“High School Musical: The Musical: The Series”: Deja Vu?

Elizabeth Ippolito

Creator: Tim Federle

Starring: Joshua Bassett, Matt Cornett, Sofia Wylie, and Frankie A. Rodriguez

Rating: 2/5

Source: Disney+ Originals

Disney+ released the third season of “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” this September and let’s just say… there’s a lot to talk about. To begin, the season takes place, not at East High, but at Camp Shallow Lake. This camp is where one of the main characters, E.J., spent all of his summers as a child, making him a long-time attendee of the camp. But this isn’t just a regular camp, it’s a theater camp.

This summer E.J. (Matt Cornett) is joined by Ricky (Joshua Bassett), Kourtney (Dara Renee), Ashlyn (Julia Lester), and his girlfriend Gina (Sofia Wylie). This is a large shift from the previous season’s setting, the East High auditorium. The gang is set to put on a production of “Frozen” and in turn, Corbin Bleu, who played Chad Danforth in the original “High School Musical” trilogy, joins the season to produce a documentary of all the behind-the-scenes drama that goes on during a theater production. 

This season definitely is a change from previous seasons, which were focused on the East High shows and were pretty similar to the  “High School Musical” trilogy, but with the added mockumentary effects. Season three was lacking everything that fans loved about previous seasons with half of the cast missing. The characters Nini, Sebastian, and Big Red only appear in the season finale for a brief period. These are crucial characters to the plot so the season had sort of an empty feeling.

Show creator Tim Federle discussed with TVLine Olivia Rodrigo’s exit from the series, “Olivia was about to go on tour, so I had three days with her at the beginning of the season. Even before we shot anything at the camp, we shot Olivia out of the entire season. There were only so many actors available that early in the run, and since she and Kourtney were the OG besties, that felt right. I would have loved a big group sendoff, but it just wasn’t in the cards with our schedule”. 

Season three had fans thinking they were experiencing deja vu. First, the show includes songs from “Camp Rock” which fits with the season’s location. “Camp Rock” was a Disney Channel Original Movie that was released in 2008 and is centered around a music camp and the budding romance between Mitchie Torres and Rockstar Nate Gray. “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” uses the camp setting and songs from the original “Camp Rock,” making the show lose its original roots. The show also repeated storylines from “Camp Rock.” The camp counselor Maddie and younger brother Jett hide their sibling relationship from everyone at the camp, and anyone who is a Disney fan knows this is just what Mitchie did in “Camp Rock”: she hides the fact that her mother works for the camp. 

Source: TV Insider

The season finale makes up for the letdown of the majority of episodes. With the camp’s “Frozen” performance underway, audiences get to see Nini, Miss Jen, Sebastian, and Big Red. Though the characters were only on screen for a short time, a lot was revealed regarding potential plot points for season four. Big Red came out as bisexual, Nini revealed that she will no longer be attending East High and the bombshell of a trailer for Corbin Bleu’s documentary was shown to the cast. In the nature of Corbin Bleu’s reality show following the characters and reality television as a whole, a lot was distorted and revealed, thus giving the perfect cliffhanger for season four.

“High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” season three is not the best the show has given, but the build-up for season four will be worth the wait. From what audiences know, Nini will not be in season four, Ashlyn and Big Red’s relationship is on the rocks and a budding romance between Ricky and Gina has begun. Season three built up all the drama, but season four will allow audiences to sit back and watch all of it unfold.