Published: May 8, 2008
Updated: 12:14 am
ORLANDO - A disc jockey's voice boomed over a loudspeaker urging more than 1,000 young aspiring actors to break into a frenzy of excitement when singer/host Nick Lachey introduced the auditions for "High School Musical: Get In The Picture."
Cameras recorded the action Wednesday morning outside Champion Stadium at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, where casting is under way for the ABC summer reality series.
Corralled in a long line that circled around a sculpture of a globe, the young people who want to be part of "High School Musical" were damp with sweat after four hours in the Florida sun. But their spirits remained intact.
"It would be a dream come true to get on this show," says Courtney Slaven, a 16-year-old Plant High School student who made the trek from Tampa with pals Jillian Goldman, 16, of Wharton High; Claudia Torres, 15, of Freedom High and Brooke Causey, 18, of Lakewood High School, who plans to study theater arts at the University of South Florida.
All four are members of the Entertainment Revue, a Tampa-based performing arts group, and they banded together for moral support. "We've already seen Nick Lachey right here and that was amazing," says Goldman.
"We've all been performing since we could walk," Slaven adds.
"And we've seen 'High School Musical' about a million times," Torres chimes in.
"High School Musical," the most-watched movie in the history of cable, already has spawned a successful sequel, a ton of merchandise and hundreds of high school plays. A third film is in production and fourth has been announced.
"Get In the Picture," which will debut July 20, will be taped next month in Utah. It will follow 10 to 12 aspiring actors at a summer acting camp. One will be picked to appear in a music video that will run during the closing credits of "High School Musical 3: Senior Year."
"I just want to be a part of the 'High School Musical' family," says Anna Harrington, 19, a Blake High School graduate who now lives in Kissimmee and works in a musical show at Universal Studios.
Harrington, who grew up in South Tampa, seemed to impress the media and the talent scouts Wednesday with her a cappella rendition of "Reflection" from Disney's "Mulan."
"I just want to play the guy who takes Vanessa Hudgens from Zac Efron," jokes John Wesley, 18, from Valrico, referring to the two heartthrob stars of "High School Musical."
Wesley, a Grace Christian student, notes that the women greatly outnumbered the men at the audition. "And that's a good thing," he says.
Young people, ages 16 to 22, came from throughout the eastern United States for the audition. They started arriving at 5:15 a.m. One woman says she drove all night from New Orleans to give her 16-year-old daughter a chance to compete.
Casting director Robyn Coff says the auditions will continue at the Disney resort for a week. "Our goal is to whittle the thousand down to 30 and then down to 10," she says.
These semifinalists will then compete against 10 semifinalists from the West Coast and 10 or 12 will go on to the Utah camp where they will be trained and coached.
Executive producer Jay Blumenfeld says they are looking for bright, outgoing, energetic actors who can sing and dance. "We want young people who reflect the excitement of the 'High School Musical,'" he says.
The audition process will be part of the series, but there won't be any embarrassing clips of bad singers and dancers who fail to make the cut. "We are about building up dreams, not tearing them down," Blumenfeld says. "There will be no humiliation."
He also says that none of those selected for the show will be eliminated. They will be coached and judged by a "faculty" of performing arts specialists who have yet to be announced. One "student" will be picked for the video on the final episode.
"This could be a life-changing opportunity for all of them," says Lachey, who attended a performing arts school in Cincinnati when he was a teenager. By the time he was in college, he became part of a quartet that would become the pop group 98 Degrees, which had a string of hits from 1997 to 2002.
Lachey says his role as host is to be a traffic cop and guide the viewer though the action as well as to be a sounding board and offer moral support for the contestants.