TV Review: 'High School Musical: The Music in You'

Life doesn't always provide a happy ending. But wouldn't it be nice if it did?

In the same way "High School Musical" speaks to a generation of students, Disney Channel offers the documentary "High School Musical: The Music in You," going behind the scenes of a live stage production of the show in Fort Worth. When two Texas high schools join forces to go for the gold, some kids cash in, and some get tin. Reality intrudes even as one girl gushes, "If I could, like, go into another universe, and, like, live in 'High School Musical,' I would."

Spending a half-hour with these students as they soar and crash, find themselves and lose track again, doesn't seem near enough. Even in the hands of Academy Award-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple ("Harlan County USA," "American Dream"), "The Music in You" feels like it's just starting to take off when it ends.

The kids have barely introduced themselves: Alexandria the dreamer, Brad the broody rock 'n' roller, Lindsay the gifted diva, Curtis the cocky jock ("I bet my heart's shaped like a football"). We get only fleeting glimpses of them at their jobs, at their homes, on the football field or jamming with a band. And Kopple's camera has been intimate enough to make us yearn for more.

But the time we do get is rich indeed, and varied enough that any young viewer can find a piece of him- or herself here. We watch the participants rehearse in a four-week theater workshop and then kick back to ponder the show's role in their lives.

Jeremy is a pudgy kid who tries hard and lands the lead playing Troy: "If it wasn't for theater, I probably would've dropped out of school." Buckley says, "When I first started theater, it's really when I started to kind of, like, come out of my shell. Theater has definitely boosted my self-confidence."

As you can tell, "The Music in You" is also a subtle sales job for live theater and drama education. It's "presented in cooperation," the press release reads, with the rights-licensing organization Musical Theatre International and Disney Theatrical Productions, and this particular Texas staging was backed by funds from the nonprofit NAMM Foundation (supported by the music products industry) and Disney's High School Musical school grant program.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. In an era of meat-and-potatoes education, it's nice to see anybody trying to add a little Caesar salad to the menu.