In 2006, High School Musical burst onto the scene as Disney’s musical adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. The film centred on a pair of high school sweethearts navigating the angst of high school, cliques, fitting in and finding solace in the world of high school theatre. Naturally, it was an instant success.
1.2 million DVD copies of the film were sold in the first 6 days, making it the fastest selling television film of all time. In addition to launching the careers of stars like Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens, the film created a series of related productions like a travelling ice show, High School Musical on Ice, and two more films which firmly asserted High School Musical as one of the most important teen films for a generation of young fans.
Over a decade after its initial release, we did some digging to find out what the film’s stars are up to since they “broke free” from Disney.
Zac Efron is arguably the most successful High School Musical star and has gone on to star in countless films since wrapping the High School Musical franchise in 2008. His popular credits include Hairspray, 17 Again, Charlie St. Cloud, Neighbors and most recently, a role as “cool guy” Matt Brody in the 2017 film remake of Baywatch. Efron has also gained attention for his appearances on the indie circuit with his 2017 film The Disaster Artist, about the making of the cult comedy The Room, which is already gaining Oscar buzz. This December he’s set to appear as a circus performer alongside Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams and fellow Disney alum Zendaya in the biographical musical The Greatest Showman, about the founding of the famous Barnum and Bailey Circus.
Following her on-screen debut in High School Musical, Hudgens went on to release her first albumV in 2006, which peaked at number 55 on the Billboard charts. Since then Hudgens’ career has mostly revolved around small-scale films like Bandslam, Beastly and Sucker Punch. In 2013, she appeared in Harmony Korine’s neon-fuelled immediate classic, Spring Breakers alongside Selena Gomez and James Franco. In 2016, she played bad girl Rizzo in Fox’s live-action TV musical Grease Live! which earned a ranking of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, and starred in the short-lived superhero sitcom Powerless. She most recently appeared alongside Canadian crooner, Shawn Hook on the pop ballad, “Reminding Me” which debuted at number 92 on the Billboard chart this year.
Before Ashley Tisdale was on High School Musical, she starred alongside Dylan and Cole Sprouse as candy counter girl Maddie Fitzpatrick in The Suite Life of Zack Cody. She then stayed with the Disney family, providing the voice of Candace on the popular animated series Phineas and Ferb. Her first album Headstrong debuted in 2007 at number five on the Billboard chart. Following the HSM franchise, she released her second album Guilty Pleasure and starred in HSM spinoff Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure. Following more recent appearances in Scary Movie 5 and Amateur Night she is set to appear in the upcoming animated film Charming with Avril Lavigne, Sia, Demi Lovato and Steve Aoki about the entangled history of Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.
Following the first two High School Musical movies, Corbin Bleu released his debut album Another Side before starring in the 2007 Disney Channel original, Jump In. Following a number of appearances in little-known films and local theatre productions, he participated in Dancing With the Stars in 2013, earning attention for his dance skills as a runner-up. In 2017, Bleu won Best Male Performer at the Chita Rivera Awards For Dance and Choreography for his performance in Broadway musical Holiday Inn, The New Irving Berlin Musical. He is currently producing and fundraising for indie film The Day I Died, which will focus on teen bullying.
Following the first two HSM movies, Grabeel founded his own production company 14341 Productions in 2007 which went on to produce several short films in 2009, including The Awakening of Abigail Harris, which starred Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen star Alison Pill. In 2008 he had a small role in the Academy Award-winning biopic Milk. Since High School Musical, Grabeel has released several singles; most recently, he released his Sunshine EP in 2011. That same year he scored a role as aspiring musician Toby Kennish in ABC Family’s Peabody award-winning drama Switched at Birth. This earned him a Teen Choice Award nomination for his role in the show in 2013 and 2014.
Before starring in the HSM franchise Monique Coleman also appeared on several episodes of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Following occasional guest appearances on Bones and The Cleveland Show, Coleman’s next full-length film was a small role in Free the Nipple , a film inspired by gender activist movement of the same name. In 2015 she had a small role in Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List, which was based on the popular book by author David Levithan. In 2015 she also starred in the sci-fi series The Fourth Door as a sword-wielding chaperone in the show’s first and only season. Coleman is set to co-star alongside Analeigh Tipton of America’s Next Top Model fame this year in indie thriller Little Star.