This wasn’t just the beginning of a new hit Disney franchise — it also launched the careers of Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens, who became household names overnight. But Efron also found himself amid a very brief, but stunning, drama after the movie’s release: that’s not his singing voice in the original High School Musical.
Talking to the Orlando Sentinel just before the release of High School Musical 2 in 2007, Efron was pretty candid about the fact that his singing was dubbed over with vocals by Drew Seeley.
“In the first movie, after everything was recorded, my voice was not on them,” Efron told the Sentinel. “It just kind of happened that way. Unfortunately, it put me in an awkward position. It's not something I expected to be addressed. Then High School Musical blew up.”
Seeley was another familiar face (albeit a less famous one) on the teen movie circuit — you might remember him starring alongside Selena Gomez and Jane Lynch in 2008’s Another Cinderella Story. The fact that he stood in for Efron wasn’t exactly a huge secret, either. When Efron was busy filming Hairspray in ‘06 and ‘07, Seeley stepped in for him on the High School Musical: The Concert tour and is featured on the live recording with the rest of the movie’s cast. Having also written some of the songs in HSM, Seeley was even nominated for an Emmy in the Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics category for his work.
Efron, of course, appeared in the film’s smash sequels, High School Musical 2 in 2007 and High School Musical 3: Senior Year in 2008. As for whether he sang his own songs then? You can bet on it.
“That was a very huge point for me,” Efron told the Sentinel in 2007. “I had to put my foot down and fight to get my voice on these tracks.”
The story is, in its own way, a reflection of Efron’s on-screen character arc. We all know it: Troy Bolton, basketball star, is looking for his own voice when he falls for Gabriella (Hudgens) and — to our delight — for musical theater. The message (use your voice! Follow your heart!) is both a little cheesy and irresistibly fun — just like High School Musical.
While High School Musical was a formative pop culture phenomenon for many tweens and teens coming of age in the 2000s, its impact continues in 2019. Look no further than the new Disney+ original series High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, which follows a group of high schoolers staging a theatrical production of High School Musical. It’s a playful meta take our lasting affection for the original East High Wildcats.