With a plot described by the author and numerous critics as a modern adaptation of Romeo & Juliet, High School Musical is a story about two high school juniors from rival cliques – Troy Bolton (Zac Efron), captain of the basketball team, and Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens), a shy transfer student who excels in mathematics and science. Together, they try out for the lead parts in their high school musical, and as a result, divide the school. Despite other students' attempts to thwart their dreams, Troy and Gabriella resist peer pressure and rivalry, inspiring others along the way not to "stick to the status quo". High school diva Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale) will do anything to sabotage the friendship and romance between Troy and Gabriella, also get a lead in the school musical, assisted by her twin brother Ryan (Lucas Grabeel).
On New Year's Eve in 2006, high school juniors Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) and Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens) meet at a party while both teens are at a ski lodge during winter break. At the party, the two are called upon to sing karaoke together ("Start of Something New"). They find that they have a connection and decide to exchange numbers before going their separate ways.
On the first day back at school after Christmas break, Troy sees Gabriella in his homeroom and she explains that she just moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico and transferred to East High School over the break. Troy then shows Gabriella around school. Drama Club president Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale) arrives, assuming that Gabriella is interested in auditioning. Wanting to eliminate competition, Sharpay investigates the new girl and has the scholastic decathlon captain. Chem Club president Taylor McKessie (Monique Coleman), finds out about Gabriella's past academic achievements, which results in her and Gabriella becoming great friends.
During basketball practice, Troy has trouble focusing because his thoughts are on Gabriella and the idea that he might enjoy singing more than basketball ("Get'cha Head in the Game"). Gabriella and Troy go to the musical auditions where Sharpay and her twin brother Ryan Evans (Lucas Grabeel) perform ("What I've Been Looking For"), but both are too shy to audition. When Gabriella finally gains the confidence to step forward, Troy offers to sing with her, but drama teacher Ms. Darbus (Alyson Reed) tells them that they are too late. After Ms. Darbus attempts to leave, Kelsi Nielsen (Olesya Rulin), the musical's composer, trips and drops her music sheets. Troy and Gabriella rush to help her, and they sing together as Kelsi plays piano ("What I've Been Looking For (Reprise)"). Ms. Darbus overhears them and gives them a callback audition.
When the callback list is posted, Sharpay discovers that she has competition for the lead in the musical, and the rest of the Wildcats are shocked that Troy and Gabriella have auditioned. Other students confess their own secret passions and talents ("Stick to the Status Quo"), alarming both Taylor and Troy's best friend Chad Danforth (Corbin Bleu). Since Gabriella has agreed to join the scholastic decathlon team, both Taylor and Chad want their teammates to focus on their upcoming competitions rather than the musical. Troy is then tricked into saying that Gabriella is not important while she watches through a wi-fi link that the scholastic decathlon team had set up. Gabriella gets extremely upset by his betrayal ("When There Was Me and You") and decides not to audition for the musical.
Troy is left confused as to why Gabriella did not want to audition anymore. Realizing their mistake, Chad and the basketball team tell Troy what happened and offer to support him in callbacks. Troy goes to Gabriella's house and they reconcile.
After overhearing Gabriella and Troy practicing, Sharpay has Ms. Darbus change the callback time to coincide with both the basketball championship and the scholastic decathlon to interfere with Gabriella and Troy's participation. Kelsi overhears the conversation and the basketball team and the decathlon team work together to come up with a plan. On the day of the competitions, Taylor and Gabriella use the school's computers to delay the championship and the decathlon. Troy and Gabriella rush to the auditorium, and Sharpay and Ryan finish performing their song ("Bop to the Top"), confident that their plan worked. After Gabriella and Troy audition ("Breaking Free"), Ms. Darbus gives the two the lead roles, making Sharpay and Ryan understudies.
Troy and Gabriella both win their respective competitions and the entire school gathers in the gym to celebrate ("We're All In This Together"). Chad asks Taylor out, and Sharpay makes peace with Gabriella.
In a post-credits scene, Zeke (Chris Warren Jr.) paces alone in the gym as Sharpay runs in declaring the cookies she rejected from him earlier "genius". She then hugs him and he says he will make her a crème brûlée.Zac Efron as Troy Bolton, Gabriella's love interest, the most popular male student at East High School, and the captain of the varsity basketball team. On New Year's Eve, after singing with Gabriella, he finds himself having a crush on her. Drew Seeley provides the singing voice of Troy Bolton, but Efron sings very short in five songs: "Start of Something New", "What I've Been Looking For (Reprise)", "Breaking Free", "We're All in This Together" and "I Can't Take My Eyes Off of You".
Vanessa Hudgens as Gabriella Montez, Troy's love interest, a new student and one of the brainiacs on the scholastic decathlon team. She develops a love for Troy after meeting at a new years party.
Lucas Grabeel as Ryan Evans, Sharpay's twin brother. He is very easily pushed around by his sister but is not as mean as her, despite going along with her plans to sabotage Troy and Gabriella. He is also shown to not be particularly smart, such as not knowing how to spell "drama", never understanding Sharpay's plans and is admired by Kelsi.
Ashley Tisdale as Sharpay Evans, Ryan's twin sister and an energetic and proud student with a love of theatre. She is very easily pushed around by her brother and is mean, unlike him, but enjoys being the center of attention, particularly Troy's and is admired by Zeke.
Corbin Bleu as Chad Danforth, Troy's friend, Taylor's love interest, and is very good friends with Jason and Zeke. He likes the status quo but later ends up dating Decathlon captain Taylor.
Monique Coleman as Taylor McKessie, Gabriella's friend, Chad's love interest, and is very good friends with Martha and Kelsi. She is captain of the school's scholastic decathlon team, and despises the basketball players and cheerleaders, believing them to be airheads, although she later ends up going out with Chad.
Joey Miyashima as Dave Matsui, a principal at East High. He does the morning announcements everyday.
Bart Johnson as Jack Bolton, Troy's father and the coach of the basketball team. He has a mutual dislike with Ms. Darbus, thinks that theater is worthless, and also believes that Gabriella is a distraction to Troy's basketball career. However, he eventually comes around to it.
Olesya Rulin as Kelsi Nielsen, a friend of Gabriella and Taylor and a student at East High. She is a pianist and composer. She is very shy and is constantly bossed around by Sharpay, but in the end, she learns to stand up for herself and not get bossed around by Sharpay. She also enjoys composing and is an admirer of Ryan.
Chris Warren Jr. as Zeke Baylor, a friend of Troy and Chad and plays for the basketball team. He also enjoys baking and is an admirer of Sharpay.
Ryne Sanborn as Jason Cross, Martha's love interest, one of the jocks on the scholastic decathlon team and plays for the basketball team. He also tends to ask mundane questions in Ms. Darbus' class. He is good friends with Troy, Chad, and Zeke.
Kaycee Stroh as Martha Cox, Jason's love interest and a peppy brainiac who enjoys hip-hop. She is good friends with Gabriella, Taylor, and Kelsi.
Alyson Reed as Ms. Darbus, the stern drama teacher at East High. She despises sports and cell phones but takes her job very seriously. She has a mutual dislike with Jack Bolton, thinks that theater is worthless, and also believes that Taylor is an extraction to Chad's basketball career. However, she eventually comes around to it.
Socorro Herrera as Lisa Montez, Gabriella's mother. She tells Gabriella to get ready for a new year's party.
Leslie Wing Pomeroy as Lucille Bolton, Troy's mother. She serves food for Troy at his house but is more sufficient for Troy to love her.
Joyce Cohen as Ms. Falstaff, the librarian at East High. She keeps Chad quiet in the library and gets a book for Gabriella and Sharpay to read but takes her work very carefully.
Dutch Whitlock as Ripper, one of the dudes and dudettes on the scholastic decathlon team.
Ryan Templeman as Mongo, one of the dudes and dudettes on the scholastic decathlon team.
Irene Santiago-Baron as Ms. Tenny, the chemistry teacher at East High. Gabriella tells her that the equation has to be 16 over pi.
Anne Kathryn Parma as Susan, a girl who auditions for the winter musicale but did not get the role even though Ms. Darbus was impressed with some hand gestures she made. She is the first singer in the auditorium.
Nick Whitaker as Alan, a boy who auditions for the winter musicale but did not get the role. He is the second singer in the auditorium.
Falcon Grace as Cyndra, a girl who auditions for the winter musicale and is not happy when she does not get the role. She is the fourth singer in the auditorium.
Sami Roe as a weird kid.
Melissa Hildebrant as another weird kid.
Sarah K. Aezer as a girl.
Amanda Garrett as another girl.
Charles Klapow as a Basketball Player.
Carlton Bluford as another Basketball Player.
Brad Tobler as another Basketball Player
Jared Murillo as another Basketball Player.
Sabra Johnson as a Skaterdude Dancer.
Shawn Carter as another Skaterdude Dancer.
Malinda Money as another Skaterdude Dancer.
Bayli Baker as a Cheerleader Dancer.
Allison Holker as another Cheerleader Dancer.
Britt Stewart as another Cheerleader Dancer.
Kelli Baker as another Cheerleader Dancer.
Thayne Jasperson as a Brainiac Dancer.
Mollee Gray as another Brainiac Dancer.
The soundtrack was released on January 10, 2006, and debuted at number 133 on the Billboard 200, selling 7,469 copies in its first week. In the album's third week, for the chart dated February 11, 2006, it climbed to number ten, and has since risen to number one on the Billboard 200 twice (on March 1 and 22) and had shipped 3.8 million copies on December 5, 2006. Out of those copies, more than 3 million copies have been sold by August 2006; it was certified quadruple platinum by the RIAA.
On its premiere, the film was a success with 7.7 million viewers. However, the reviews were mixed. On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a rating of 56%, while Common Sense Media rated it at 4/5 stars.
Kevin Carr gave the film a score of 3/5 saying, "The filmmakers were just trying to tell a story. Sex, drugs and violence just didn't factor into that equation." On the other hand, David Nusair gave the film a negative review with a score of 1.5/4 saying, "...it's difficult to imagine even the most die-hard fan of musicals finding anything here worth embracing." Scott Weinberg also gave the film a negative review saying, "A schmaltzy little piece of obvious fluff that's directed in truly horrendous fashion and populated by cardboard characters who spit out simplistic platitudes and breathy pop tunes."
The DVD was released on May 23, 2006, under the title, High School Musical: Encore Edition. It created a sales record when 1.2 million copies were sold in its first six days, making it the fastest-selling television film of all time. It is, however, the second DCOM (Disney Channel Original Movie) on DVD to be certified Platinum in DVD sales, the first being The Cheetah Girls. The High School Musical DVD was also released in Australia on July 12, 2006, through Walt Disney and was released on European Region 2 on December 4, 2006, where it went on to reach number one in the UK DVD charts. It was also shown on Disney Channel South Africa, the latest Disney channel at that time in the southern hemisphere. It was the top-selling DVD in Australia in August 2006. In addition, the Region 3 DVD was released on October 10 in Hong Kong. It also released in Taiwan on December 15, 2006. This is the first Region 3 DCOM DVD ever released. It was released in Mexico on November 10 and in Brazil on December 6 to coincide with Christmas and the Rede Globo broadcast of the film. It was released in New Zealand on July 12, 2006, and was awarded most popular pre-teen movie in New Zealand for 2006
High School Musical was the first feature-length video content from the iTunes Store in mid-March 2006. At the time it was available as a 320x240 resolution 487MB download for $9.99 after initially being mistakenly listed for $1.99.
The Remix Edition, a 2-disc Special Edition, was released on December 5, 2006. The Remix DVD was released in France on June 20, 2007. and in Germany on September 13, 2007. The Remix DVD was released in the UK on September 10, 2007.
Despite being filmed in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, both the original and Remix Edition DVD releases featured a 1.33:1 "full screen" version (though not pan and scan as the camera stays directly in the center of the image), the format of the film as shown on the Disney Channel. The widescreen, high definition version is available exclusively on Disney Blu-ray in North America and has subsequently been showing in the UK & Ireland on BBC One and BBC HD, and RTÉ One. The HD version is also available on PlayStation StoreVideo section and Sony Entertainment on line for the US market.
High School Musical 2 is the first sequel. It debuted on August 17, 2007, on Disney Channel in the U.S., and on Family in Canada. The premiere brought in a total of 17.3 million viewers in the United States—almost 10 million more than its predecessor—making it (at the time of its airing) the highest-rated Disney Channel Movie to date and the most viewed television film to date.
High School Musical 3: Senior Year is the third installment in Disney's High School Musical franchise. It was released to theaters across the United States on October 24, 2008. Kenny Ortega returned as director and choreographer, as did all six primary actors.
Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure is a spin-off and direct-to-DVD film starring Ashley Tisdale. The film features Sharpay Evans trying to get a role in a Broadway show following graduation. The film was released as a Blu-ray and DVD combination pack on April 19, 2011.
On July 11, 2016, Disney XD released a half-hour overdubbed version of High School Musical to its YouTube channel in collaboration with Bad Lip Reading, a popular YouTube channel known for making parody dubs of various clips from films, TV shows, songs, sports, and political news stories that perfectly matches the lip movements of the targets. The story in this version is essentially similar to the original with new dialogue, the lead characters now being "Chorky" and "Lumpkinella", the latter secretly being a robot who escaped from a secure government facility.
High School Musical: El desafio (Argentina) is a spin-off for the Argentine market, based on the book "Battle of the Bands". The film arrived in Argentine theaters on July 17, 2008.
High School Musical: O Desafio is a spin-off of the American film High School Musical. The Brazilian spin-off is based on the book Battle of the Bands. The film was released in Brazilian theaters on February 5, 2010.
Disney High School Musical China (歌舞青春), also called High School Musical China: College Dreams is a Chinese version of the American series, released in North America on DVD under the Disney World Cinema Brand. Film Business Asia critic Derek Elley rated the adaptation three points out of ten and called the choreography by former Madonna dancer, Ruthy Inchaustegui, and songs "bland". However, Elley picked the three songs as "half-memorable": "the ballad 'Rainy Season' (梅雨季) [sung by] two lead[ing characters,] the glitzy 'Perfection' (完美) [by] the college rich-bitch[,] and [the] climatic 'I Can Fly' (我飛故我在), which doesn't quite succeed at being an anthemnal [sic], uplifting ballad."
The "High School Musical: The Concert" tour started on November 29, 2006, kicking off in San Diego, California. The tour continued until January 28, 2007, performing in major cities around the United States, Canada, and Latin America. The concert featured all of the original cast members except for Zac Efron, who was shooting Hairspray. Efron was replaced by Drew Seeley (whose voice was blended with Efron's during the film). The concert featured the original songs from the film, as well as songs from Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, and Corbin Bleu.
On August 1, 2006, Playbill announced that the Stagedoor Manor summer theater camp, featured in the film Camp, would be the first venue to produce High School Musical on-stage.
North Shore Music Theater in Beverly, MA had a stage production of High School Musical running until the end of July 2007, featuring Broadway actor Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Rockwell, a semi-finalist on Grease: You're the One that I Want!, as Sharpay. Pacific Repertory Theatre's School of Dramatic Arts staged the California premiere in 2007 (which it revived in 2008), and presented the West Coast premiere of High School Musical 2 in January 2009.
Theater of the Stars in Atlanta, Georgia was the first professional company to put on High School Musical. A parody, Scary Musical, has been created in Northern Ireland.
"Feld Entertainment" produced global tour titled, High School Musical: The Ice Tour which had its world premiere in New York City on September 29, 2007. The cast included 2004 World Junior Bronze Medalist Jordan Brauninger and 2004–2005 Australian national champion Bradley Santer. The show contained elements and songs from both the original film and its sequel, High School Musical 2 and featured a special preview of High School Musical 3: Senior Year when the movie of the same name premiered in theaters.
In June 2006, Disney Press published High School Musical: The Junior Novel, the novelization of the successful film. This novel hit number one on the New York Times best-selling list and remained on the list for sixteen weeks. As of August 2007, the novel has sold more than 4.5 million copies, with 1 million copies of the novel's follow-up, High School Musical 2: The Junior Novel, being shipped to American retailers. High School Musical 3: Senior Year: The Junior Novel came out on September 23, 2008. Shortly after the success of the original novel, Disney announced that a book series, entitled Stories from East High, would be published in February 2007 with a new book being published every 60 days until July 2008.
Disney Interactive Studios has produced 6 video games based on the High School Musical series, all taking the guise of music video games incorporating songs and plots from the films.
During July and August 2008, ABC broadcast a reality competition based on the series, High School Musical: Get in the Picture hosted by Nick Lachey. The winner of the show appeared in a music video during the credits of High School Musical 3. The series premiered to poor ratings, with the show coming in fourth place in its timeslot. In the UK, a reality show titled Hairspray: The School Musical premiered in 2008 on Sky1. It saw a team of vocal coaches, acting coaches and choreographers hold auditions at a regular comprehensive school where a mix of students could audition for a West End production of the hit Broadway musical, Hairspray. Although the musical being performed was not High School Musical, the film was the inspiration behind the show. The show was presented by Denise Van Outen and was credited, along with High School Musical, for inspiring a generation of children in the United Kingdom to get into theatrical work.