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Film / High School Musical

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Jack Bolton: You're the playmaker... not a singer... right?
Troy Bolton: Did you ever think that maybe I could be both?

High School Musical is a Disney Channel Original Movie that premiered on January 20, 2006. It was directed by Kenny Ortega, written by Peter Barsocchini, and starred Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, and Ashley Tisdale.

The plot centers around a group of students in the fictional East High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Golden boy and basketball team captain Troy Bolton (played by Efron) has a Meet Cute with the brainy Gabriella Montez (played by Hudgens) at a ski resort on New Year's Eve, which transitions into awkward attraction when she later transfers to East High. The two of them end up being considered for the school musical, to the consternation of the Evans twins, Sharpay (played by Tisdale) and Ryan (played by Lucas Grabeel), who rule the drama club. Also unhappy at this development are Troy and Gabriella's best friends, fellow jock Chad Danforth (played by Corbin Bleu), and academic decathlon leader Taylor McKessie (played by Monique Coleman), who would prefer that Troy and Gabriella not get distracted from their respective clubs. Can Troy and Gabriella convince East High that they can do theater and their respective niches at the same time?

Oh, and did we mention it's also a musical?

The movie was an unexpected success, spawning a concert tour, a novel series, two sequels, a spinoff and a web series:

The franchise inspired Stitch Meets High School Musical, a cute little short anime parody where Stitch plays basketball and dances to "We're All in This Together", as well as a bunch of teen musicals by the Disney Channel, including:

It also influenced Glee being greenlit and thus the success of the Pitch Perfect franchise, which may have ultimately kickstarted a newfound appreciation for musicals in the mainstream.

We're all in these tropes together!

  • 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.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Numerous novelizations of the book characters (in a series named "Tales from East High") were released between films.
  • Aerith and Bob: Sharpay and Ryan, the Evans twins.
  • An Aesop:
    • Don't let what you do define who you are.
    • People contain multitudes. You can't pigeonhole them into neet little two-dimentional packets.
    • Don't let what people think effect who you are or going after what, or who, you love.
  • Against the Grain: Both Troy and Gabriella defy their expected roles. This is exemplified by the song "Stick To The Status Quo".
  • All There in the Manual: A stage adaptation of the first film was created after the 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 not only named after a dog but is eight minutes older than Ryan.
  • Almost Kiss: Troy and Gabriella almost kiss at the end of the first film before the Crowd Song.
  • 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!
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Troy asks one to this dad, who only thinks of his son as a perfect basketball athlete instead of a singer. Leaving his dad speechless.
    Troy: Dad, did you ever stop to think that I could be both?
  • Arc Words: There are two that originate 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 to 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 2, implying that he forgives her for all the grief she had caused him.
  • 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.
  • Betty and Veronica: Gabriella (the Betty) competes with Sharpay (the Veronica) over Troy (the Archie).
  • Be Yourself:
    • Troy is being a "Well Done, Son" Guy to make his dad happy about being the basketball 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 realized their selfishness.
  • Big Finale Crowd Song:
    • The first film has "We're All in This Together" which as performed by the entire school, including the jocks, the brainiacs, the skate dudes, the cheerleaders and the Wildcats. There's a reason this song is the Signature Song of the franchise.
    • High School Musical 2 had "All For One", once again sung by the cast as the celebrate the end of their hard work with a pool party.
    • Senior Year has the self-titled, "High School Musical" performed by the seniors in East High celebrating their graduation. The song ends with the main cast standing in front of red curtains.
  • Bigger Is Better: And better, is bigger, a little bit is never enough!
  • 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.
  • Broken Aesop:
    • Between #1 and #3 vs #2. The moral of 1 is essentially 'Support other's dreams rather than tearing them down (The wildcats accepting Troy and Gabriella singing). 2 switches to 'Your friend's pressuring is more important than your dreams.' (Troy trying to win a scholarship). Then Senior Year jumps back onto the 'support each other' wagon. (Troy doing basketball and singing, Gabriella going to Stanford, Kelsi wanting to do the show together).
  • Brother–Sister Team: Sharpay and Ryan are twins who frequently perform duets together.
  • 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 a 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.
  • 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, and 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 people outside of their (two-person) clique.
    • Martha was scolded by her brainiac friends for wanting to street dance and is seen at the beginning of Senior Year at the front of the cheerleading line-up during the opening basketball match (implying that she may be the head cheerleader).
  • Childhood Friends: Troy and Chad have known each other since kindergarten. In Senior Year, "The Boys Are Back" expands on this, whereas it had been only on an As You Know basis in the first two.
  • 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 them from singing together.
    • In Senior Year, Kelsi and Ryan were both put in charge of the eponymous play (she's in charge of the music, him of the choreography), and bonded over their shared project.
  • The Cover Changes the Meaning: "You Are the Music in Me" is initially a loving ballad by Troy and Gabriella; Sharpay turns it into a flashy dance-pop number.
  • 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:
  • Declaration of Personal Independence: Troy has a fight with his father about being able to sing in a musical and not just being a basketball player, and not living up to his father's dreams and instead following his own desires.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Sharpay. In each film.
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: The question of which duo is better at singing is only resolved in the first film since the franchise's overall plot is more about gaining acceptance than parts in a show.note  Sharpay is too insecure to try competing fairly, instead resorting to sabotage/cheating/otherwise rigging whatever auditions are occurring.
  • Disappeared Dad: Gabriella's 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.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: When Troy is arguing with his father because he wants to try out for the school musical while his father only wants him to stick to basketball, he fires back "Did you ever think that maybe I could be both?". Very similar to one struggling with bisexuality and angsting with their (non)supportive parents with it.
  • Drama Club: Which Ryan and Sharpay are the Co-Presidents of.
  • Duet Bonding: Troy and Gabriella, twice. Their meet-cute is a karaoke duet ("Start of Something New"), while sparks fly when they sing a composition for the musical together ("What I've Been Looking For").
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: When you revisit any of the songs you could hear Troy singing in the first one, you notice Zac Efron being dubbed over even more than before.
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • Embarrassing Hobby: One of the driving problems in the story is that multiple characters in the different cliques have their own secret, non-stereotypical hobbies, like a skater dude being into cello playing. Troy's singing finally gives them the confidence to tell their friends...only for their friends to all collectively reject the notion that they can have those interests and tell them to "Stick to the Status Quo", justifying the embarrassment that made them hide their interests in the first place.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Troy and Gabriella have ones when they both protest about going to the New Year's Eve 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.
  • Fanservice: Zac Efron. Full stop. Each movie features some level of shirtless scenes.
  • 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.
    • Brazilian and Argentinian ones as well, with each having a token "sports-themed song" ... about rugby and soccer. Both films have protagonists and some secondary characters with its first names taken from the actors' names.
  • 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).
  • Funny Background Event: When Troy is being taken out of detention, Ryan is watching...and painting a set ladder in his distraction.
  • "Gaining Confidence" Song: Troy and Gabriella go through this twice as a sort of Book Ends to the first film. They're first forced to sing karaoke together, neither of them thinking of themselves as a singer, but end up enjoying the experience and discovering their interest in music, symbolized by them dancing and engaging with the audience. In the end, they're singing at the climatic audition, and Gabriella's Stage Fright threatens to get the better of her- but they once again end up getting into the song and blowing away the crowd.
  • "Gender-Normative Parent" 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.
  • 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.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Chad and Taylor's plan to get Troy and Gabriella to focus on basketball and academics (instead of each other) works perfectly... Until both Troy and Gabriella become too miserable to focus on the championship game or the academic decathlon, which was exactly what they were trying to avoid in the first place.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners:
    • Troy and Chad, which is why Chad takes Troy's interest in singing so badly. The rest of the team is downplayed
    • Gabriella and Taylor develop into this.
  • Hidden Depths: Pretty much the whole basis of 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 nerd who loves hip-hop, and a skater who plays the cello.
  • High School: The film is set at a high school in Albuquerque, New Mexico called East High.
  • 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.
  • Inexplicable Cornered Escape: Gabriella and Troy are trying to secretly practice the song they'll perform during call-backs to avoid any interference from Sharpay. In one instance, Gabriella is singing in the girl's bathroom when Sharpay happens to walk by. Sharpay stops and heads into the bathroom to figure out who's singing. Sharpay walks through, but no one's there so she leaves. Gabriella then pops out from an alcove by the sinks. This became something of a meme because there was simply no way for Sharpay to not see Gabriella given the angle and lack of cover.
  • 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!"
    • Notably, the teacher Sharpay is ranting to doesn't believe her in the slightest.
  • Insecure Protagonist, Arrogant Antagonist: Troy and Gabriella have to compete with Sharpay and Ryan for the lead roles in the school musical. Sharpay and Ryan are insanely talented, but also overconfident and manipulative, whilst Troy and Gabriella are struggling to express themselves and be more than their stereotypes would allow them to be. As their confidence and abilities grow, Sharpay and Ryan grow more paranoid and attempt to sabotage their chance to audition, but get thwarted when they show up anyway.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Large Ham:
    • Zac Efron. Watch Bet On It and you'll see. And Ms. Darbus of course.
    • 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".
  • Licensed Game: The first and third films each had a Mystery Date (1965) 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.
  • Love at First Note: Troy and Gabriella begin to fall in love during a karaoke performance.
  • 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 at in the final song but they 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.
  • 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 Year's Kiss: Subverted at the New Year's party where Troy and Gabriella meet. After their karaoke performance and conversation builds up some chemistry between them, the final countdown to the new year begins. Once the countdown ends, they watch the fireworks together and stare at each other intensely, suggesting they may want to kiss, but they just exchange phone numbers and part ways.
  • 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, and Gabriella on the scholastic decathlon 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 brainiac; Sharpay, the snobby popular girl who doesn't like her spotlight stolen; and Taylor, the brainiac who mediates between the two.
  • Official Couple: Troy and Gabriella are the main pairing of the franchise.
  • 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 sees 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 attraction toward Troy in the earlier scenes.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    Troy: Unless we lose.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Chad and Taylor to Troy and Gabriella.
  • 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 checking an invisible watch in all three films.
  • Saw "Star Wars" Twenty-Seven Times: Chad mentions that his mother has seen The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway 27 times.
  • The Scream: Sharpay's reaction is to scream when callbacks for the auditions are announced and she and her brother have to compete with Troy and Gabriella for the talent show.
    Sharpay: CALLBACK?! (screams)
  • 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 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).
  • 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. Comes the third film he and Chad (who was never as good a basketball player as Troy) has 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.
  • Shipper on Deck: Kelsi displayed shades of this towards Troy and Gabriella in the first movie and afterward. Subverted with everyone else at first, but played straight by the third movie, where pretty much the entire school adores the two together (Sharpay being the main exception).
  • 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 on a poster seen behind Troy and Gabriella when they 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.
  • 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 relentlessly 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 the main point of their relationship is not being the stereotypes everyone thinks they are. Her position is actually...
  • 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:
    • "What I've Been Looking For (Reprise)"
  • Spin-Off:
    • Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico all have local High School Musical installments. 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.
  • 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" is the first one and many characters have Aesop Amnesia.
  • Take a Third Option: 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 Versus 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 supposed to show how talented Ryan and Sharpay are. However, as their competition are those who can't sing on key, forget their lines, are creepy, and lock up with stage fright, it actually creates the impression that the only reason they keep starring in school plays is that 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.
  • Through Her Stomach: How Zeke won over Sharpay when she got her hands on her cookies.
  • Token Minority Couple: The black friends of the two leads end up paired with each other.
  • 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 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 counseling Troy during his breakdown 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
  • The Wildcats: The name of the East High mascot.
  • What Does He See in Her?: Everyone has this reaction to 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 that 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, especially 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 land lead roles in. Fittingly, High School Musical itself is a musical about a high school.
  • "YEAH!" Shot: The main cast jump excitedly in all main promotional art.
  • 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.
  • Zany Scheme: In the first movie, Chad and Taylor, along with their respective teams, the Wildcats and the school nerds, cook up a plan to drive Troy and Gabriella away from each other and the upcoming musical so they can focus on their own competitions instead, the upcoming Championship game and the Academic Decathlon. Namely, Troy's teammates exploit his desire of approval from his father by reminding him of East High's legacy of basketball triumphs and his dad's role in it, and Troy, feeling the pressure, is forced to lie and say that Gabriella and the musical are only distractions, while Taylor and the other nerds film the moment with a webcam they hid in the locker room and show it to Gabriella, making her assume Troy doesn't really care for her. The whole thing works a tad too well and causes Troy and Gabriella to feel way too downhearted to properly focus on anything, much to the regret of the Wildcats and the nerds.