Fresh from its upbeat, up-tempo teen musicals, the Disney Channel is ready for a new twist.
It already has “High School Musical,” “Cheetah Girls” and “Cheetah Girls 2” drawing big ratings. Now comes “Jump In,” a musical about — well, jumping rope.
“I’ve been dancing my whole life,” says Corbin Bleu, 17, who stars. “I thought, ‘OK, I’ve just got to jump up and down. No problem.’ ”
Bleu co-starred as Chad in “High School Musical,” which became a huge hit. He was confident about “Jump In” — briefly.
“The next day, ESPN showed the (jump-rope) championships,” Bleu says. “I thought, ‘Oh, crap!’ ”
It was an international Double Dutch championship with kids leaping inside two swirling ropes. They were athletes, acrobats and artists, all at the same time. “This wasn’t just jumping; it was circus tricks,” Bleu says.
And he would have to learn some of it quickly.
“He’s been trained as a dancer since he was 2,” says his father and co-star, David Reivers. “His work ethic is impeccable.”
In “Jump In,” Bleu plays Izzy Daniels, who follows his dad’s obsession with boxing. But he loves the girl next door (Keke Palmer of “Akeelah and the Bee”) and is nudged onto a Double Dutch team.
Unlike the other Disney musicals, this doesn’t have anyone singing on-camera. There’s a steady stream of background songs, however, including one from Bleu and two from Palmer.
Bleu had to jump convincingly. He says he did everything but the flips, which were handled by Marcus Taylor, a Double Dutch champion from Cincinnati.
Beyond that, there’s the key part of any role: Bleu had to act.
There were the brief romantic scenes with Palmer, 13. “I think the kiss was a little nerve-wracking for her,” Bleu says. “It was her first one, on- or off-camera.”
And there were the scenes where Izzy argues with his father — scenes in which Bleu argued with his real-life father.
“My dad’s a great actor,” Bleu says. “We got to the scenes where he gave me that look: I’ve seen that look before, when I messed up.”
That happens occasionally, Reivers says. “He’s a great son, but like every kid, he does get in trouble.”
One showbiz kid
Mostly, however, Bleu has lived an upbeat life.
His dad has been a relatively busy actor, sometimes in small roles or commercials. “It’s been a journeyman career,” Reivers says.
His mom attended New York’s famed High School for the Performing Arts, which Bleu says made him jealous.
At 2, he did commercials. At 4, he was in the Ford Modeling Agency. At 7, he moved with his family from Brooklyn to Los Angeles.
There, he studied at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy and at the Los Angeles County High School for the Performing Arts — the West Coast equivalent of his mother’s school.
“Everyone in school knew how to dance,” Bleu says. “Everyone could break out in song.”
And many people, presumably, could’ve been jealous when, as a sophomore, he landed the lead in the school’s production of “Footloose.”
Bleu’s professional career has also been busy. He was one of the three stars of a teen-heist movie, “Catch That Kid.” He’s done two seasons of “Flight 29 Down,” sort of a younger version of “Lost.”
He also did “High School Musical,” not realizing what would come of it. “No one did, but we felt there was something magical about it.”
The film has been played often on the Disney Channel. The cast will tour in a concert version, then will make the sequel.
And new musicals will show up with attractive teens in love and in limbo. One has those teens jumping rope in spectacular ways.