High School Musical becomes nationwide phenomenon

After the success of the Disney Channel Original Movie “High School Musical,” it is clear that the buying power of children is grossly underestimated.

“High School Musical” was released on the Disney Channel on Jan. 20, and averaged 7.7 million viewers, a network record and the month’s top-rated cable broadcast, excluding sports. With syndication, the numbers of unduplicated viewers is only increasing.

Starring a cast of unknowns, “High School Musical” tells the story of two teens, worlds apart, who are brought together by auditions for the high school musical. Troy (Zac Efron) and Gabriella meet at a New Year’s Eve party and sing karaoke together.

It turns out Gabriella (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) is the new transfer student at Troy’s school and both wish to audition but are held back by stereotypes. They audition and are selected, throwing the tenth grade into a frenzy about how Troy, “the basketball star,” and Gabriella, “the math whiz,” can be both singers and themselves.

The story portrays a tale of two people trying to find out who they are while the rest of the world, or in this case their grade, attempts to hold them down.

No storyline is complete without antagonists; enter Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) and Ryan (Lucas Grabeel), the dynamic brother-and-sister duo who have ruled the theater scene since kindergarten. It is Troy and Gabriella’s job to show the school that people can change and that it is not always a bad thing.

The hit single from this Disney Original Movie, “Breaking Free,” entered the Billboard Charts at No. 86 and reached No. 4 only a week later, the steepest rise in 48 years. On March 11, the soundtrack was the No. 1 CD on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart, two months after its Jan. 10 release date.

The soundtrack created an online downloading craze as well. The CD has been on the Billboard Top Digital tracks chart for the past 12 weeks. “Breaking Free,” peaked at the No. 1 spot on the digital tracks chart, and has sold over 200,000 downloads thus far. It is still ranked No. 4 on the Billboard 200 chart.

This is Disney’s second huge success with a musically inspired original movie; the first was “The Cheetah Girls.” The hotly anticipated DVD is scheduled for release on May 23 and is expected to sell for $26.99. “High School Musical 2” is already scheduled for release in early 2007.