By Emily Rosenberg
As a high school senior huddled in a corner of the library, weeping to the rambled, improvised love confession of Joshua Bassett as Ricky to Olivia Rodrigo as Ninni, I imagined in college I would be accomplishing great feats and going on a lot of dates - the sappy teen drama “HSMTMTS” in my distant past.
I can safely say only the first of those statements are true.
“High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” (HSMTMTS) on Disney+ is a modern musical spin-off of the beloved 2006 Disney Channel Original Movie “High School Musical.” It is a mockumentary depicting the theater students from the real-life high school where “High School Musical” was filmed, East High, putting together shows.
Including none of the original characters from “High School Musical” in its main cast, the show is unlike other spin-offs where rather than relying on the nostalgia factor with existing plotlines, personalities, and jokes, it instead builds on the open-hearted atmosphere established in the movies.
In its third season, reminiscent of “High School Musical 2,” nearly all of the students go to Camp Shallow Lake for the summer where they put on the first ever student production of “Frozen.”
But it comes with a catch and it’s about to get wicked meta.
Not only are they performing “Frozen,” their rehearsals and discussions are being filmed for “Frozen: The Musical: The Documentary,” to premiere on Disney+, produced by none other than the iconic Corbin Bleu. In this series he plays himself, but you probably know him as Chad from all three High School Musicals.
This season is filled with some of the show’s most unforgettable performances, including an alternative, catchy rendition of the “Camp Rock,” Demi Lovato classic “This is Me.”
Coming at a climatic moment in the finale when her castmates are faced with difficult decisions, Liamani Segura’s flawless performance brings a new, impactful message about friendship and teamwork to “This is Me.” It will be a huge loss if we do not see more of this talented young woman.
The show spends a little too much time on Ricky, Gina, and EJ’s love triangle. However, it doesn’t fail to be thrilling and suspenseful, especially after episode 5 “The Real Campers of Shallow Lake,” when the disgusting documentary cinematographer forces them all to act more dramatic, giving Ricky a fake role as Gina’s “jilted ex.”
Also with this plot line and with Ricky’s divorced family troubles being absent from the season completely, we have to wonder if the show’s writer, Tim Federle has anything in play for the character besides “hot boy pines for hot girl.”
Where this show particularly shines is its diverse cast of not just identities, but their personalities and the issues they deal with including sibling trauma, abandonment, and anxiety.
A highlight is when Ashlyn, a ginger who starred as Belle in “Beauty and The Beast” last season is taken aback when she is casted into the ensemble. This causes her to spend a lot more time with the show’s assistant director, and while being away from her boyfriend she - well - realizes stuff about herself.
This season also finally put Sophia Wiley and Dara Renee, who play Gina and Kourtney, both women of color and unarguably the best singers on the show, into the main spotlight.
Wiley herself said in an interview with People Magazine that she hopes her representation proves to little girls that anyone can be a princess - representation I never saw myself as a little girl.
One downfall of this season is that it completely cut out series regulars, Sebastian, Big Red, and Miss Jen, who are eccentric essential additions to previous seasons. Sebastian is also one of the LGBT+ characters, so it is disappointing, if not infuriating to watch them cut his character without a good reason.
However, once the series kicked off into juicy episodes such as “The Real Campers of Shallow Lake,” I completely forgot they were gone.
Overall, for those of us who were raised on “High School Musical,” this show is a splendid treat to watch when you’re in need of a dose of dopamine.
Just because we’re older now, doesn’t mean an occasional cheesy music number isn’t a necessity.
With its hilarious and eccentric characters, beautiful songs, and accurate representation of real-life issues, this show is one we all deserved when we were younger.
Who says we can’t watch it now?
A- : Bravo, bravah