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High School Musical: The Concert - Extreme Access Pass DVD Review

Buy High School Musical: The Concert - Extreme Access Pass on DVD from Amazon.com High School Musical: The Concert
Concert & DVD Details

Director: Jim Yukich

Performers: Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman, Lucas Grabeel, Vanessa Hudgens, Drew Seeley, Ashley Tisdale

Running Time: 57 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: June 26, 2007
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9); Black Keepcase
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99

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By Aaron Wallace

With the movie musical, it's often the songs, not the story, that cultivate a fanbase. After all, it's the soundtrack that defines the genre. That explains the popularity of live concert performances inspired by musicals of the stage and screen.
The Wizard of Oz had one, Dreamgirls had one, and now, High School Musical has one too.

High School Musical: The Concert toured through four cities across the United States from November 2006 through May 2007, featuring live performances of the songs (and the songs only -- no acting) from the hit 2006 made-for-TV movie. Less than a month into the tour, the December 18, 2006 show in Houston, TX was recorded for home video distribution. As a result, fans can now live (or relive) the concert experience from their living rooms, courtesy of the newly released Extreme Access Pass DVD.

The movie's original cast is reassembled for the concert, with one notable exception. Standing in for Zac Efron, who played lead character Troy Bolton, is Drew Seeley. This substitution isn't arbitrary; it was Seeley who provided at least some of the vocals that were used to dub Efron's singing parts in the movie. His appearance here in lieu of the original star only fuels speculation and debate over Efron's capacity as a vocalist and will undoubtedly disappoint fans. The less cynical will note that while the tour blazed across the country, Efron was hard at work on his upcoming role in another movie musical, Hairspray, and thus unable to participate.

Monique Coleman and Corbin Bleu stick to the status quo in the concert's showiest ensemble number. Vanessa (Anne) Hudgens takes the stage for "High School Musical"'s only solo song: "When There Was Me and You."

If anything, the DVD provides fans a nice opportunity to compare stand-alone Seeley with the enigmatic Troy Bolton and arrive at their own conclusions about just who sang what and for how long in the original film. The performers themselves comically avoid any acknowledgment of Seeley's singing role in the movie, recognizing him only as a "special guest" and co-writer of lyrics. Undoubtedly, a number of young girls with nosebleed tickets are still convinced that they saw Zac Efron live on stage.

Definitely present and reprising their roles are Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, and the evening's official emcee, Lucas Grabeel. They take the stage in rock star fashion, singing every song featured in the movie and sounding pretty good. A few of the numbers find the cast showing off the telefilm's choreography while video clips are also occasionally displayed on a massive LCD display. Despite some online claims to the contrary, there is clearly live singing going on in this presentation -- at least in large part. It's difficult to say whether Bleu and Coleman, who didn't sing in the movie, are adding anything to their limited roles on stage, but I'm skeptical that accusations of lip-synching are valid.

Supplementing the movie's small platter of original tunes, the pop stars-in-the-making ensemble performs some of their individual hits throughout. Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Tisdale deliver one ditty each while Corbin Bleu stays on stage for back-to-back numbers. As evidenced by the concurrently-released CD soundtrack and setlist reports from concert goers, these were joined by several other solo performances, including Drew Seeley's "Dance With Me" and Monique Coleman's accompanying dance. Why Grabeel was apparently denied a forum for his records is unclear but even the greater mystery is that any songs were cut from the recording when transferred to DVD. Running just under an hour, there's plenty of room for more. Of course, it's the High School Musical tracks that are important, but the overlapping fan base for each of these young celebs is certain.

Scantily clad and sexually charged (respectively), Ashley Tisdale and Lucas Grabeel overlook the crowded stage. Corbin Bleu's moves borrow from Michael Jackson and Chuck Norris, a combination that earns him more time in the spotlight than anyone else.

The production isn't overly elaborate but does make for a good show. The editing is particularly good at the beginning, effectively building excitement for the fun-filled musical parade that awaits. Breaks between performances are occasionally filled with behind-the-scenes footage or brief interviews with the cast.

Set List

1. "The Start of Something New" - Cast
2. "Stick to the Status Quo" - Cast
3. "I Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" - Cast
4. "When There Was Me and You" - Vanessa Hudgens
5. "We'll Be Together" - Ashley Tisdale*
6. "Get'cha Head in the Game" - Drew Seeley, Corbin Bleu
7. "Push it to the Limit" - Corbin Bleu*
8. "Marchin'" - Corbin Bleu*
9. "What I've Been Lookin' For" - Vanessa Hudgens, Drew Seeley
10. "What I've Been Lookin' For" - Lucas Grabeel, Ashley Tisdale
11. "Say OK" - Vanessa Hudgens*
12. "Bop to the Top" - Lucas Grabeel, Ashley Tisdale
13. "Breakin' Free" - Vanessa Hudgens, Drew Seeley
14. "We're All in This Together" - Cast

* These songs were not featured in High School Musical.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Though the packaging lists only fullscreen video, the concert is actually presented in 1.78:1 non-anamorphic widescreen. An even wider frame would have better complimented the choreography and large cast. It's a shame that the video hasn't been enhanced for 16x9 displays, but what we get is certainly better than fullscreen. Video quality is generally good, though not nearly an eye-popping high definition filming. There are occasional instances of edge enhancement and moiré effect, but they're very mild.

Audio quality is all around excellent. The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track provides fantastic bass and sounds great in the front left and right channels. The mix could stand more activity from the center and rear channels, however.

"What, you mean these people aren't here to see me?", thinks opening act Jordan Pruitt. Lucas Grabeel, the concert emcee, gives a behind-the-scenes guide of the guys' tour bus in "On the Road". A sneak peek at a new scene from "High School Musical 2": Zac Efron and Vanessa Ann Hudgens dance in a classroom as Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montez.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, and DESIGN

Jordan Pruitt's show-opening act is included in the bonus features section, sans one song reportedly included in the show ("We Are Family"). Her music isn't particularly good, but I'm sure it's a treat for her fans and those who attended. Her performances, each of which can be selected from a sub-menu, are as follows: "Jump to the Rhythm", "Teenager", "Outside Looking In", and "Miss Popularity". A "Play All" option is available.

The "High School Musical: On the Road" featurette, hosted by Lucas Grabeel, takes viewers backstage from the hair and makeup department to the dressing rooms.
There's even an insider's look at the guys' tour bus. The interviews and footage allow this to convey a good sense of what the touring experience has entailed for these young and only recently famous stars.

Perhaps the most exciting feature is a sneak peek at this summer's upcoming High School Musical 2. Though short and not too revealing, this teaser does show a bit of footage from the film and even samples one of the new movie's songs.

Finally, there's something called "U Direct", a feature that enables four different camera angles from which the viewer can see five different performances: "Start of Something New", "Get'cha Head in the Game", "Bop to the Top", "Breaking Free", and "We're All in This Together" (a "Play All" option is available here too). The control panel, which is introduced by Monique Coleman, is slow-loading. The backstage camera option makes it worth it, though, as the chance to see stars behind the curtain while their co-stars are out on stage is rare.

"U Direct" puts viewers in control of four different camera angles. The 16x9 main menu helps you get'cha head in the game for the "High School Musical" concert.

The disc is housed inside a standard black keepcase, which is packaged inside a shiny, embossed cardboard slipcover. Inside is the chapter list, a Disney Movie Rewards "magic code" number, a few miscellaneous Disney Channel ads, and a fold-out High School Musical 2 locker poster.

The main menu recreates the concert stage with some animation and an instrumental rendition of "Get'cha Head in the Game." The sub-menus are all still screens.
The Song Selection menus offer four pages, each featuring a different artist close-up and a sample of "The Start of Something New". The Set-Up screen features "Breaking Free" in the background while the Bonus Features menu plays "Stick to the Status Quo". When selecting individual songs, the program will not continue on to the next chapter, but instead returns to the main menu.

The disc opens with sneak peeks at The Jungle Book: Platinum Edition, Underdog, Return to Halloweentown, and "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody": Sweet Suite Victory. From the main menu, additional previews of the Meet the Robinsons, Bridge to Terabithia, The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, and Return to Neverland DVDs can be found, as well as a teaser for High School Musical 2 (different from the preview included in the Bonus Features section) and a promo for the Disney Movie Rewards program.

The "High School Musical" concert begins with a bang -- literally. Drew Seeley and Vanessa Hudgens duet on "Start of Something New".

CLOSING THOUGHTS

High School Musical: The Concert will only appeal to those who have fallen in love with the movie. That's a group comprised of millions and for them, this DVD is a must-see and a maybe-own. A fun celebration of an enjoyable and surprisingly accomplished TV movie musical, the concert is sure to please anyone who's picked up at least one copy of the original soundtrack. Though the DVD's lacking a few songs from the live show, all the movie tracks are included. With decent audio, a widescreen (though non-anamorphic) video presentation, and a handful of worthwhile extras, the Extreme Access Pass DVD is worth checking out.

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Related Reviews:
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CDs: High School Musical: Soundtrack • High School Musical: 2-Disc Special Edition Soundtrack • Disney's Karaoke Series: High School Musical
Radio Disney Party Jams: The Concert (DVD) • Disneymania in Concert (DVD) • Disneymania 3 in Concert (DVD)
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The Cheetah Girls 2: Cheetah-licious Edition (DVD) • The Cheetah Girls 2: 2-Disc Special Edition Soundtrack (CD + Concert DVD)
Jim Brickman at the Magic Kingdom: The Disney Songbook (DVD) • Jump In! Freestyle Edition (DVD) • Dreamgirls (2-Disc Showstopper Edition)
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Related Upcoming Releases:
The Cheetah Girls: The Party's Just Begun (CD + DVD - July 10)
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Related Article:
UD's Photo Report from the High School Musical DVD Launch - May 2006, Hollywood

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Reviewed June 27, 2007.