Darbus calls out for any last auditioners for the lead couple roles. Troy and Gabriella, silenced by the power of jazz squares and sequined lime green hats, quietly slink out of the auditorium.
Meanwhile, Kelsi is talking to Sharpay. It seems Kelsi is the one who wrote "What I've Been Looking For", and she imagined it being performed more like a slow number. This incites Sharpay to go from zero to bitch, calling Kelsi a "sawed-off Sondheim", whatever that may mean. Sharpay says she's done 17 school productions, and Kelsi's "direction, suggestion, or commentary" is not welcome. So, yeah, we're supposed to hate Sharpay.
Sharpay and Ryan leave, and Darbus switches off her desk lamp and also begins to leave. Suddenly, Gabriella runs back in, saying she wants to audition, much to Troy's complete and utter mortification. Darbus says it's too late, and plus there's no one to sing with her. And guess what? A reluctant Troy comes forward, saying he'll sing with her.
Darbus gets all high and mighty, mocking Troy for being here without his "sports posse, or whatever it's called." Yeah, the joke here is that she doesn't know the word "team". Again, that's what we're dealing with. Darbus tells them that they're too late, auditions are over, and too bad, so sad.
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She leaves, and next thing you know, Kelsi trips on absolutely nothing, and sheet music goes flying all over the stage. Troy and Gabriella run up to help her, and there you go: our two lovebirds are now up on stage, check.
Troy is being nice to Kelsi, asking if she wrote the song that was just massacred, and if she wrote the whole show too. Kelsi just stares at him, totally agog, apparently awed and speechless in the presence of East High's shiny-haired Adonis. Or perhaps she's just mentally retarded. And we finally get a close-up on Kelsi, and sorry, movie, you're not convincing me this girl is plain. She's cuter than Voula, and Voula is pretty cute.
Troy continues to probe her mind, asking why she lets Sharpay boss her around, given that she's the composer, which he likens to "the playmaker in basketball". This analogy goes over about as well as you'd imagine with a theater geek. He clarifies that the playmaker is "the one who makes everyone else look good!"
Troy, still being Mr. Sensitive All-Around Awesome Guy, builds up Kelsi's self-esteem with lots of encouraging words. I have a sneaking suspicion there's plenty of HSM fanfic out there where Troy and Kelsi hook up. Call it a crazy hunch.
So Kelsi offers to show them how the duet is "supposed to sound". The lovebirds gather 'round the piano, and yeah, I think you can see where this is all going.
Kelsi starts playing "What I've Been Looking For" as a slow ballad, and in comes Troy's studio voice. Or at least, one of his voices. And now we're listening to the "good and pure" version of the song, as opposed to the "evil and dark" Sharpay version. Because the theme from Sesame Street can sure sound Satanic in the wrong hands. And yet again, both Troy and Gabriella are perfectly on pitch, despite supposedly never having sung this song before.
They get all heartfelt and emotional, and meet eyes on the line, "I finally found what I've been looking for..." And could it be they're falling in love? The song ends, and everyone's all smiles, basking in the glory of the music.
Suddenly, Ms. Darbus is at the back of the auditorium. It turns out she overheard this magical performance, and is impressed enough to give them both a "callback". She tells Kelsi to help them rehearse, and abruptly leaves. Kelsi starts babbling about how they can all meet during free periods, and come to her house at any time of the day or night to practice and how they'll all be bestest friends forever and ever! Meanwhile, Troy wears a priceless look on his face, like he has no idea what the fuck just happened.
The next day, Sharpay learns that Troy and Gabriella got callbacks. And her reaction is subtly conveyed through stock "horror" violins, and a long shot of the school where we can hear her screaming, "Callback???" while all the students out front jump in terror. Very subtle.
In the hallway, Sharpay screams and screams, showing off her excellent whitening job. Ryan examines the callback sheet, and a close-up shows they'll be going head-to-head with Troy and Gabriella for the lead roles of "Arnold and Minnie". Ooh, my Disney In-Joke Sense is tingling!
Sharpay is totally freaking out. She wonders if it's a joke, given that "they didn't even audition!" Ryan suggests they're being "punk'd", and says, "Maybe we'll get to meet Ashton!" Unfortunately, the actor playing Ryan is not enough of a star to appear on Punk'd, let alone two random high school douchebags, so I doubt it.
"That looks like... a sheet of paper! With some words printed on it! This can't be happening!"
Just then, Chad and some other basketball-type people come wandering up. They see the callback sheet, and Chad can't believe his eyes. And I wonder what his background music sounds like now. Maybe it's a trombone going wahh wahh wahhhhhhh.
Now we're in the cafeteria. And it's an odd, two-level cafeteria, with large, curving staircases on either side. On the upper level, Sharpay is still ranting and raving, telling her friends and associated sycophants that someone needs to teach Gabriella "the rules". She never elaborates on which "rules" she's talking about, so I'll just have to assume she means Blake's Rules! Such as: When in doubt, get out! (I'm wishing I could follow that rule myself right about now.)
And the whole time she's talking, there's a peppy beat running under the dialogue. I sense another song coming on.
Sharpay strikes a pose, shaking her skinny (yet oddly mesmerizing) butt, and stares out across the cafeteria. Down below, one of the guys from the basketball team starts singing. "You can bet there's nothin' but net / when I am in a zone and on a roll! / But I've got a confession, my own secret obsession / and it's making me lose control!"
All the athletes and various hangers-on at his table are intrigued. They sing, "Everybody gather 'round!"
"Look, the truth is... I actually kinda liked Newsies."
The basketball player switches to his speaking voice, and tells the whole table that Troy being in a musical has inspired him to reveal his own deep, dark secret. To wit: "I love to bake! Strudels, scones, even apple pandowdy!" Outrageous! An athlete that's into cooking? It cannot be! Burn the heretic!
"Someday," he confides, "I hope to make the perfect crème brulée!" Okay, now he's sharing a little too much information. It seems his fellow players agree with me, because they put their hands over their ears and start twirling around. Which is way more manly than baking.
They all dramatically point at a basketball on the table, and dramatically sing, "Stick to the stuff you know!" They tell him to "follow one simple rule". Namely, "don't mess with the flow", and "stick to the status quo!" That's actually two simple rules, but who's counting?
"Maybe you can stop one of us from giving you a rectal exam, but you can't stop us all!"
So the whole point of this song, titled "Stick to the Status Quo", is to show that Gabriella and Troy don't go to a high school: They go to a fascist police state. There are various vignettes all around the cafeteria, where students reveal their true hopes and dreams, only to be shouted down—or rather, sung down—by their particular clique, and shoved back in their respective boxes.
Over at the Nerd Table, a fat chick announces her deep dark secret: "Hip hop is my passion! I love to pop and lock and jam and break!" Which she unfortunately demonstrates to her friends in graphic detail. The nerds freak out. They point at their books and wag their fingers at her, musically warning her to "stick to the stuff you know" and of course, to "stick to the status quo!" Fat Girl looks morose, having been put in her non-breakdancing place.
"Bismillah! We will not let you go!
Let him go!
Bismillah! We will not let you go!
Let me go!"
Now we're over at the Stoner Table. Of course, they don't actually call them "stoners" in this movie, but we're talking about guys in baggy sweaters, and baggy jeans, and knit caps, and a few of them are wearing polos over long sleeve shirts. I mean, what would you call them?
One Stoner Guy is about to reveal his deep secret longing. (You might think it's a bag of Doritos, but you'd be wrong.) But he prefaces things by singing the truly hilarious line, "Dude, there's no explanation for this awesome sensation!" Classic. Here's hoping that one day, someone will write a whole stoner musical.
In his speaking voice, Stoner Guy declares, "I play the cello!" Being stoners, his friends obviously have no idea what he means, so he clarifies that it's "like a giant violin!" They all proceed to shove him around, put their hands over their ears, dance around, and warn him not to "mess with the flow" and yes, to "stick to the status quo". For stoners, they're awfully energetic.
"If you wanna be cool, follow one simple rule, don't bogart that joint, no no!"
And now the whole cafeteria is singing about not messing with flows, and sticking to the status quo, and I gotta say, this is about the only scene in this whole worthless movie they actually get right.
First, the song is actually about something that's not completely predictable and hackneyed. And deeper than that, it really is a good and important lesson about following your true passions, despite what your friends might think, and letting yourself go outside the comfort zones of your particular clique.
And the choreography is also pretty good. This number shows one of the few reasons, in my opinion, that anyone should ever bother watching a musical: it's a big, lively number where massive amounts of people lock step, which is always fun to watch. Basically, it's something that's pretty hard to screw up.
And lastly, it's not a weepy pop ballad, which is another plus. So, good job on this scene, everybody. Too bad about the rest of the movie.
Stoner Guy suddenly has a cello, and Fat Girl is dancing on a table, and now the Stoners and the Nerds and the Athletes are all intermingling and dancing together. It's like an adolescent Babel.
The school orchestra quickly realized their mistake in adding a breakdancer.
Sharpay and Ryan are disturbed. They sing to the entire group that "something's really wrong", and the two of them have "gotta get things back where they belong".
But the Free Thinkers of the school won't be held down. Stoner Guy yells, "Gotta play!" Fat Girl says, "Hip hop hooray!" Wow, I wouldn't have pegged her as a big Naughty by Nature fan. And then Basketball Guy goes, "Crème brulée!" And he even has a little ceramic cup of it in his hand. Where the hell did he get that? Okay, it's a funny bit anyway.
"Shush me all you want, but this dessert goes up to 11!!"
They all get shouted down by the rest of the cafeteria, and then Sharpay screams at everyone to be quiet. There's a break in the music, during which Gabriella and Taylor enter with their trays. Gabriella sees everyone staring at her, and she realizes it's because of the callbacks. She freaks. "I can't have everybody staring at me, I really can't!" The last time was when I killed a man! I won't go through that again!
And then everybody abruptly goes back into the musical number. There's even a funny, if brief, shot of Gabriella and Taylor jumping in terror when everyone starts dancing. I think I'd probably freak out too, if I walked into my high school cafeteria and everyone was singing and dancing in unison.
"I told my mom I didn't want to go to Bob Fosse High!"
Gabriella and Taylor walk through the cafeteria, looking terrified at all the high energy choreography going on around them. At the same time, Sharpay and Ryan just happen to be slowly coming down the stairs, and walking directly towards them. I sense an imminent confrontation.
Sure enough, Gabriella slips on a puddle of milk, and how come none of the frenetic dancers slipped on that, hmmm? She flings her tray up, and her chili cheese fries go rocketing into the air. Ho hum, the chili cheese fries land directly on Sharpay's chest, and Sharpay screeches again.
"Aw, it's just a cute l'il chestburster! If you hold still I can pull it right out!"
Gabriella tries to clean her off, but Taylor ushers her away. Troy goes to help, but Chad warns him away with "You do not want to get into that, man! Too much drama!" Yes, chili cheese fries are quite an emotional thing for a girl to go through.
Just then, Commandant Darbus shows up. What, is she this school's only teacher? East High appears to actually have one less faculty member than Degrassi Junior High.
Sharpay immediately whines to Darbus, saying the chili cheese fries incident is all part of Gabriella's sinister plan to "ruin our musical!" Uh, how exactly do chili cheese fries ruin a musical? Especially a musical that's weeks in the future? Does Sharpay not realize she can clean up and change clothes before then?
She yells, "Troy and his basketball robots are obviously behind it!" Basketball robots? Am I the only who thinks that would make this a much better movie? Sharpay makes an impassioned appeal to Darbus' inner contempt at the meddling basketball posse, and storms out of the cafeteria.
Meanwhile, Troy asks Chad what the heck is going on. Chad angrily says that Troy auditioned for "some heinous musical, and now suddenly people are... confessing!" He yells that "the team is coming apart because of your singing thing!"
Okay, Troy getting a callback was first revealed... what, like an hour ago? Two hours, at the most? And now the whole team is self-destructing? People at this school don't deal well with change, do they? By the time sixth period rolls around, I fully expect there to be bonfires in the hallways, intermittent running machine gun battles, and students roaming around with hunting knives, scavenging for food.
Chad complains that the stoners (whom he refers to as "skaters"—yeah, okay) are now mingling with the athletes, and nerds are mingling with stoners, etc. This is simply unacceptable and has no place in Chad's narrow worldview. And then Crème Brulée Guy picks the worst possible moment to come over with his ceramic cup. He throws around words like "caramelized" and "satisfying", and really, it's just way more than anyone wanted to know.
Chad tells "Zeke" to shut up, and bitches some more about Troy's ridiculous desire to be a renaissance man. "Suddenly, people think that they can do other stuff! Stuff that's not their stuff!" Chad, don't you realize you're just playing right into this movie's agenda? Geez, we already had a whole song about how East High is basically Oceania without the vodka and cigarettes. Do we really need this dialogue, too?
Chad complains that Troy is "thinking about show tunes", instead of the championship game next week. Is he implying that Troy's head is perhaps not in the game? Inconceivable!