When “High School Musical” was released in 2006, it was a huge hit for the Disney Channel. In fact, as Vox reported, the TV movie drew in almost 8 million viewers, and the soundtrack sold 3 million copies. The film followed a group of high schoolers as they vied for leading roles in the high school musical. Gabriella, the new girl, had to overcome her shyness, while Troy had to defy his dad’s expectations that he’d be a basketball star.
The movie had everything a pre-teen could want — outrageous comedic performances, catchy songs, a sweet love story, and dances that looked like something you’d see on TikTok today. If you grew up in the early 2000s, it’s safe to say you absolutely loved “High School Musical.”
The movie came out over 10 years ago, and while some of the stars have gone on to become household names, others are less well-known. If you’re wondering what happened to the cast of “High School Musical,” we’ve got you covered.
Zac Efron, who played Troy, became a big movie star
Chances are, you’ve come across Zac Efron’s name since he played confused jock Troy Bolton in “High School Musical.” The actor went on to star in both comedies and dramas alike, such as “Hairspray,” “The Lucky One,” “Baywatch, “The Greatest Showman,” and the 2019 Ted Bundy film “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” (via IMDb).
It turns out, Efron has been working hard to distance himself from “High School Musical.” As he told Men’s Journal, he apparently decided to branch out from teen films after making the first film. “I was, like, 17. And I said, ‘Guys, you know this is not at all what I want to do?'” he shared. “And they were like, ‘Really?'” He even dropped out of the remake of “Footloose.”
Efron probably isn’t going to stop making grown-up movies any time soon. In fact, he has six upcoming projects lined up as of this publication, including a remake of Stephen King’s “Firestarter” and a docu-series called “Killing Zac Efron” that will apparently see him traveling into the jungle. Wow, we’re impressed.
High School Musical's Vanessa Hudgens has continued finding success in acting
“High School Musical” would not have been the same without Vanessa Hudgens’ Gabriella. After filming the musical, Hudgens appeared in a couple Disney Channel projects and even embarked on a singing career, releasing two albums. She continued acting throughout the 2010s, appearing in “Beastly,” “Sucker Punch, “Spring Breakers,” and other films and TV shows.
In more recent years, Hudgens has become well-known for appearing in various Netflix Christmas films like “The Princess Switch” series and the movie “The Knight Before Christmas.” Glamour dubbed her “the new queen of the Christmas romantic comedy,” and we have to agree. Hudgens explained to the publication that she had also turned to producing.
However, despite her impressive body of work, she still found that people knew her from her “High School Musical” days. “The thing that still surprises me about ‘High School Musical,'” she said, “is kids who are still watching it, kids who are younger than when it came out, because their older brother or sister was watching this movie. Even to the kids, I’m still known for that.” Sounds like Hudgens will keep cranking out the Christmas rom-coms, but we’ll always remember her as Gabriella.
Ashley Tisdale, who played Sharpay, became a mom
Ashley Tisdale was already a well-known Disney Channel child star when “High School Musical” came out in 2006, having played Maddie on “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.” As noted on her IMDb page, after “High School Musical,” she went on to voice Candace in “Phineas and Ferb” and Sabrina in the animated “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” series. Later, in 2019, she played Kayla in the Dennis Quaid series “Merry Happy Whatever” and Jenny in the series “Carol’s Second Act.” In 2020, she reprised her voice role of Candace for the movie “Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe,” and she appeared as a judge on “The Masked Dancer.” In other words, Tisdale has remained super busy.
In 2021, Tisdale became a mother when she gave birth to a baby daughter she named Jupiter Iris French. As Tisdale explained to Forbes, becoming a mom changed her perspective. “You go through a lot when you come home from the hospital. It’s just an adjustment for everyone in the family,” she said. But motherhood didn’t slow her down. She went on to explain that, in addition to acting, she had turned her attention to her interior design with her new business Frenshe Interiors. It’s clear that Ashley Tisdale has had a stunning transformation over the years.
Corbin Bleu appeared in other Disney productions before moving to the stage
We all remember Corbin Bleu as Chad, Troy’s best friend and basketball teammate who sang “I Don’t Dance.” After the film, he continued working with Disney, appearing in “Hannah Montana,” “Phineas and Ferb,” and “Jump In!” He then appeared in some more grown-up projects like “The Good Wife,” “Castle,” and “Chicago Med,” as well as the soap “One Life to Live” (via IMDb).
In 2017, he performed in the Broadway version of the classic musical “Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn.” He has also appeared on stage in “Godspell,” “In the Heights,” “Hairspray,” “Mamma Mia!,” and “Singin’ in the Rain,” as noted by Broadway.com.
As Bleu explained in a 2020 interview with Theater Pizzazz, he wasn’t always sure he wanted to act. “I was all set to go to Stanford [to study psychology], and then I got offered ‘High School Musical.’ So that became a major life choice,” he said. He went on to explain that he had studied dance and became known for his tap dancing — so it’s pretty clear that this actor definitely can dance. “What makes me really happy is to be an African-American playing roles originated by white men,” he said. “I love inspiring kids by being someone who looks like them.”
Lucas Grabeel, who played Ryan, has done a lot of voice acting since High School Musical
Lucas Grabeel played the Sharpay’s brother, Ryan. Grabeel was relatively new to the professional entertainment world when he was cast in “High School Musical,” having starred in “Halloweentown High” and “Return to Halloweentown” in 2004 (via IMDb). After playing Ryan, Grabeel appeared in a few well-known projects, including “Smallville,” “Switched at Birth,” and the 2018 film “Little Women.” He also played himself in a cameo in “High School Musical: The Musical – The Series.”
In addition to these roles, Grabeel has made a name for himself for his extensive voice work. He’s contributed his voice acting talents to “Elena of Avalor,” “Family Guy,” “Pinky Malinky,” “Spirit Riding Free,” and other projects.
Even though “High School Musical” was probably Grabeel’s biggest role to date, he has mixed feelings about playing a gay character as a straight actor these days. As he told TMZ in 2020, “There’s so many amazingly talented gay actors that could do it as well, and so if ‘High School Musical’ was made today, I don’t know if I would play Ryan.”
High School Musical star Monique Coleman became a producer and host
Monique Coleman played Taylor, Gabriella’s best friend and captain of the scholastic decathlon team. Prior to “High School Musical,” Coleman had appeared in several small roles on shows like “Gilmore Girls,” “Boston Public,” and “Veronica Mars” (via IMDb). She had also landed the recurring role of Mary Margaret on “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.” After the film, Coleman continued acting, appearing in shows like “The Fourth Door,” “Here We Go Again,” and “Guidance.” She also produced and hosted her own documentary series called “Gimme MO.”
In a 2018 interview with Authority Magazine, Coleman explained, “[‘Gimme MO’] is a docu-series that amplifies youth voices and shines a light on the incredible individuals and organizations making a difference for young people!” She went on to explain that she had been working with the UN to help children around the world. Sounds like this young woman is even more impressive than her character was in “High School Musical”!
Olesya Rulin, who played Kelsi, is now an author and an environmentalist
Olesya Rulin played Kelsi in “High School Musical.” She was the young student composer who wrote some of the songs that Troy and Gabriella sang in the movie. Rulin is a Russian actress who had previously appeared in small TV cameos, including in “Halloweentown High” alongside her “HSM” co-star Lucas Grabeel. After “High School Musical,” Rulin landed several recurring roles on shows like “Greek,” “Underemployed,” “Powers,” and “NCIS: Los Angeles” (via IMDb).
In addition to her acting work, Rulin has also become an author and an environmentalist. According to her Instagram page, she even co-owns a Russian nature reserve. As she told The Wylde, her book of poetry, “Hounds of Love,” was “inspired by real love letters” that she wrote, saying, “They came to me at a time when I was healing and missing him.” She went on to reveal that she was also working on editing a book of poetry written by immigrants and that she had recently written a screenplay. Rulin also has her own blog, where she discusses her life, career, and beauty routine.
KayCee Stroh, who played Martha, became a mom and is still dancing
KayCee Stroh played Martha in “High School Musical.” You may remember her as the girl with a hidden passion for hip-hop, which she reveals in the song “Stick to the Status Quo.” Stroh hasn’t appeared in many other projects since the movie, but you may recognize her as Leslie in “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.” She’s also played Liz Smelton in the series “Shapetown, USA” and played herself in the series “High School Musical: The Musical – The Series” (via IMDb).
According to Stroh’s Instagram page, she’s still working as a dancer today. She frequently posts videos of her own choreography — it’s pretty clear she still loves to “pop and lock” just like her “HSM” character did. And with all her moves, she’s earned a dedicated TikTok following of over 1.9 million followers.
Stroh is also a mother to two girls. As she posted on Instagram in 2021, “I received the most beautiful #mothersday gift I could possibly receive today. Our sweet Zetta Lee made the choice to be baptized and confirmed as a member of our Church and a disciple of Jesus Christ.”
The man behind Coach Jack Bolton has appeared in dozens of projects since High School Musical
Bart Johnson played Coach Jack Bolton, the high school’s basketball coach and Troy’s overbearing father. Johnson has appeared in countless projects since playing Jack Bolton, including “Happy Valley,” “Daddy Day Camp,” “A Christmas Wish,” “The Client List,” and the 2018 version of “Little Women” alongside his “HSM” co-star Lucas Grabeel (via IMDb).
Despite having appeared in dozens of other projects since “High School Musical,” it seems that playing Coach Bolton is still Johnson’s biggest claim to fame. In fact, in 2021, he explained to PopSugar that he had joined TikTok and was creating skits based on his “High School Musical” character. He explained, “I felt a real desire to do something positive during such hard, crazy, uncertain times … The idea was to start a throwback account specifically aimed at reaching my Wildcats around the globe to let them know that ‘we are all in this together’ and I’m here for them as their coach.” It’s so sweet to see how Johnson has embraced his legacy as a “High School Musical” icon.
These days, Johnson is married to Blake Lively’s older sister, Robyn, and is busy coaching his children’s football teams.
High School Musical's Mrs. Darbus has been in many well-known TV shows
You probably remember Alyson Reed as Mrs. Darbus, the mean high school drama teacher, in “High School Musical.” As hardcore musical theater fans may know, Reed got her start in films in the 1985 version of “Chorus Line” as Cassie. Reed went on to appear in small roles in shows like “Frasier” and “Murphy Brown” before joining “Party of Five,” to name just a few. After “High School Musical,” Reed continued acting with guest roles on “Mad Men,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Bones,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Grace and Frankie,” and more. She also did some voice acting for video games like “StarCraft II: Nova Covert Ops” “and “World of Warcraft: Legion.” Plus she played Janice in the Brad Pitt film “Ad Astra” (via IMDb). This actress has been busy!
As Reed explained in an interview with CBS Los Angeles, she had never expected to go into film acting. “I was one of those people that only wanted to do theater,” she said. She also added that she was “very, very proud” to be part of “High School Musical.” “It made musical theater and the arts and arts education important again,” she explained.
Chris Warren, who played Zeke, starred in Grand Hotel and Sistas
Zeke Baylor, played by Chris Warren, was one of the Wildcats. Throughout the films, he proved himself to be a great cook and harbored a crush for Sharpay. Warren was already no stranger to the TV industry at the time, having played Darrell on “Zoey 101” and Jimmy on “The Bold and the Beautiful.” After playing Zeke, Warren appeared in “Good Luck Charlie” as Justin, “The Hard Times of RJ Berger” as Patterson,” and “The Fosters” as Ty. He also starred as Jason in “Grand Hotel” and as Hayden in “Sistas,” so chances are you have come across him since his days as Zeke (via IMDb).
As Warren told PopCulture, the “High School Musical” movies were a hugely important experience. “I did the first movie when I was 15, and I did the third movie when I was 17, so I really was going through high school as I was doing the movies … It was such a blessing to be able to grow up in that, and see something like that so close, and be a part of it,” he said.
Ryne Sanborn went into sales but is working toward becoming a director
Jason, played by Ryne Sanborn, was another of the Wildcats. Unlike Troy, he fit in perfectly with the school jocks. Much like his character in the movie, Sanborn proved to be more of a jock than an actor. After the “High School Musical” franchise came to an end, Sanborn moved onto other pursuits (via IMDb).
As Deseret reported in 2017, Sanborn was the “Child of Light” in the opening ceremony of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics when he was just 12. Kenny Ortega, the director of “High School Musical,” had also directed the opening ceremony, which led to Sanborn landing the role of Jason. As Sanborn said, it was a lucky string of events: “Still kind of unbelievable to think it really happened, and to think of all that came afterward as a result.”
Eventually, Sanborn became a sales manager, but he hasn’t given up his interest in filmmaking. “I’d like to be on the other side of the camera this time, whether it’s director, sound tech, cameraman, whatever, just film production in general,” he said.
The actor who played Principal Matsui actually works for a school in real life
Joey Miyashima played Principal Matsui in “High School Musical.” While Miyashima may not be a household name, he’s certainly had a busy acting career. He appeared in small parts in “The Tracey Ullman Show,” “Touched by an Angel,” “Pee-wee’s Playhouse,” “ER,” “Christmas Hotel,” and dozens of other projects. According to IMDb, Miyashima is still acting to this day.
These days, Miyashima frequently retweets articles and quotes about American politics, Japanese-American relations, and basketball. He is also a soccer and basketball coach at a high school in Sandy, Utah. In 2020, he was awarded the Citizen Appreciation Award for Coach of the Year. Apparently, his students sometimes recognize him for his acting work. For instance, when he was in “Double Teamed,” he recalled, “A lot of the kids, they couldn’t quite understand how they saw me on TV the night before and then I was in … in their gym.”
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