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Back 2 School

Behind the scenes of ''High School Musical 2'': Back with a sure-fire smash sequel, Zac Efron and Co. are hungry for new opportunities -- and pepperoni pizza



THE CAST OF HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 2
''We're putting together musical numbers that no one with any real sense would attempt
to do in the time that we've allowed,'' says director Kenny Ortega
Photo: Fred Hayes

By Lynette Rice
Entertainment Weekly

Corbin Bleu's dancing may be worthy of West Side Story, but his batting is like something out of The Bad News Bears. Emphasis on bad. Standing on a baseball diamond on a blistering afternoon in March, the 18-year-old actor has traveled with Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, and the rest of the East High Wildcats to the desert town of St. George, Utah, for the much-anticipated sequel to the multimedia phenomenon that is High School Musical. Bleu is desperately trying to combine song and sports for an ambitious number about dancing jocks, something of a sequel to the first film's basketball-inspired ''Get'cha Head in the Game.'' But no matter how gracefully he leaps around as the agile, mop-topped Chad Danforth, Bleu can't film a thing if he ain't got that swing. ''I'm not a sports guy!'' admits Bleu, who's supposed to swat a ball somewhere — anywhere — into the field. ''I played Little League for six months...at age 5!'' Still, he'd never consider using the stunt double who's eagerly waiting in the dugout, along with cast, crew, and 200 other HSM 2 extras. ''I want to be able to say afterward that I did it!'' explains Bleu.

It's that kind of gung ho attitude that has director-choreographer Kenny Ortega talking like he's already hit another one out of the park. ''We're putting together musical numbers that no one with any real sense would attempt to do in the time that we've allowed,'' says Ortega. ''But why are we doing this if we're not going to go for it?''

There's a reason Ortega and the cast have a little extra pep in their step. Since debuting on Disney Channel in January 2006, the original High School Musical — a story about the struggles hoops star Troy (Efron) and his new brainiac gal pal Gabriella (Hudgens) encounter while auditioning for a school play — has been seen by more than 170 million viewers worldwide, launched a No. 1 soundtrack album, racked up multimillion DVD sales, and been adapted into a 40-city, sold-out concert tour. As far as Ortega is concerned, that's just the beginning. ''It's not like Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney stopped after one movie,'' explains Ortega, referring to teen sensations of yesteryear. ''I think it's a wonderful franchise, and as long as everybody wants to play, I'm there.'' (Ortega is in negotiations to direct a third installment for the big screen and is producing an ice show set to debut in September. Yes, an ice show.) Adds Monique Coleman, 26, who'll reprise her role as Gabriella's apple-cheeked buddy Taylor: ''It would be a disservice to ourselves and the fans if we took a shortcut. It's our responsibility to say the first one was good but we can do even better.''
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