Vanessa Hudgens is one of the stars of High School Musical, and about as nice and charming a young actress as you could meet anywhere. For those of you who don't know--WHERE have you been?????-- Ms. Hudgens plays Gabriella Montez, a shy student who excels in math and science and who, through the redeeming power of Show BIZ not only comes out of her shell, she helps her team win the inter-school academic competition, scores the lead in the musical and gets the guy, Troy Bolton, played by junior heartthrob Zac Efron. Whew! Who could possibly compete with these kids?
Well, that's not the point. High School Musical since it first debuted January 20, 2006, has reached more than 100 million viewers all around the world. It is an entertainment phenomenon that's rarely been equaled, and in all our conversations with kits besotted with the show, what we've seen is a sense of empowerment, and a real ability to relate to these characters. So, for those of you who think that the musical is dead, think again! The power of music to enhance emotion and capture the sheer exuberance of these kids has resonated around the world. And, what's even better, these are all essentially very good kids. Even the "villains" of the piece aren't so bad, they just get their little ego bubbles popped and emerge much nicer for it.
And, you have to admit that Disney has done a masterful job with all of this. What's most impressive is that they've done it from the kids' perspective, and that's why kids everywhere relate to it so strongly. They see heightened version of themselves. That's one of the reasons that a version of the show that can be done in real-live high schools has been so popular, and why, heaven help us, High School Musical on Ice is likely to be a major hit as well. Chances are that for the next decade or so, HSM will supplant Bye Bye Birdie or Grease as the classic high school spring shows. That's actually a good thing. Those shows, charming and popular as they are (The new Grease on Broadway has a nearly $10 million pre-sale, thanks to its being featured in a reality show earlier this year.), are really written from an adult perspective. The kind of "aren't those kids kooky and crazy" subtext of those shows is absent from HSM, and that's why it really touches kids.
So, it should come as no surprise that when Ms. Hudgens appeared at Toys "R" Us Times Square last Saturday, our friend Faith D'Isa jumped at the chance to interview her for TheToyGuy.com. Ms. Hudgens was at the store to unveil a new toy Rubik's Revolution, and after all, who better than the reigning math and science role model for the entire world?
Ms. Hudgens signed photos for legions of fans and had lines around the block, so Faith was delighted to sit down with her and answer a couple of questions--a dream come true for the St. Stephen's School drama club member. Check back for a link to Faith's interview when it's posted.
Here's the best part of it, though, Ms. Hudgens couldn't have been nicer, more attentive and just plain cool with all the kids she met. She's exactly the kind of celebrity we should all want our kids looking up to.
- C. Byrne