It’s out with the old, and in with the new. Goodbye clouds of gray, hello skies of blue. Season 3 of “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” is summer vibes only as your favorite characters head to Camp Shallow Lake. It must be the whole world according to moi, because the man, the myth, the legend, Corbin Bleu himself has graced this season with his illustrious dance moves and perfect smile. Oh and, if you haven’t guessed it yet, the kids finally perform “Fabulous.” Excuse me? Thank you.
A fresh new setting pairs with a sprinkling of new characters, including loyal Shallow Lake camper Maddox (Saylor Bell Curda), the edgy and elusive Jet (Adrian Lyles), and childhood best friend to EJ, Val (Meg Donnelly). This new assemblage parallels the disappearance of a handful of original cast members that do not make it to camp, including Seb (Joe Serafini), Big Red (Larry Saperstein), and Nini (Olivia Rodrigo). Spoiler alert, a joyful reunion has us all in this together for the finale, champions one and all, in addition to Nini’s appearances in the first two episodes. This is unsurprising given Olivia Rodrigo’s exponential rise to fame via the release of her first studio album “Sour” in May of 2021. However, as you may recall, Nini was once the main character of this particular show. Who has come to fill her spot? As much as I would love to say Corbin Bleu, it nevertheless brings me joy to say that Sofia Wylie’s character, Gina, has gracefully bopped to the top and become somewhat of a leading lady in Nini’s absence. Additionally, Kourtney (Dara Reneé) and Ashlyn (Julia Lester) share this spotlight as they experience new self-discoveries this season.
A love triangle persists in Gina’s relationship with EJ (Matt Cornett) as she remains friendly with her previous crush, Ricky (Joshua Bassett). I am beginning to think that Joshua Bassett could exhibit chemistry with a brick wall given the way I was rooting for him and Nini in Season 1, then him and Gina, and at a certain point in Season 3, him and Jet. He expertly conveys awkwardness and adoration, which pairs impeccably with a vibrant singing voice. But don’t worry Corbin, I just wanna be with you, only you. No matter where life takes us.
Gina is also deserving of acknowledgement for her captivating singing performances and effervescent choreography, particularly in her duet with Ricky to “What Do You Know About Love?” from the Broadway “Frozen” musical. This brings up the primary plot of Season 3: the kids are putting together a show at camp, namely “Frozen.” Beyond that, Corbin Bleu portrays Corbin Bleu, coming to camp and helping film a docu-series on the kids’ rehearsal process and eventual performance. The documentary project is to be aired on Disney Plus, producing a truly meta layer given the fact that “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” is also streamed on Disney Plus. These circumstances yield the terrific line: “I’m Corbin Bleu, and you’re watching Disney Plus.” Corbin spends this season playing a cheesy, schmoozy, Hollywood caricature of himself, ultimately having a change of heart that culminates in him shouting the famous “Wildcats” cheer with the kids. I may or may not have shed a tear.
It should be noted that Jason Earles, best known for his role as Jackson on “Hannah Montana,” plays a grouchy camp director by the name of Dewey this season. The lore of this choice is puzzling given the kids’ obvious obsession with Disney Channel and Disney Channel Original Movies, evidenced in the “Camp Rock” homages throughout Season 3. However, the washed-up, tired out act blends comically with Corbin’s sleazy celebrity facade. If we want to get even deeper into the weeds, Corbin Bleu starred as one of Miley Stewart’s (Miley Cyrus) first crushes in “Hannah Montana,” leading to the infamous ketchup moisturizing incident. So, to quote Corbin, I need to speak with “my pals at the house of mouse” about these ludicrous plot holes.
Season 4 has more meta in store as “HSM” franchise alum will star in and/or return to “HSMTMTS,” likely portraying some version of themselves. Lucas Grabeel, who originally played Ryan in the film trilogy, and KayCee Stroh, originally Martha, have both made previous appearances in the show, and are confirmed to show up in Season 4. According to People, an exciting start of something new includes add-ons Monique Coleman, Bart Johnson, and Alyson Reed, who originally filled the roles of brainiac student Taylor, father-to-Troy Coach Bolton, and theater teacher Ms. Darbus respectively. The buzz has spread across their social media platforms. If you aren’t one for fan service, I can love it enough for the both of us. Bring on the Corbin TikToks.
If you have not already surmised that this article is primarily a love letter to Corbin Bleu, I will now explicitly confirm that that is exactly what this is. I merely wish to echo the enthusiasm and excitement of the East High Wildcats in Season 3 regarding the inclusion of him in this project. Ashlyn expressed my sentiments eloquently upon his arrival, saying, “I don’t remember how to breathe!” Let’s just say that 2023 will deliver big fun on the night of nights, the night of nights when Season 4 premieres. If you’re keeping a Bingo tally at home, that should have been eight “High School Musical” trilogy lyric references. Now go step into the future, but hold on to “High School Musical.” Revise that tally to nine.
“High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” is available to stream on Disney Plus.
By Risa Bolash