Summer camp is a quintessential experience for theatre kids. Where else can one go to belt “Corner of the Sky” from Pippin, discuss their favorite Elphabas, and play Zip, Zap, Zop with a group of theatre-obsessed and Broadway-aimed teens? The latest season of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series taps into all this excitement by bringing The Wildcats to Camp Shallow Lake.
In the third season, which began airing July 27 on the Disney+ platform, the group of teens prepare themselves to star in the first-ever student production of Frozen under the direction of original High School Musical actor Corbin Bleu (who doesn’t reprise his role of Chad Danforth, but rather appears as himself in the new spin-off series). In addition to featuring songs from Disney’s Frozen (penned by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez), the season will contain hits from the High School Musical and Camp Rock franchises, as well as the original song “Finally Free” by main cast member Joshua Bassett.
Along with Bassett, returning cast members include Matt Cornett, Sofia Wylie, current Broadway Into the Woods star Julia Lester, Dara Reneé, Frankie Rodriguez, and Saylor Bell Curda, and guest star appearances by Kate Reinders, Olivia Rodrigo, Olivia Rose Keegan, Larry Saperstein, and Joe Serafini.
Showrunner Tim Federle and cast members Corbin Bleu and Julia Lester opened up about their first theatre camp experience. their favorite roles, and sun-soaked memories.
Tim Federle: I went to summer camp when I was a kid and it changed my life. I went to a camp in the Poconos that does not have theatre brand name recognition and played Daddy Warbucks in a production of Annie that no one is talking about, to this day.
Young love, first crushes, embarrassment, taking off my shirt, jumping in the pool, the drama of opening night, the condensed time frame before going back to school—all that makes its way into this season. Especially those people who go in thinking “these are my people,” and you leave and you're like, “Wait, that's my person now or that's my new best friend.” I think that's a fundamental experience of being young and staying open.
Corbin Bleu: I never went to sleepaway camp—and to this day, I don't camp—I grew up in Brooklyn and then moved to LA, and I've always been like such a city guy. But I did go to a day camp that was a theatre camp, and we put on a production of Willy Wonka. I played the bedridden Grandpa. I think it’s Grandpa Joe that gets to go to the actual factory with Charlie. I was not that one, I was the other grandpa. It’s always great to play different parts, sometimes you play smaller parts… even though there are no small parts in theatre.
Julia Lester: I was a theatre summer camp kid at one point. I come from a long family line of performers, so there's a lot of musical theatre in my blood and in my home all the time. I grew up going to summer musical theatre camp, which was one of my favorite places to be. It's really where I found my people and where my love for theatre blossomed. I went to a couple different places, but one of my favorite roles that I played was Carrie in Carrie: The Musical. That was a very big turning point for me as a performer, it showed me, “Oh, yeah, I want to do this for the rest of my life.”