The Disney Channel expands its "High School Musical" franchise tonight with a special culled from the recent concert tour that, though well done, doesn't fully capture the fun of the live show.
Let's get one thing clear from the start: "High School Musical: The Concert" will be a huge ratings winner for the Disney Channel.
I can say this with certainty, having been surrounded by adoring kids at one of the concerts and as the father of a 7-year-old girl who watches all things "HSM" and can note star Ashley Tisdale's breathing patterns while singing.
Tonight's special (9 p.m.) mixes clips from a performance of the "HSM" concert tour with interviews with the performers, Vanessa Hudgens, Corbin Bleu, Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel, Monique Coleman and Drew Seeley. The latter, as fans know, filled in for Zac Efron on the tour.
As a stage show, "HSM" takes its songs from the sweet Disney Channel movie about high school love. The production is big and bright, with multiple performers moving across the stage, and huge video screens playing a part, too.
But that's where the special struggles to re-create the buzz of the live event. The production numbers require camera angles so wide they render the performers small enough to make it seem like you're watching from the back row.
That's a quibble, but the long-distance perspective does detract from the performances of songs like "Get'cha Head in the Game" and the finale, "We're All in This Together."
Where the show does get creative is during duets, as when Hudgens and Seeley share the stage for "Breaking Free," and the cameras are able to go in tight on the performers,
The target audience for "HSM" is likely to enjoy interviews with the stars, who are endearing and appreciative of fans.
"The fans of 'High School Musical' are amazing," Seeley says. "They know every single word, every single lyric, every single dance step we're doing the whole time."
No kidding. Producers back up that claim with plenty of shots of youngsters dancing energetically, while seemingly bored parents work their Blackberrys.
The interviews work because they get viewers up close. In one segment, the performers talk about the rigors of travel and what they do on tour buses to pass the time. And no, nothing rivals the horror stories of rockers gone by. There's not even a fart joke.
"Having to perform in front of 15,000 people every single night," Bleu says, "there really is nothing that describes what that feels like."
While "HSM: The Concert" doesn't completely describe that either, it's still a worthy, fun family hour.