High School Musical is a 2006 American teen/children's romantic comedy musical television film and the first installment in the High School Musical trilogy. Upon its release on January 20, 2006, it became the most successful film that Disney Channel Original Movie
High School Musical was Disney Channel's most watched film that year with 7.7 million viewers in its premiere broadcast in the US, until August's premiere of The Cheetah Girls 2, which achieved 8.1 million viewers
On New Year's Eve, juniors Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) and Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Hudgens) meet at a party while both teens are at a ski lodge during winter break. At the party, the two are called upon to sing karaoke together ("Start of Something New"). They seem to be attracted to each other, and exchange numbers before going their separate ways. One week after Christmas break, Troy sees Gabriella in his homeroom, and she explains that she just moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico and transferred to East High School over break. Troy shows Gabriella around the school, and they pause in front of the sign-up sheet for the winter musical auditions. Drama Club president Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale) arrives, assuming that Gabriella is interested in auditioning. Wanting to eliminate competition, Sharpay investigates the new girl and has the scholastic decathlon captain, Taylor McKessie (Monique Coleman), find out about Gabriella's past academic achievements, resulting with Taylor and Gabriella becoming great friends. During basketball practice, Troy has trouble focusing because his thoughts are on Gabriella and the idea that he might enjoy singing more ("Get'cha Head in the Game"). Gabriella and Troy both go to the musical auditions where Sharpay and her twin brother Ryan Evans (Lucas Grabeel) perform ("What I've Been Looking For") but both are too shy to audition. When Gabriella finally gains the confidence to step forward, Troy offers to sing with her, but Ms. Darbus (Alyson Reed) tells them that they are too late. After Mrs. Darbus attempts to leave, Kelsi Nielsen (Olesya Rulin), the musical's composer, trips and drops her items. Troy and Gabriella rush to help her, and they sing together as Kelsi plays piano ("What I've Been Looking For (Reprise)"). Ms. Darbus overhears them and gives them a callback audition. When the callback list is posted, Sharpay discovers that she has competition for the lead in the musical, and the rest of the Wildcats are shocked that Troy and Gabriella have auditioned for a musical. Other students confess their own secret passions and talents ("Stick to the Status Quo"), alarming both Taylor and Troy's best friend Chad Danforth (Corbin Bleu). Since Gabriella has agreed to join the scholastic decathlon team, both Taylor and Chad want their teammates to focus on their upcoming competitions rather than the musical. Troy is tricked into saying that Gabriella is not important while she watches through a wi-fi link that the scholastic decathlon team has set up. Gabriella goes into depression ("When There Was Me and You") and decides not to audition for the musical. Troy is left confused as to why Gabriella did not want to audition anymore. Realizing their mistake, Chad and the basketball team tell Troy what happened and offer to support him in callbacks. Troy goes to Gabriella's house and they reconcile. After overhearing Gabriella and Troy practicing, Sharpay has Ms. Darbus change the callback time to coincide with both the basketball championship and the scholastic decathlon to interfere with Gabriella and Troy's participation. Kelsi overhears the conversation and the basketball team and the decathlon team work together to come up with a plan. On the day of the competitions, Taylor and Gabriella use the school's computers to delay the championship and the decathlon. Troy and Gabriella rush to the auditorium, and Sharpay and Ryan finish performing their song ("Bop to the Top"), confident that their plan worked. After Gabriella and Troy audition ("Breaking Free"), Ms. Darbus gives the two the lead roles, making Sharpay and Ryan understudies. Troy and Gabriella both win their respective competitions, and the entire school gathers in the gym to celebrate ("We're All In This Together"). Chad asks Taylor out, and Sharpay makes peace with Gabriella. In a post-credits scene, Zeke (Chris Warren Jr.) paces alone in the gym as Sharpay runs in declaring the cookies she rejected from him earlier "genius". She then hugs him and he says he will make her a crème brûlée
When the two settle in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Gabriella's mother promises they will not relocate until she graduates high school. Gabriella begins attending East High mid-year in the first film. Hoping to escape the "freaky genius girl" reputation she had earned at her previous schools, she does not join any extracurricular activities. Her first friend at East High is Troy Bolton, whom she had met at a ski lodge karaoke party on New Year's Eve, however she quickly makes friends with Taylor McKessie, who finds out about Gabriella's various academic accomplishments and urges her to join the school's nation decathlon team. Gabriella is hesitant, but eventually agrees. Having unearthed a passion for performing at the karaoke party, Gabriella decides to audition for the school musical, but is too late. It is only when the musical's director, Ms. Darbus, overhears Gabriella singing with Troy that she gives them both a callback. Gabriella is uncertain about perusing the lead role, especially when Taylor and the other members of the decathlon team tell her that the musical will take her focus off the upcoming decathlon event. Taylor and her friends stage an intervention, which portrays Troy as not caring about Gabriella or the musical. Heartbroken, Gabriella drops out of the running for the lead role. However, Taylor eventually confesses what she did and helps Gabriella make the decathlon and the musical auditions. Gabriella and Troy earn the lead roles, beating out Sharpay Evans, who had previously tried to thwart her chances of making the callbacks. In the second film, Gabriella has maintained her romance with Troy, and the couple, along with their friends, get jobs at the Lava Springs country club. Seeking revenge, Sharpay lures Troy away from Gabriella and his friends, showering him with various luxuries, including promising college opportunities. After Troy repeatedly breaks his promises and backs out of his commitments, Gabriella breaks up with him, only for the couple to reunite. In High School Musical 3: Senior Year, a Stanford-bound Gabriella is uneasy about the fast pace her life has taken. Before graduation, Gabriella briefly considers taking classes at the local university for a year and going to Stanford when she is ready, much to the dismay of Taylor and Ms. Montez. Troy urges Gabriella to accept an early orientation. Gabriella goes to Stanford but must drop out of the school musical (allowing Sharpay to fill the lead role) and miss prom. Wanting his last dance at East High to be with Gabriella, Troy drives to Stanford and the two share an intimate prom of their own. He convinces Gabriella to return to East High for opening night of the musical and for graduation. Gabriella will attend Stanford and study law. She was referenced by Sharpay in Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure.
Gabriella, who was named for the daughter of High School Musical writer Peter Barsocchini but modeled after a girl Barsocchini met before his teenage years,is portrayed by Vanessa Hudgens in the first three films of the franchise. Hudgens had previously auditioned for other Disney Channel projects. During auditions, Hudgens was paired with Zac Efron, who landed the role of Troy, at each callback, with director Kenny Ortega saying "We tried to separate them and try them with other partners but it didn’t work. The magic was already there between them." Following Hudgens' 2007 nude photo scandal, reports claimed that Adrienne Bailon and other actresses would replace Hudgens in the third film of the franchise. However, Disney had denied the reports and Hudgens returned for High School Musical 3. Hudgens will not, however, reprise her role for High School Musical 4.