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Film / High School Musical

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A 2006 Disney Channel Original Movie which became phenomenally popular, especially with tween girls. Among others.

Something of a spiritual successor to Grease, it is basically a Musical set in the fictional High School about the people trying out for their High School Musical and School Teams. The main setting mostly centers around fictional East High School set in real-world Albuquerque, New Mexico, but was actually filmed at Murray High School in Salt Lake City, Utah. With a Boy Meets Girl plot and an Alpha Bitchy antagonist. Lather, rinse and repeat.

The original did so well that it spawned two sequels, the second of which was released theatrically (making history as a movie franchise that started on TV and getting enough cred to be allowed to go to theaters), and a spinoff, titled Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure starring, of course, Ashley Tisdale as Sharpay. The pilot for a spinoff TV show, Madison High, where Mrs. Darbus relocates from East High to teach at a new high school, was filmed but not picked up. A fourth film with a new cast has been announced.


In November 2017, it was announced that Disney had greenlit a TV show based off the franchise, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, which will be exclusive to Disney+ in 2019 (alongside properties based on Star Wars and Monsters, Inc.). The series is a Mockumentary about a group of East High students who stage a performance of, well, High School Musical.

The franchise also has Spiritual Successors: the major ones being Camp Rock and Descendants and the minor being Starstruck and Lemonade Mouth. It also has another major spiritual successor that also mashes it up with 60s beach/surfer films: Teen Beach Movie. It also spawned a cute little anime short parody where Stitch plays basketball and dances to "We're All in This Together".

The franchise also has a spiritual successor that premiered a year after the third film and is, well... not as innocent as the rest.


The films provide examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Jimmie to Sharpay in Senior Year.
  • Absurdly Divided School: A big plot-point in the first film was about how the school was so divided into cliques that everyone was horrified when Troy wanted to do something besides basketball. There's an entire song about how some of the students are having their secret passions suppressed, simply because their friends can't stand the thought of them expanding beyond their niche.
  • Academic Alpha Bitch: Taylor McKessie is the president of the science club at East High and a member of the school's national decathlon team. She wants Gabriella to join the team to beat their rivals in West High and be involved in nothing else.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Numerous novelizations of the book characters (in a series named "Tales from East High") were released between movies.
  • Adorkable:
    • Troy and Chad during the entirety of "The Boys Are Back".
    • Troy sneaking away to the auditions and attempting to "flirt" with Gabriella ("And you even look like one too!") also qualify.
    • Kelsi is a textbook example for this trope.
  • Aerith and Bob: Sharpay and Ryan, the Evans twins.
  • Aesop Amnesia:
    • Sharpay suffers from this, having apparently seen the error of her ways at the end of the first film due to a few lines inexplicably wishing Gabriella luck as the lead, only to become nasty again at the beginning of the next one. Repeat, twice. The entire third act of the second contains her Aesop, only to be thrown out by the third.
    • The Wildcats learn to support a friend's dreams in the first film but in the second, they shame him for getting a promotion.
  • Age Cut: Towards the end of "The Boys Are Back" in High School Musical 3, at one point Troy and Chad become their younger selves.
  • All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Averted. The most "wanted" girl in East High is Sharpay, who is an Alpha Bitch with the personality of a stereotypical cheerleader. However, Sharpay is not a cheerleader (instead, she's the co-President of the Drama club), and the only named cheerleader character is Martha, the hip-hop nerd who doesn't actually have that much of a role.
  • All There in the Manual: A stage version of the original movie was created after the movie's unexpected success, which tied up a few loose ends that were possibly deleted scenes. For example, this was where it was revealed that Sharpay was both named after a dog and is eight minutes older than Ryan.
  • Almost Kiss: Troy and Gabriella at the end of the first film before the Crowd Song, and then it became a Running Gag in the second film.
  • Alpha Bitch: Zigzagged with Sharpay. She's a selfish Rich Bitch who often uses her money and connection to steal Troy from Gabriella, and tries to sabotage their duet performance. However, she doesn't seem to have any friends at school — Ryan's the only one who hangs out with her (and even he switches over to the wildcats side in #2), and the way the basketball team talks about her, she actually comes across as incredibly unpopular. While she has a Girl Posse at the country club, by the time of Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure, they're replaced with three entirely new girls. On the other hand, the "What Time Is It" song, the opening number of 2, shows her as a very popular girl with a lot of adoring fans (other students) wanting her signature in their yearbooks. It's very possible they're just acquaintances/fans though, and people don't try to actually be her friends and get to know her.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Ryan, in the stage version. There, when all the other boys have pictures of girls in their locker, he has other boys. And then, of course, there's the part where he swoons when Troy walks by him.
  • Ambition Is Evil:
    • Many of Sharpay's Villain Songs play up her ambitions as a major trait of her character. In order, we have "Bop to the Top", "Fabulous" and "I Want it All". The titles should all be dead giveaways, though.
    • Troy learns this lesson in 2, giving up his scholarship opportunity to be with his friends.
  • An Aesop: Bog standard with Disney of course.
    • HSM: Don't let what you do define who you are.
    • HSM 2: If offered the world, try not to lose sight of your true self.
    • HSM 3: It's okay to be scared of change.
  • Angry Black Man: Chad is often stubborn and the first to speak out about his issues with decisions. In the first movie, he has two The Reason You Suck speeches at Troy—the second being after he suspects that Troy may be developing feelings for Gabriella. It's only in the final movie where he's slowly starts to accept change, despite the song "The Boys Are Back" being full of nostalgia.
  • Appeal to Obscurity: Chad points out that Troy becoming a theater kid would lead to this.
    Chad: Have you ever seen Michael Crawford on a cereal box?note 
    Troy: Who's Michael Crawford?
    Chad: Exactly my point!
  • Arc Words: The two of the series originated from the musical numbers of the same name.
    • "Get'cha head in the game!" is somewhat of an in-universe invoked Beam Me Up, Scotty! because it wasn't added onto the end of the "What team? Wildcats!" Battle Chant until scenes after its song was performed, yet after it was included, crowds in other films (who wouldn't have been there when the added phrase was adopted in the basketball practice) proudly chant along as if it had always been there.
    • "We're all in this together" became this, to a lesser extent. Notably, Troy reminded Sharpay of it in the second movie, implying that he had forgiven her for all the grief she had caused him.
  • Artifact Title: The second film, where the characters got on summer vacation, spending less than ten minutes in their school.
  • Ascended Extra: Martha the break-dancing brainiac becomes BFFs with the main cast in the second and third films.
  • Award Bait: "Breaking Free" was this in-universe for the talent show.
  • Beta Couple: Chad and Taylor, who go through a lot less drama than Troy and Gabriella. However, it's implied they break up, albeit amicably, at the end of Senior Year, while Troy and Gabriella stay together.
  • Be Yourself:
    • Troy being a "Well Done, Son!" Guy to make his dad happy about being the basketball team captain, as well as convince his friends that he cares about them, but as numerous people point out, he seems rather comfortable being on stage and performing. Eventually, Troy's critics back down and admit that they'd been selfish.
    • Seeing the most popular boy in school do something outside of his stereotype encouraged many students to seek other interests, but "Stick to the Status Quo" made it clear how disgusted their friends were with the idea. Considering how everyone makes up eventually, they too had realised their selfishness.
  • Big Man on Campus: Troy. Not that he's always happy about it.
  • Bigger Is Better: And better, is bigger, a little bit is never enough!
  • "Billy Elliot" Plot: Troy started to gain interest in Drama/Theatre. His father, the coach of East High's basketball team, wants him to focus on his duty as the team captain.
  • Birds of a Feather: Ryan and Kelsi in Senior Year, who bond over composing and choreographing the musical together, are two of the sweetest, most easy-going characters, and were previously bullied by Sharpay.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Tiara in Senior Year.
  • Black and Nerdy: Taylor, who is the president of the school's Science club.
  • Black Best Friend: Chad and Taylor, who are black, and are the best friend of Troy and Gabriella respectively. (Chad is Troy's Childhood Friend, his second on the basketball team and the two often hang out together working on Troy's truck, while Taylor is the first girl at East High to befriend Gabriella and is the only person Gabriella tells about getting accepted in the Stanford University's Freshman Program).
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: Troy's innocently adorkable Chinese accent in Senior Year.
  • Book Dumb: Jason. When Ms. Darbus announces the seniors' graduation, she could only say, "You did it. You graduated," to him — in contrast to the list of impressive universities the others are heading off to.
  • Breakout Character: Sharpay. Hell, she got her own spinoff movie!
  • Broken Aesop:
    • Between #1 and #3 vs #2. The moral of the first film is essentially 'Support other's dreams rather than tearing them down' (The wildcats accepting Troy and Gabriella singing). The second film switches to 'Your friend's pressuring is more important than your dreams.' (Troy trying to win a scholarship). Then the third film jumps back onto the 'support each other' wagon. (Troy doing basketball and singing, Gabriella going to Stanford, Kelsi wanting to do the show together). If you're confused, fair enough.
    • The fact that the first instalment acts like generic stereotypical characters expressing one other trait is a revolutionary act. This is not enough to create a fleshed-out and unique character, which heavily undermines the Be Yourself message.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Sharpay and Ryan are twins who frequently perform duets together.
  • Bully Hunter: Troy and Gabriella. Troy in #1 encourages Kelsi to stand up to Sharpay, and in #2, Gabriella takes it even further when she outright confronts Sharpay and warns her to stop hurting the other Wildcats.
  • Camp: Perhaps the campiest musical film series ever made, and that's not a sentiment to be said lightly. To wit:
    • High school students singing passionately about how people should adhere to the rules of their cliques.
    • Gabriella has a powerful ballad about her breakup with Troy, despite only knowing him for one week. And she gets back together with him 15 minutes after that.
    • Troy and Gabriella's number at the end is highly heartfelt and romantic...despite it being just the callbacks and not the actual musical.
    • "Bet On It" from the second film is a pinnacle of camp. Bonus points for Troy randomly deciding to play golf in the middle of the number.
  • Camp Straight: Ryan, in the film series. He frequently takes part in Sharpay's drama queen antics, often wears pink, and gets several Ho Yay moments with both Troy and Chad. However, he flirts with Gabriella in 2, and ended up with Kelsi in Senior Year.
  • Character Development: A surprising amount: Troy starts making his own decisions rather than pleasing everyone else, Gabriella becomes more outgoing and gets some real friends, Taylor and Chad both loosen up, Kelsi learns to be more confident and Ryan steps out of Sharpay's shadow. Even the teachers get on it, with Ms Darbus going from Sadistic Teacher to Cool Teacher, and Jack Bolton seeing Troy as his son rather than a basketball star.
  • Characterization Marches On:
    • Ryan learns to step away from Sharpay's shadow and "resigns" from being her beleaguered assistant, which turns him into a Deadpan Snarker who no longer sits back at Sharpay's decisions and even decides to befriend students outside of their (two-person) clique.
    • Martha was scolded by her brainiac friends for wanting to street dance and is seen at the beginning in the third movie at the front of the cheerleading line-up during the opening basketball match (implying that she may be head cheerleader).
  • The Cheerleader: A mild version, but yet a scene in 1 depicts cheerleaders as shallow, concerned only on having strong fingernails and guy's looks. (Or at least, depicts the perception Taylor has of them.)
  • Childhood Friends: Troy and Chad have known each other since kindergarten. In the final movie, "The Boys Are Back" expands on this, whereas it had been only on an As You Know basis in the other two.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Sharpay, who repeatedly thinks up plans to get Troy away from Gabriella and to become her boyfriend.
  • Clothing Switch: Memorably, Ryan and Chad did this in a scene after the "I Don't Dance" number, which led to a lot of invokedHo Yay jokes within the audience, mostly because it's never explained why they did that. All Taylor and Gabriella do is laugh and compliment their outfits.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Jack Bolton, when Troy tries to confide in him about auditioning for the musical, just thinks he's talking about basketball maneuvers.
    Troy: Dad, did you ever think about trying something new, but were afraid of what your friends might think?
    Coach Bolton: You mean like, going left? You're doing fine.
  • Commonality Connection:
    • The apparently opposite Troy and Gabriella, bond over the pressure they're both under, and having to live up to their friends and families' expectations all the time.
    • Chad and Taylor are not happy about this, which leads to their own Commonality Connection as they plot to separate Troy and Gabriella and stop from singing together.
    • In Senior Year, Kelsi and Ryan were both put in charge of the eponymous play (she's in charge of the musical composition, he's in charge of the choreography), and bonded over their shared project.
  • The Confidant: Gabriella is one for Troy throughout the trilogy as the only one who knows his worries about singing and college choices.
  • Continuity Nod: Is the only way to explain how Sharpay forgets the date of the Big Game in #3—it's an in-joke referencing her first line in #1.
  • Cool Teacher: Ms Darbus upgrades to this in the third.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: This was very nearly the entire plot of the original trilogy. #2 especially had Sharpay pulling out all the stops in an attempt to lure Troy away from his buddies, via "Look what I could do for you with all my nifty social connections."
  • Counterpoint Duet: The final part of "Gotta Go My Own Way".
  • Crowd Song: "Stick to the Status Quo", "We're All in This Together", "What Time Is It?", "All for One", "Now or Never", "A Night to Remember" and the trilogy Grand Finale "High School Musical"
  • Cultural Rebel: The basis for Zeke and Martha's Establishing Character Moments during "Stick to the Status Quo". In the same sequence, we have a skater boy who plays the cello and isn't mentioned again.
    • And Troy and Gabriella themselves.
  • Daddy's Girl: Sharpay, as seen in 2.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Ryan of all people develops this in ''Senior Year'", mostly when dealing with Sharpay.
    Sharpay: "I heard Kelsi is writing something amazing for Troy and Gabriella."
    Ryan: "A song most likely."
    • Mr. Fulton in 2.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Sharpay. In each movie.
  • Disappeared Dad: Gabriella'a father is nowhere to be seen or addressed, save for a brief mention in Senior Year when Gabriella teaches Troy how to waltz, saying that she used to stand on her father's feet and he'd waltz her around the living room.
  • Drama Club: Which Ryan and Sharpay are Co-Presidents of.
  • Drama Queen: Sharpay, to the point that this is seen as her main character trait rather than being an Alpha Bitch.
  • Duet Bonding: Troy and Gabriella, twice.
  • Easily Forgiven: It takes less than a scene for Troy and the wildcats to forgive Sharpay for manipulating him and making their lives hell. And that's not even considering the Double Standard of her borderline sexual harassment and blackmail of Troy.
    • Troy and Gabriella's friendships with Chad and Taylor as a whole fall into this. In the first film, Troy and Gabriella don't even get angry about the Zany Scheme that devastated both of them - and included Chad using Troy's difficult relationship with his coach dad against him and Taylor undermining Gabriella's already-fragile self confidence in making friends. In the second film, Taylor tells Gabriella to dump Troy for flaws like turning up too late to a date, and Chad getting hurt over Troy focusing on college prospects isn't even addressed. (See also: With Friends Like These...).
  • E = MC Hammer: Gabriella did a ridiculously complicated equation on the board in her head. And then the teacher looks at the calculator for maybe two seconds before looking back up...
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Troy and Gabriella have ones when they both protest about going to the party: Troy is playing basketball with his Dad and Gabriella wants to finish her book alone. Of course, the rest of the film is about subverting these impressions by showing they want to be more than the basketball guy and geeky girl.
    • Sharpay only became suspicious of Gabriella after she corrected an equation and was praised by the teacher, immediately rushing to the library after class to search the online news reports. When they first officially met, Sharpay wasted no time in pointing out who ruled the popularity chain as she wrote her name on the audition sheet. It was up until the next class that Sharpay didn't see the new girl as a threat.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Sort of justified, however, in that it started out as a Disney Channel movie that they didn't expect would be so popular. Had they any inkling, it probably would have been released theatrically. However, the second is an Artifact Title since it takes place during summer vacation.
  • Expy: Senior Year introduces three new underclassmen, Jimmie, Donny and Tiara, who are basically recreations of Troy, Chad and Sharpay, and were intended to continue the franchise.
  • Extraverted Nerd: Martha, the hip-hop loving nerd who also performs as the Wildcats' cheerleader.
  • Fanservice: Zac Efron. Full stop. Each movie features some level of shirtless scene.
  • Fate Drives Us Together: Troy and Gabriella. A stranger pushes them to sing together in Colorado, and then they end up at the same high school, (heck even the same form class), in Albuquerque. Someone up there really wanted them to get parts in that musical.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: So many times, especially in the first film. Chad is a walking-talking version all on his own and "Stick to the Status Quo" is a whole song of over-reactions.
  • Foreign Remake: A Chinese one, with the involvement of Disney.
  • Four-Girl Ensemble: Albeit not as an initial friend group, Sharpay's the sexy one, Kelsi is the innocent, Taylor's the snarker and Gabriella is the mature one.
  • Four-Philosophy Ensemble:
    • The Optimist: Kelsi and later Ryan. (Believes everyone can get along and be happy).
    • The Cynic: Chad and Taylor. (Everyone should accept the 'status quo' because it won't change).
    • The Realist: Gabriella. (Aware of the challenges but is prepared to rebel).
    • The Conflicted: Troy. (Constantly confused and in each film resolves his issues by becoming the Optimist.)
    • The Apathetic: Sharpay (Only concerned with her own agenda).
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The four main girls: Sharpay (sanguine), Taylor (choleric), Gabriella (melancholic) and Kelsi (phlegmatic)
    • The main couples: Chad (sanguine), Taylor (choleric), Gabriella (melancholic), Troy (phlegmatic)
  • Funny Background Event:
    • When Troy is being taken out of detention, Ryan is watching...and painting a set ladder in his distraction.
    • In Senior Year, during Troy and Gabriella's (practice) performance of "Just Wanna Be With You", Chad suddenly enters the set in a clown costume, sending everyone else into peals of laughter while the duet continues.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Quite a surprising bit.
  • Give Geeks a Chance: The super-popular Troy is instantly smitten with the (albeit attractive) Gabriella, who reads at parties and is on the scholastic decathlon team. Chad and Taylor also move into this territory.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Chad and Taylor's plan to get Troy and Gabriella up to focus on basketball and academics (instead of each other) works perfectly... Until both Troy and Gabriella both become too miserable to focus the championship game or the academic decathlon, which was exactly what they were trying to avoid happening in the first place.
  • Grand Finale: Subverted. The end of Senior Year seems to end the franchise for good, until you find out about the spinoff movie starring Sharpay.
  • Grew a Spine: Kelsi is first introduced as a shy and clumsy pianist who is easily intimidated by Sharpay's antic. By the end of movie 1, she gains enough confidence to play the piano for Gabriella and Troy's late performance, and managed to shut Sharpay up. Ryan, too, also regarding Sharpay. Initially nothing more than Sharpay's sidekick/assistant who obeys her every order, he "rebelled" against her in movie 2, and started hanging out with the Wildcats instead. By Senior Year, both Kelsi and Ryan have become independent enough to be given charge of an entire show's music and choreography, respectively.
  • Happily Married: For all their faults, Ryan and Sharpay's parents are this. Troy's parents also count: In Senior Year, watching them together only makes him more miserable about being separated from Gabriella.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Sharpay. She seems to become "good" at the end of the first film, then is suddenly worse than before in the second film, then is back in it for herself in the third. Though she schemes some more in her spinoff, it turns out she's being played in turn.
  • Hell Is That Noise: Troy's expression throughout the "Humuhumnukunukuapua'a" number from 2.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners:
    • Troy and Chad, which is why Chad takes Troy's interest in singing so badly. The rest of the team are downplayed
    • Gabriella and Taylor develop into this.
  • Hidden Depths: Pretty much the whole basis on the film. You've got the Big Man on Campus and Teen Genius who want to try singing musical theatre, a Lovable Jock who is also a Supreme Chef, a Hollywood Nerd who loves hiphop and a skater who plays the cello. In the second film, Ryan also proves to be pretty good at baseball, and Chad at dancing.
  • High School: Obviously.
  • High-School Dance: Subverted in Senior Year: There is buildup—so much so that an entire song is devoted to it in the Senior Year musical...then Gabriella leaves early. Troy winds up spending Prom Night in California with her (as opposed to the movie's New Mexico setting), and the actual dance is confined to a single Imagine Spot (reprising the song "Can I Have This Dance"). The film's actual climax is at the musical performance.
  • High School Rocks: The final song should give you a clue:
    The best of times, so why leave them behind?
    Why can't the rest of my life be like my
    High School Musical
    Who says we have to let it go?
    It's the best part we've ever known
  • High-School Sweethearts: Hard to avoid. There's Troy/Gabriella, Chad/Taylor, Kelsi/Jason (in # 1 and 2) and Kelsi/Ryan and Jason/Martha (in #3). Most of the couples are implied to be pretty casual, with Chad even admitting that with him and Taylor going to different colleges, he doesn't plan on taking the girl with him after high school. Troy and Gabriella are the only pair who explicitly intend to stick it out after graduation.
  • Hollywood Nerd:
    • Every single character who's part of the "brainiac" table is this.
    • Despite Kelsi being hidden behind the piano under hats and glasses (which she doesn't even need), she's still very attractive.
  • Honey Trap: Ryan, on Sharpay's orders, to Kelsi in the Senior Year.
  • Hooked Up Afterwards: Troy and Gabriella in the first film. Ironically, Chad and Taylor actually get a more conclusive ending and agree to go on a date together.
  • Insane Troll Logic: "Look at this! That Gabriella girl just dumped her lunch on me! On purpose! It's all part of their plan to ruin our musical. And Troy and his basketball robots are obviously behind it! Why do you think they auditioned? After all the work you've put into this show... it just doesn't seem right!"
  • Irony:
    • See What Happened to the Mouse?, below.
    • For how badly Chad and the basketball team took Troy's musical interests in the first movie (because it was not only distracting him, but was "uncool", in their eyes), Ryan gate-crashed their baseball game in the sequel because he adamantly believed that they all had the potential to participate in the resort talent show.
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": Ms. Darbus natters on about the upcoming "musicale".
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Gabriella goes to Stanford, Troy goes to Berkeley, Taylor goes to Yale, Ryan and Kelsi go to Juilliard. For a group of young people whose school work appears to solely consist of singing, their universities are basically a laundry list of very prestigious universities, with the exception of Sharpay and Chad, who settle for the (nonexistent) University of Albuquerque.
    • Somewhat justified in Troy's case, since college admissions tend to be more lax when it comes to athletes. And Gabriella is expressly described as a Teen Genius and Taylor is shown to be very intelligent, driven student, so their college acceptances aren't that unrealistic. Ryan and Kelsi make no sense however, as their specializations (choreography and modern composition) aren't even offered at Julliard.
    • Somewhat subverted for Sharpay, as her spinoff reveals she's taken a year off after high school instead.
  • "I Want" Song: The aptly-named "I Want It All" from Senior Year.
    • Also "Fabulous" from 2.
  • Jerk Jock: Chad initially, he upgrades to Lovable Jock by the end of the first film.
  • Kangaroo Court: A humorous version is used to separate the various social groups.
  • Karaoke Bonding Scene: The first film starts with a karaoke number ("The Start of Something New") between Troy and Gabriella at a ski resort. They're needled into singing with each other but make it work; sparks fly between the two of them that informs their later chemistry when Gabriella transfers to Troy's school.
  • Karma Houdini: Chad, Taylor and the other wildcats in the first film. They deliberately go behind their "friends" backs to split them apart just because Troy and Gabriella have developed interests outside of basketball and academics, but never suffer any consequences. Even when they confess what they've done, Troy and Gabriella are more focused on making up with each other than calling out their best friends for betraying them, and by the next scene everyone's hanging out together like it's no big deal. And Troy and Gabriella keep confiding in Chad and Taylor for the next two, even though Chad is still resentful Troy has goals beyond basketball and Taylor continues to attack Gabriella's relationship with Troy.
  • Kick the Dog: Many of the other characters in the second film believed that Sharpay did this when she banned the employees at Lava Springs from performing at the annual Star Dazzle awards. Even Gabriella, the nicest character of this film, actually got angry for the first time and confronted Sharpay for this.
  • Large Ham:
    • Zac Efron. Watch Bet On It and you'll see. And Ms. Darbus of course.
    • Jimmie in Senior Year, especially come showtime.
    • Both Sharpay and Ryan are more Evil Is Hammy.
  • Last Minute Hookup: Combined with Pair the Spares to an almost ridiculous extent.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • "Start of Something New" sums up a good chunk of the first film.
    • As does "What I've Been Looking For" and "Breaking Free".
    • "I Want It All" from the third movie contains the line "sequels pay better".
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Kelsi, at the end of the first film.
  • Licensed Game: The first and third films each had a Mystery Date game based on them.
  • Like Brother and Sister:
    • Troy and Kelsi in the second and third films.
    • Gabriella and Chad are implied to have this dynamic.
  • Like Goes with Like: Chad and Taylor are both black. Each one is a best friend of one of the two main characters. They spend time together and agree to go on a date in the first, are dating in the second, and go to prom together in the third.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Sharpay by the end of each film, and all the time in the spin-off.
  • Lovable Jock: Troy, Zeke and Jason. Chad by the end of the first film.
  • Love at First Note: Troy and Gabriella in the karaoke competition.
  • Male Gaze: See Sharpay's entrance in the third one...
  • Man Hug: Chad and Troy do this after reconciling.
  • Maybe Ever After: Troy and Gabriella in the first film. They have an Almost Kiss and their feelings are strongly hinted in the final song, but don't officially get together or admit they like each other. By the second film they've had a Relationship Upgrade and the third film gives them a definitive Happily Ever After as they head off to college together.
  • Mean Brit: Tiara.
  • Meganekko: Kelsi.
  • The Musical... again, obviously.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Chad's and Taylor's reaction after their Zany Scheme goes horribly right and ends up screwing things greatly for Troy and Gabriella. They make amends by deciding to support their friends rather than bashing their other hobbies.
  • New Transfer Student: Gabriella in the first film.
  • Nice Character, Mean Actor: In-Universe, Amber Lee Adams in the spin-off, who seems so nice to her fans, including Sharpay, only to be revealed that she's mean to her assistant and her dog co-stars. Her true colors are later exposed by Sharpay in front of the audience on the opening night.
  • Nice Guy: Troy and Gabriella. Also Kelsi, Zeke, and from the second film onwards, Ryan.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Chad and Taylor's Zany Scheme to con Troy into confessing he doesn't care about the callbacks for the musical, and forcing Gabriella to watch while he does so. Their intent, ostensibly, is to get Troy to focus on the upcoming basketball game, Gabriella on the scholastic competition. What ensues is nearly the termination of the One True Pairing.
  • Nice, Mean, and In-Between: In the first film. For the main boys, we have: Troy, the Nice Guy who tries to do the right thing; Ryan, the self-centered right-hand man of Sharpay; and Chad, the buddy who willing manipulates his best friend but makes up for it in the end. For the girls, we have: Gabriella, the sweet but shy braniac; Sharpay, the snobby popular girl who doesn't like her spotlight stolen; and Taylor, the braniac who mediates between the two.
  • Not Always Evil: Mr. Fulton is only so stern because he's under orders from Sharpay.
  • Not So Different: This is the point of "I Don't Dance". As said by Ryan, "I'll show you that it's one and the same/baseball, dancing; same game."
  • Official Couple: Troy and Gabriella.
  • Oh, Crap!: A lot of Troy's facial expressions in 2 when Sharpay appears.
  • Only Sane Man: Troy and Gabriella in 1 as the only two people in the school who think it's okay to have more than one hobby. Of course, everyone else thinks they're the crazy ones: Just watch "Stick to the Status Quo".
  • Opposites Attract: Everyone see's Troy and Gabriella - a popular Lovable Jock and shy Teen Genius - as this trope. In reality they're not that different.
  • Pair the Spares:
    • When Troy and Gabriella established themselves as a couple, Sharpay suddenly falls in love with Zeke despite her clear attractions towards Troy in the earlier scenes.
    • Kelsi was briefly paired with Jason at the end of the first High School Musical, and appears to still be together in the sequel, even though the relationship is never explicitly shown on-screen. When the plot requires Kelsi to be paired with Ryan in Senior Year, Jason is somehow already hooked up with Martha.
  • Parental Favoritism: Sharpay is definitely her father's favorite. On the flipside, Mrs. Evans seems to prefer Ryan.
    • Teacher Favoritism: Ms. Darbus blatantly favors drama club presidents Sharpay and Ryan in the first film, even changing the callbacks to suit them. At the same time, she picks on the innocent Troy purely because he's the basketball captain and her rival's son. She gets better in later installments.
  • Passing the Torch: In a Senior Year deleted scene to the new characters.
  • Popularity Food Chain: Played with - the social circles just run in totally separate spheres rather than on a hierarchy: Sharpay is the Alpha Bitch of the drama club, Taylor is the Academic Alpha Bitch of the nerds, Chad is a Jerk Jock and rules the basketball team. Each group appears to dislike the others pretty equally and even Troy - the Big Man on Campus - isn't universally liked. The lack of interaction and mingling between groups drives the plot of the first film, and is why Troy and Gabriella's friendship and interest in singing is such an issue.
  • Princess in Rags: Sharpay in her spin-off, from The Primadonna of East High to the "assistant" (read: slave) of a Broadway primadonna and from living in a mansion, then supposedly in a New York penthouse, to a pre-war studio apartment, due to dogs not being allowed in the penthouse.
  • Product Placement: A Sprite can is briefly seen in Senior Year.
  • Psychologist Teacher: Ms Darbus in Senior Year, when she counsels Troy about choosing between basketball and theatre.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: During the aforementioned "Bet On It" and part of why it's so dang silly.
  • Reconstructed Character Archetype: The Big Man on Campus trope is taken apart and then rebuilt with Troy. All three films examine how having to be East High's golden boy 24/7 wears him down, Gabriella liking him for just being himself rather than his status feels like a rarity, his attempts to please everyone often hurt those closest to him and having so many expectations to live up to means any deviations - singing, different college plans - causes instant issues with his dad and friends. However, each film manages to conclude with the good influence he's able to have when he's true to himself, and that his popularity can be a good thing in uniting different students.
    Gabriella: It seems like everyone on campus wants to be your friend.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Chad and Taylor to Troy and Gabriella.
  • Rich Bitch: Sharpay Evans.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Sharpay and Gabriella for Troy in #2, with Sharpay enticing him with her social connections and scholarship opportunities, while Gabriella's working for her at the country club. Naturally Troy is only ever interested in Gabriella, but Sharpay does succeed in breaking them up. (Obviously, it doesn't last long).
  • Rock is Authentic, Pop is Shallow: Experienced theater kids Sharpay and Ryan perform "What I've Been Looking For" in their style, an upbeat pop performance. When Darbus and Kelsi hear the same song performed as a raw, acoustic duet by Troy and Gabriella, they are awed. Troy and Gabriella eventually get roles in the school musical over "industry vets" Sharpay and Ryan.
  • Running Gag:
    • Ms Darbus's vendetta against cell phones and obsession with being on time in #1.
    • Troy and Gabriella's attempts to kiss in #2.
    • Troy checking an invisible watch in all three films.
  • Sadist Teacher: Ms. Darbus in the first film. By the third film, she's upgraded to Cool Teacher and Psychologist Teacher.
  • Saw "Star Wars" 27 Times: Chad mentions that his mother has seen The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway 27 times.
  • School Bullying Is Harmless:
    • Chad's actions definitely play this trope as far as emotional bullying goes, with him leading the entire basketball team in bullying Troy about daring to audition for the musical and guilting him into turning on Gabriella.note  Despite this Troy never gets angry with Chad and only seems to blame himself for giving in, even though he's obviously the victim of intense peer pressure and everything shouldn't be as fine and happy as it turned out.
    • Taylor's treatment of Gabriella is just as bad, as she records Troy's response without context and shows it to Gabriella, (who struggles with fitting in, and currently sees Troy as her only real friend), completely devastating her. Like Chad, Taylor's never called out for it, everything turns out fine and she becomes Gabriella's best friend anyway. (And at least Troy and Chad had over a decade of friendship to justify a quick and easy forgiveness. Gabriella was a new student and had just met Taylor who up to that point only ever seemed interested in Gabriella as an Academic Decathalon team member).
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: Happens occasionally, despite the characters theoretically singing in real-time. Happens most obviously in "Walk Away" in #3, where Gabriella is the only character visible on screen for most of the scene, but there's a full chorus singing backup.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Troy and Chad. From what's seen of them, Zeke and Jason also qualify.
  • Serious Business: The passion and drama put into songs about things like the jock and the genius daring to try out for the musical reach ludicrous levels.
    • For example, see "Stick to the Status Quo". "No, no, NOOOOOOOOO!!!" about a basketball player who likes cooking, a nerdy girl liking hip-hop, and a skater dude playing the cello indeed.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The main conflict of the second film involves Troy trying to get a basketball scholarship at the University of Albuquerque because he's worried about the cost of college and Sharpay using the goal to divide him from the wildcats. Come the third film he and Chad (who was never as a good a basketball player as Troy) have apparently secured a scholarship with no problems and Troy's wondering about pursuing theater. And then Troy decides to go to Berkeley anyway with zero mention of his worries about money from the previous film making the whole plot of #2 fairly pointless.
    • Arguably, the first film's plot counts as well. The end involves Troy and Gabriella singing Breaking Free passionately in front of almost the whole school, which is nice and all, until you remember it's just the callbacks and not the actual musical. Apparently we're meant to assume they pulled it off without a hitch, but....
  • Shipper on Deck: The Wildcats go from actively plotting against Troy and Gabriella to this by the second film. They even instigate their big reunion in "Everyday".
  • Shout-Out: "Bop to the Top" has Sharpay in a blue dress and on a ladder, similar to a scene from Singin' in the Rain.
  • Show Within a Show:
    • The titular high school musical (which is never really seen, but is apparently called "Twinkle Town" based off a poster seen behind Troy and Gabriella when the sneak-in during Ryan and Sharpay's rehearsal).
    • Each of the sequels has one as well. #2 had a Talent Show at the country club. #3 had a musical leading up to the perfect prom. Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure has "A Girl's Best Friend", which appears to mirror Sharpay's own journey from a small town to New York.
  • Shrinking Violet: Gabriella and Kelsi, though they both get better.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: Troy and Gabriella have shades of this in #2. By #3 their relationship has matured a bit.
  • Single Girl Seeks Most Popular Guy:
    • Played disturbingly straight with Sharpay's obsession with Troy. She wants him purely because he's - in her words - "East High's Primo Guy" and pursues him relentless for the status he'll give her. No wonder Troy has a complex about being the 'basketball guy'.
    • Subverted concerning Gabriella. When they first met, Gabriella had no idea the whole school idolized Troy and a main point of their relationship is not being the stereotypes everyone thinks they are. Her position is actually...
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: She's noticeably more interested after seeing him comfort Kelsi over Sharpay's bullying, and seems put off by his more popular side, particularly when he acts like a jerk to please the basketball team.
    Gabriella: I saw you with Kelsi at the audition yesterday. Do your friends know that guy?
    Troy: To them, I'm the playmaker dude.
    Gabriella: Then they don't know enough about you.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Chad and Taylor.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: This series is ridiculously idealistic.
  • Sock Slide Rink: According to the popup edition, the cheerleaders and most of the cast had taken off their shoes in order for them to glide easily when dancing on the polished floors.
  • Softer and Slower Cover:
  • Spin-Off:
    • Brazil, Argentina and Mexico all have local High School Musical instalments. They're all based on the first Tales from East High book.
    • Sharpay gets her own, Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure.
  • Stage Dad: Troy's dad, but for basketball instead of the stage.
  • Stalking Is Funny If Its Female After Male: In 2, Sharpay anonymously hires Troy to work for her, spies on him almost 24/7, has his manager track his movements, and blackmails him into singing romantic duets with her. All while he's highly uncomfortable and in a serious relationship with Gabriella. While Sharpay's clearly in the wrong, her actions are played as a frivolous teenage crush instead of anything more serious, and most of the blame falls on Troy for not getting rid of her.note 
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Played straight in the first film, with the whole school seemingly working to separate Troy and Gabriella, albeit mostly because of the singing thing. After that... Not so much.
  • Status Quo Is God: The song called "Stick to the Status Quo" in the first one and many characters have Aesop Amnesia.
  • Supreme Chef: ZEKE. Creme brulee...
  • Take a Third Option: Troy in Senior Year: he's torn between pursuing basketball at the University of Albuquerque and theatre at Julliard. He picks Berkeley where he can do both, and stay closer to Gabriella.
    • The first film also does this, when it looks like Troy and Gabriella have to choose between doing the callbacks or the championship game/decathlon. They manage to delay the game and decathlon so they have time to audition.
  • Technician vs. Performer: Ryan and Sharpay versus Troy and Gabriella. Ryan and Sharpay have been singing for years, view star roles as status symbols and audition with professionally choreographed routines and costumes, while Troy and Gabriella just want to sing because it makes them happy, start doing it in secret and audition in their sports uniform and lab coat.note 
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: The first film features one of these as a variety of terrible wanna-be actors try out for the school play. This is supposedly to show how talented Ryan and Sharpay are. However, as their competition are those who can't sing on key, forget their lines, who are creepy, and lock up with stage fright, it actually creates the impression that the only reason they keep starring in school plays is because they are the only people who are vaguely competent at acting or singing.
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: There's a song for virtually every issue. Spiritual Successor Glee would take this trope Up to Eleven but more realistically.
  • Through Her Stomach: How Zeke won over Sharpay when she got her hands on her cookies.
  • Title Drop: The third one does it literally.
  • Token Minority Couple: The Black Best Friends of the two leads end up paired with each other with no build-up at all.
  • Took a Level in Dumbass: Inverted with Ryan, who goes from not being able to spell 'drama club' in #1, to being far more capable in #2 and #3, including winning a scholarship to Julliard.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Sharpay wasn't nice in the first film, sure, but the second film blew her negative qualities up to ridiculous proportions. She's back to a more reasonable level of "evil" in the third.
    • Justified in that in the second film, she has more actual power over the others as a Rich Bitch club member, whereas everyone else is an employee. At school, the others are her equals and she can only manipulate things.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Chad, Taylor, Ms. Darbus and Jack Bolton by the end of the first film and onwards. Ms. Darbus in particular goes from refusing to let Troy and Gabriella audition because they're thirty seconds late, to counselling Troy during his break down about his future.
  • True Companions: The 'Wildcats', though the main gang is Troy, Gabriella, Chad, Taylor, Kelsi, Zeke, Jason, Martha and sometimes Ryan and Sharpay.
  • Tsundere: Sharpay and Taylor are downplayed, because their other archetypes (Alpha Bitch and Black and Nerdy) are much stronger.
  • TV Teens
  • Twerp Sweating: Referenced in the lyrics to "A Night to Remember" from Senior Year, as the guys go to pick up their prom dates.
    Don't know why her father's staring me down!
  • Twincest/Brother–Sister Incest: Referenced. Ryan and Sharpay don't mind performing love songs together, but then again, the key word is perform.
    • invoked It also helps that the songs are rearranged to downplay the Squick factor; the love song "What I've Been Looking For" is sped up and performed to fit a brother-sister bond, and "Bop to the Top" is clearly addressed to the audience, not each other.
    • On the flip side, there's an awful lot of fanfiction out there that pair the two. A few explain it away as Ryan and Sharpay not actually being related, though most keep the relationship intact. Of course, many fics lean towards the angsty, tortured side.
  • Unfortunate Names: "Sharpay". That the Alpha Bitch has a name that sounds like a kind of dog is possibly a Stealth Pun. It's lampshaded in the stage version: in one scene, Sharpay complains about being named after a dog. Ryan says it could've been worse, she could've been named Pug, or Shih Tzu...
  • Vanity License Plate: Sharpay's pink car has a plate that says FABULUS.
  • What Does He See in Her?: Everyone has this reaction with Zeke's crush on Sharpay.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Ironically enough, the titular High School Musical (apparently called Twinkle Town), in the first film. You'd think with all the importance placed on its callbacks, we'd get some focus on the musical itself, like maybe showing Troy and Gabriella practicing songs or scenes from it, right? Well, you'd be wrong - after the performance of "Breaking Free", it's never brought up again, not even in the sequels. A Freeze-Frame Bonus at the beginning of 2 has a poster behind Troy and Gabriella shows Twinkle Town featuring the pair under starring.
  • With Friends Like These...: Chad and Taylor for Troy and Gabriella in the first film. Chad, who has been Troy's best friend since childhood, starts a bullying campaign against him singing and sabotages his chances with the girl he really likes. Taylor befriends the already shy and insecure Gabriella, just to get her on the scholastic decathlon, and then tricks the guy she likes into hurting her, leaving Gabriella devastated. They do however, redeem themselves in the second half of the film. In the second film, Taylor spends most of her time questioning Gabriella's choice to be with Troy, while Chad only complains about the job Troy got him, specially when Troy gets a promotion and Chad guilt trips him into renouncing.
  • Work Info Title: The title refers to the high school musical the main characters try to lead roles in. Fittingly, High School Musical itself is a musical about a high school.
  • "YEAH!" Shot: The main cast does this in all main promotional art, as well as the Grand Finale. Provides the image at the top.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Gabriella tells Troy the variation of "You are more than you think you are", when she tells him he's not just the basketball guy.

Alternative Title(s): High School Musical 2, High School Musical 3 Senior Year


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