UNIVERSAL CITY, California — "High School Musical" will certainly go down as one of the surprise success stories of 2006, but the cast members are doing their best to make sure that all the sales and accolades they've scored so far are only the beginning.
The stars of the Disney Channel original movie and voices behind the hit soundtrack are set to shoot a sequel in January (see "What Is 'High School Musical' And How Did It Get To #1?"), and they're all well on their way to launching individual careers. That is, when they're not signing autograph after autograph for their adoring fans.
"It's been ridiculous," star Zac Efron said at Sunday's Teen Choice Awards (see "Britney Introduces K-Fed, Nick Lachey Scores 'Awkward' Award At Teen Choice 2006"), where "High School Musical" won Choice Comedy/Musical and Efron won Choice Breakout Star and Choice Chemistry (with Vanessa Anne Hudgens). "We just made a Disney Channel movie, so watching it take off has been amazing."
"I don't think any of us have big enough heads to think that we would have ever been here and at the Emmys," Monique Coleman added.
As for that sequel, the cast is not yet privy to many plot details, but they do know everyone's coming back, including director Kenny Ortega.
"The tease is, 'School's out for summer,' " Efron said.
"It's supposed to take place during summer vacation, and we're supposed to be at a country club, so it should be pretty interesting," added Corbin Bleu.
The sequel will come complete with a soundtrack of new tunes, which could have some competition on the charts from familiar faces. Check out what each principal cast member has in the works:
Zac Efron (Troy Bolton)
"High School Musical" 's basketball-captain-turned-musical-star is currently rehearsing what could be another monster of a movie musical: the big-screen adaptation of Broadway's "Hairspray" — which was itself adapted from a film. Efron is appearing alongside John Travolta, Queen Latifah, Michelle Pfeiffer, Amanda Bynes and Brittany Snow as Link Larkin. "He's kind of like an Elvis-y crooner," Efron said. "It's a really cool character. We've been rehearsing for about six weeks. We have two more to go until we start filming, and it's just all coming together."
Vanessa Anne Hudgens (Gabriella Montez)
A few "High School Musical" alumni are recording, but Hudgens' album, V, is due first — September 26 on Hollywood Records. "My single's called 'Come Back to Me,' and I just shot my video," said Hudgens, Efron's love interest in "HSM." The clip will debut Friday (August 25) on the Disney Channel after "The Cheetah Girls 2" premiere. Hudgens, who made her film debut in "Thirteen," is then opening for the Cheetah Girls — featuring two thirds of 3LW — on a fall tour.
Corbin Bleu (Chad Danforth)
Bleu, who plays Efron's best friend, is also recording a solo album. "It's sort of a pop and R&B feel," he said. "I also play piano, so think a male Alicia Keys, or Usher or John Legend or, on the pop side, kind of Justin Timberlake. That's what I'm shooting for." Bleu has four songs finished, including one written by Ne-Yo called "I Get Lonely." The as-yet-untitled album is due in March on Hollywood Records. Bleu just returned from Toronto, where he shot another Disney Channel movie called "Jump," due in January. In the flick, co-starring Keke Palmer from "Akeelah and the Bee," he plays a boxer who discovers a secret talent for jumping rope.
Ashley Tisdale (Sharpay Evans)
Tisdale is also recording a solo album, for Warner Bros., due in January. "My single will come out in October, but we haven't named it," she said. Tisdale is starring in the second season of "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody," and she just got an animated show picked up by the Disney Channel called "Phineas and Ferb."
Monique Coleman (Taylor McKessie)
Coleman, who plays the leader of the science club in "High School Musical," has signed on for "Dancing With the Stars" this fall. "I'm training so hard — my feet hurt so bad right now it's not even funny," she said. "I learned about the integrity of being a dancer from Kenny Ortega, but none of the skills that I used for 'High School Musical' are in any way related to 'Dancing With the Stars.' I'm starting from scratch. I'm gonna somehow turn my booty shake into a quickstep." Coleman will be dancing with Louis van Amstel, Lisa Rinna's partner from the second season. "I'm most scared to learn the waltz actually, and the ones that are really graceful and pretty," Coleman said.
Lucas Grabeel (Ryan Evans)
Grabeel, Tisdale's partner in crime in the musical, just finished another Disney Channel original movie called "Halloweentown: Witch U," due in October and co-starring Sara Paxton ("Aquamarine"). "Now I'm auditioning and looking for work," he said.