UNIVERSAL CITY, California — Between the Emmy wins, the top-selling 2006 soundtrack and the in-demand tickets for its concert tour, stage musical and ice show, it's safe to say that the people behind the "High School Musical" phenomenon are dancing for joy.
This past weekend, the stars of the musical-about-a-musical gave MTV News some exclusive new details about the highly anticipated sequels (see " 'High School Musical' Stars Have Sequel, Solo Projects In The Works"), as well as the ongoing adventures of Troy, Gabriella, Sharpay and the rest of the heel-kicking kids.
"A lot of our characters get to break out into different things," Corbin Bleu said of "High School Musical 2," which debuts on the Disney Channel in August. "[My character] Chad, you know, in the first movie he's completely surrounded with basketball, and that's it. And in this movie, he breaks away from that and starts to ..."
"... Have a girl on the side!" giggled Ashley Tisdale (see "Ashley Tisdale Ditches Messy For Dressy For Movie Awards Red Carpet"), looking to Monique Coleman after we tracked down the three co-stars at Sunday's MTV Movie Awards (see "MTV Movie Awards Get Dirty: Baron Cohen, Ferrell Mash; Rihanna Sizzles; Silverman Says 'Bleep!' ").
"That's me," mouthed Coleman, who plays scholastic decathlon captain Taylor McKessey in the series. Alluding to her character's new romance with Bleu, she added: "This movie is a little bit more emotional; it's a little deeper than the first one. The first movie really gave kids permission to feel like they could believe in their dreams and follow their heart. This go-around, it really takes it to that next step and asks you to accept responsibility for the choices that you make."
Die-hard fans of the series already know that the sequel will have Zac Efron's Troy taking a summer job at a country club, setting up many of his fellow East High Wildcats with gigs as his co-workers and dealing with Sharpay's evil plans to steal him away from Gabriella (Vanessa Anne Hudgens). What they might not expect, however, is a glimpse at the softer side of Tisdale's snotty Sharpay.
"She's still evil; I mean, she's still the mean girl," said the blond breakout star. "But there's a side that you do actually see that you haven't seen before of her ... and Sharpay's songs are definitely funny."
Speaking of the showstopping tunes, each of the three "Musical" stars coughed up some juicy tidbits on the songs they can't wait for their fans to hear.
"My favorite song is a song that Vanessa sings. It's called 'Gotta Go My Own Way' and it's a solo," Coleman revealed. "I love it, because I think it's kind of a girl-power song about really being an individual — realizing that sometimes in life, you have to choose yourself over choosing a relationship. It's a really sweet song, and she sings it beautifully."
"There's this really awesome song called 'I Don't Dance' that takes place on a baseball field," Bleu said of his favorite ditty. "It's a mixture, like a 'West Side Story' kind of thing, because it's got the whole Sharks and Jets battle thing going on. And I just love the fact that it mixes the sport of baseball with the actual dancing."
In fact, the "Dance" number is just one of many that harkens back to a bygone time when musicals ruled pop culture. "The songs are a lot more radio-friendly, and some are a throwback to the old — like way, way, way-back musicals," Coleman grinned. "Like 'Bye Bye Birdie' or 'The Sound of Music' kind of musicals."
As for Tisdale, she said her preferred tune is the first one "Musical" fans will get to see in the sequel. "My favorite song is 'What Time Is It?' just because it's at the beginning of the movie, and it's just fun. We shot it at [the Albuquerque, New Mexico, school setting] East High, which is, like, really memorable. It shows off all the characters, and you know what they're excited about for the summer."
Before they headed inside to grab their seats at the Movie Awards, the three "Musical" stars also coughed up a bit of info regarding "Haunted High School Musical," the big-screen spinoff that will bring the series to theaters for the first time. "It's amazing, to be able to have something that was a phenomenon that was just a movie on the Disney Channel ... and to make it a feature film, that says a lot," Tisdale said of the rare small-screen-to-big-screen move. "It completely makes us grateful for all our fans."
None of the three, however, were willing to confirm their involvement in the third movie. "All we know is that they're going to be making the movie, and it's going to be a feature," Bleu said diplomatically. "Nobody is really signed on to it yet, and nobody knows what the plot is. It's really just one of those things. ... All I know is they're going to do it."
The 18-year-old Bleu, who recently enjoyed some solo success with the Disney Channel flick "Jump In!," cautiously added that he wouldn't do the film unless the script was as good as the first two. "[Taking 'Musical' to the big screen] puts a lot more pressure on us," he said. "It's definitely something that we need to make sure that if — when — that third movie is created, that it's something that is wonderful, stays true to the fans, stays true to the story and really continues the whole magic that 'High School Musical' has created."
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