The East High Wildcats from “High School Musical: The Musical — The Series” return to Disney Plus for a second season May 14, which opens, appropriately enough, with a big song-and-dance number.
Choreographer Zach Woodlee wanted a way to refamiliarize the audience with the actors and the season. The opening number features the show’s principal cast along with a team of dancers. “We start with Frankie A. Rodriguez, who plays Carlos, and he introduces the number. We jump in with Larry [Saperstein as Big Red] and Julia [Lester as Ashlyn],” says Woodlee. The connective tissue throughout are the dancers who move around the hallways of East High, handing off each lyrical moment to one of the stars.
The scene was filmed on location at Salt Lake City’s East High before the pandemic, so Woodlee had an assistant film his footsteps as he tested out the dance moves so that he wouldn’t bother the students. “I was mapping out how to get from point A to B,” Woodlee says. He made one pass and timed his steps, then went back over them and added a skip. “I would do that to see if I had a traveling step that was faster,”
Once he had the initial choreography, he brought in his trained dancers at 5 a.m., taught them the steps and blocked out space for the main actors to make sure everything was in sync. When he added the actors, who aren’t trained dancers, he noticed a difference from the previous year.
“Everyone came back with triple the energy from Season 1,” Woodlee says.