High School Musical: The Musical: The Series season 4
As someone who grew up watching the OG High School Musical movie series – more times than you can count – I was skeptical when I first started watching High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Also, the title is a mouthful, which annoyed me. But the first season was actually pretty good, and it wasn’t a copy of the original, which was refreshing considering the amount of reboots/remakes we’ve gotten of late.
After such a strong start, season 2 felt a bit lackluster in comparison. The show was paving the way for pop star Olivia Rodrigo’s exit, so it was breakup season for Ricky and Nini, which felt like a bit of a retread since that was how we started the show. Also, the series wanted to do something different, and based the second series around Beauty and the Beast instead of High School Musical 2. It just didn’t click in the way the first season had.
Season 3 fared better, choosing to move the action to summer camp and take on the musical Frozen. With Olivia Rodrigo firmly out of the show, this moved Sofia Wylie into the lead role, and this change brought a lot of renewed momentum to the show. Wylie is a fantastic leading lady, and even though season 3 did sometimes feel like it was retreading old plotlines again (a rehash of the previous love triangle but with Gina in the centre instead of Nini), there was more of a direction here than in season 2.
So where does season 4 stand in the grand scheme of things? It doesn’t best the first season, but it comes pretty damn close. Considering the current climate, where studios cancel TV shows before they get a chance to sing their swan song, it feels great to have a series take its final bow and end on its own terms. This season, the show’s gone back to its roots, with the cast taking on High School Musical 3. It feels apt as it is a season of goodbyes, especially with Ricky (Joshua Bassett) and Kourtney (Dara Reneé) being seniors and on the verge of graduation.
If you watched season 3, you will know that it ended with Gina and Ricky sharing a passionate kiss and getting together. This season, they decide to keep their relationship on the down low, and agree to keep it a secret from everyone. Wylie and Bassett have fantastic chemistry with each other, and sometimes it’s so intense that you feel like you shouldn’t be watching. This season is centred around their relationship, and how they navigate the changes that come their way. Things get even more complicated when you add a movie into the mix.
It’s no secret how meta the show is, so this season, the OG cast of High School Musical are teaming up to film a fourth film – it’s only for the purposes for the show and not a real thing so please don’t get your hopes up. The OG cast settle the record on a few things: Troy and Gabriella are undergoing couples counselling, and Ryan is now canonically gay. The Disney brand being what it was when the original movies came out, a confirmation of this would not have been possible, but this is what director Kenny Ortega intended for the character. It feels great to give the character his intended arc all these years later in the series.
With the movie’s location set in the high school, all the drama club members get a chance to be a part of film. Gina, with her tremendous talents, finds herself in the position to take on the leading role. But can she do the movie when they’re also working on the school musical? Will doing one come at the cost to the other? Another complication in the mix is her co-star Mack Alana (Matthew Sato), who was Gina’s childhood crush growing up. Ricky trusts Gina, but still feels worried about Gina spending hours with her former crush. Who knows where all those hours of pretending to be in love could lead to?
These movie shenanigans are fun and all, but the show truly shines when it focuses on the real life of all our characters. Kourtney spends the season sorting out her college applications and thinking about the next phase of her life. How does she know which college is the one for her? The show stresses that finding your own community should be an important factor when it comes to choosing a college. Most of the time, students go for the branded Ivies, or what looks good on paper so that it bodes well for their future. But sometimes this means that they get there and feel like they don’t belong. Having a space to belong is more important than we realise, and I think this is why us theatre geeks are so drawn to shows like Glee and High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. We miss that part of our lives that went into creating something.
Weirdly enough, in a season filled with so many romantic moments between Gina and Ricky, my favourite scenes are actually the ones between Ricky and EJ (Matt Cornett). After the previous season, I wasn’t sure if the show could salvage this relationship, or even EJ’s character. But creator Tim Federle proves that he still has some tricks up his sleeve, giving each and every character the best send-off possible. Does this mean then that the ending feels a tad unrealistic? Sure, but so is having Troy make his college decisions based on proximity to Gabriella. The world is bleak enough, sometimes we just need the fairy tale ending.
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Season 4 is full steam ahead for Team #Rina. Both Wylie and Bassett are on top form here as leads, giving us top-notch romantic and vocal chemistry.
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