High School Musical: The Music in You

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8 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20
Disney Channel

The "High School Musical" phenomenon is one of those things that has eluded me. Not that I've rejected it; I've simply never seen it. But this spirited half-hour documentary from Oscar-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple and her Cabin Creek Films makes me want to jump onto the bandwagon, which is the highest praise I can give it.

Short and sweet, "High School Musical: The Music in You" essentially is a promotion for the "HSM" franchise but manages to rise above that crass commercialization because Kopple is so adroit at making her camera disappear.

We really do get the feeling from watching the kids here as they prepare to put on a production of the show that they have forgotten that they are being photographed while being captured in auditions, during rehearsals, while overcoming their own performance issues and, finally, during a rousing opening night of their "HSM" stage production.

Produced in association with the nonprofit NAMM Foundation, which supplies grants to middle and high schools to cover licensing costs associated with producing their own in-school stage shows, "Music in You" follows the H2O Theatre Company of Fort Worth, Texas. It's composed of students and teachers at a pair of high schools who put on their own adapted stage version of the already iconic production.

If one can find fault here with Kopple's fly-on-the-wall technique, it's that she includes a bit too much footage designed to give us insight into the psyche of a kid we haven't had nearly enough time to get to know. It smacks of subtle manipulation.

But in the main, what we have here is a sprightly 30 minutes of honest, wholesome entertainment that really does make you want to stand up and cheer.
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