The modern day Romeo and Juliet (with a happy ending) began as a humble made-for-television movie on the Disney Channel in 2006. According to Disney, more than 255 million viewers have seen the original film, and the soundtrack was the No 1 selling album of 2006.
Since then the franchise has spawned video games, books, a reality series and live stage adaptations. It has emerged as one of the top Disney brands winning numerous awards as well as the hearts of teens and tweens worldwide.
With the success of the series and its roots in musical theatre, it was inevitable High School Musical Live On Stage would follow. Max Milner and Talia Kodesh play the lead roles Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montez in the Asia production of the show, and Sunday Young Post spoke to them about jocks, nerds and their reflections on high school life.
Sunday Young Post: Can you give us a brief synopsis of the story?
Talia Kodesh: Basically, it takes place in a school in America. When it starts, there are lots of different social circles. We've got Troy who belongs to the jocks and basketball players; Gabriella who gets accepted into the brainiac group; you have skaters and you have cheerleaders. Everybody sticks to their group and nobody mingles with anybody else until Gabriella and Troy fall in love and mess everything up.
SYP: Is there a lot of pressure on you guys given the huge success of Efron and Hudgens?
Max Milner: I don't think there's much pressure. Obviously, you try to do as well as the original, but you put your own personality into it ... if you were the first ever cast, you'd have more pressure, but even then you've got the whole cast to support you.
TK: Also, I think the show speaks for itself. It's been shown all over the world ... and knowing you're part of this huge Disney family, it kind of makes it easier because everything is there for you so you just step into the show and into the role.
SYP: Do you think it's odd that the show is essentially a musical based on a film of a musical?
TK: Quite possibly. Ten to 15 years ago, everything started on stage then moved to film. Society is very different now and everything is about film and television. It's pretty natural they made the film first.
SYP: How do your characters compare to your own experiences in high school?
MM: I was a basketball player. I played a lot of rugby, too. I always had fun. I had a lot of friends, and was a bit of a terror, but a lot of the teachers liked me as they do Troy. He has to be cool with friends and work. In that way, I'm quite similar to him.
SYP: I'm almost identical to Gabriella. I sang and performed at school. All my friends were brainiacs. I took part in all the competitions - like the debating and public speaking teams. I was such a nerd! But all my boyfriends were into sports.
SYP: Do you get stage fright?
MM: I'd rather sing in front of thousands of people than I would in front of you now. You can't really see everyone's faces. You just see a big blur of people. It's so much easier. You've got to do it - there's no turning back.
TK: If something does happen, like forgetting a line, it's easy to pick up because you're in character. You think how they think and you can pick up and keep things going.
SYP: Has it ever happened?
MM: Not to me - so far.
TK: It happened to me. But everyone is on their feet and everyone is ready for anything to happen. That's the beauty of life in theatre - it's the most excitement you'll ever get.
High School Musical Live On Stage will be staged at the HKAPA from September 9-17.