Such a Talent

Snarfed from the Trib

'High School Musical': TV movie shot in SLC rocks the tween scene
Talk of the Morning
By Kathy Stephenson
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune
Born before 1980? Then you probably haven't seen - or heard of - the Disney Channel original movie "High School Musical."
But it's time to "Get'cha Head in the Game" because this low-budget movie - filmed last summer at Salt Lake City's East High School - is the latest "tween" phenomenon, breaking cable TV records and rewriting pop-chart history.
On Thursday, the movie soundtrack was No. 1 on the Billboard 200 list, which ranks albums based on sales. Since the movie premiered on the Disney Channel on Jan. 20, the "High School Musical" soundtrack has sold nearly 404,000 copies in stores and through digital downloads on iTunes. It's the first TV show soundtrack to top the charts since 1985 when "Miami Vice" spent 11 weeks at No. 1, according to Billboard.
Last month, 28.3 million viewers tuned into one of the seven showings of the movie. Nearly two-thirds of them were between the ages of 6 and 14.
Not bad for a movie made for $5 million, with six relatively unknown teen actors and a cast of background performers and dancers who call Utah home. A sequel is already being planned.
"I don't know if anyone could have predicted this kind of success," said producer Don Schain, whose Utah company, Salty Pictures Inc., has produced a series of films for the Disney Channel.
The movie's plot is reminiscent of "Grease." Troy (Zac Efron), a popular high school basketball star, and academically gifted Gabriella (Vanessa Anne Hutchinson) share a secret passion for singing. When they audition for lead roles in the school musical, the rigid social order of the school - also called East High - is threatened. Everyone from "jocks" to "brainiacs" try to keep the couple from busting the status quo.
Of course, this is Disney, so the couple take a chance on their dreams, inspiring their peers to go public with their own hidden talents.
The movie's dance scenes were choreographed by Kenny Ortega, the Emmy-award winner who choreographed the opening ceremonies for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Schain said Ortega was happy to return to Utah for "High School Musical," knowing he would find the caliber of dancers and background performers he needed.
Fourteen-year-old Shawn Carter of Bountiful was among them.
He isn't surprised by the success of the movie or soundtrack because most teenagers can relate to the feeling of being defined by a high school stereotype.
"I think a lot of kids want to do different things, but are afraid because their friends might make fun of them," said Carter, who was a member of the movie's "skater" clique.
In a way, Carter's life mirrors that of the main character. Carter, a 9th grader, played on the Mueller Park Jr. High basketball team, is a wrestler and plays lacrosse. But he's taken jazz and hip hop classes at a studio in Bountiful for several years and performs in a Salt lake City singing and dancing troupe.
"A lot of people made fun of me for dancing, but I never let it bug me," he said. "I did it anyway and it's been a lot of fun."
Industry experts credit technology - and savvy Disney marketing - for the success of "High School Musical."
After the Jan. 20 debut, the Disney Channel directed fans to its Web site, where they could download lyrics to the songs for a karaoke telecast the next day. The site had a record 500,000 downloads in 24 hours.
After a subsequent broadcast, viewers were told to go to iTunes were they could buy four of the videos for the soundtrack songs, like "Get'cha Head in the Game."
"Tweens and teens spend their lives online," Richard Ellis, president of the youth marketing company 12 to 20, told The Los Angeles Times. "The first thing they do when they get home is sign onto the computer and chat with friends. If somebody says, 'Have you seen this?,' all of a sudden everyone is talking about it."
Poor 'Tweens.


Anonymous said…
High School Musical is cool and it's musical-like and that if you're like in Elementary school you're really going to like it. If you were to ask someone who is in elementary school they probably know all of the words to the songs.

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