdale Sharpay Evans

Snooty and talented, she is thrown for a loop when she loses out on the lead in the musical.

4. Corbin Bleu Chad Danforth

Troy's best friend, he tries to keep Troy out of the musical and in the game.

5. Monique Coleman Taylor McKessie

Captain of the scholastic decathlon team, she wants to make sure Gabriella keeps her nose in the books.

6. Lucas Grabeel Ryan Evans

Sharpay's talented but dimwitted brother, who also doesn't like being an understudy in the show.