This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Editor's note: Article first published April 5, 2007
ST. GEORGE - Just outside of town on a balmy Tuesday afternoon, pop rock beats and teeny-bopper chords reverberate off the rust-colored mesas.
The music is blaring from a playback machine deep within a plush country club where a film crew is huddled around Disney Channel star Ashley Tisdale. The petite blonde, star of "The Suite Life of Zach & Cody," is lounging on a recliner in a white, jewel-encrusted swimsuit, waiting for another take.
The music kicks on. Cameras roll. Tisdale mouths the lyrics as she dances with co-star Lucas Grabeel around yellow and pink parasols by the pool.
Ice tea imported from England.
Lifeguards imported from Spain.
Towels imported from Turkey.
Turkey imported from Maine.
Behind the security gates of this exclusive resort, production is under way on the most talked-about movie among American 'tweens. This is the set of "High School Musical 2," the follow-up to the made-for-TV Disney Channel hit that broke ratings records and morphed into a merchandising monster with DVDs, CDs, a musical tour and board games. The sequel is set to air Aug. 17.
After two weeks shooting at Salt Lake City's East High School, the production moved in late March to the new Entrada at Snow Canyon country club.
It's Day 23 of the 31-day shoot, and the crew is filming around the resort's small pool for a splashy musical number called "Fabulous," featuring Tisdale and Grabeel, and a partially submerged pink grand piano.
"The choreography is even better. The music is even better, and that is pretty hard to say because the first one is as great as it was," says co-star Corbin Bleu, who plays the mop-haired Chad Danforth. "As long as we go in and not try and top ourselves but just try and create another good movie, I think that is what will really make it a success."
Now that the cameras are churning, national news media are converging. Last month, The New York Times visited rehearsals. Wednesday, Newsweek and Cosmo Girl were on the set. People, TV Guide and ABC's "Good Morning America" plan to drop by. Later this week, it will be The Associated Press' turn.
Director and co-choreographer Kenny Ortega is ushering extras in and out of the shot by the pool. No one is baring a midriff (this is, after all, a Disney Channel movie), and Ortega asks one of the blonde extras to walk out of the shot because she's "too sexy for this scene."
"It's absolutely the best to be back in Utah," the director says during a break in shooting. "Now we're in beautiful St. George, and the weather is kissing us, and we're getting our work done and having the best time."
Like the set in this well-secured country club, the story for the second movie is under tight wraps. We do know it's summer break, and the Wildcats of East High School in Albuquerque (strangely, the movies are not set in Utah) have taken jobs at a local country club. That means there are plenty of musical numbers around the pool and on the golf course. All the original cast members, including leads Zach Efron, Vanessa Anne Hudgens and co-star Monique Coleman, are reprising their roles.
Last year, Utah producer Don Schain, whose Salty Pictures filmed the first "High School Musical," as well as 18 other TV movies for the Disney Channel, said the St. George location was chosen over Palm Springs and San Diego in part because he and Ortega were determined to return to where it all began.
"I felt that we would have the best crew if we were here. I felt, as Kenny did, that the dancing talent is so extraordinary here. And I felt that cost-wise Utah would end up being more effective than the other places," says Schain, known in Utah film circles as "The Godfather" of the local movie scene.
It also helped that the production got a boost from the Legislature - $500,000 was given to "High School Musical 2" to keep the film in Utah. As a result, about 130 of the 150 crew members working on the film are locals.
Utah is brimming with other movie-making talent, according to the filmmakers.
Bonnie Story, the movie's co-choreographer and associate director of Odyssey Dance Theater in Salt Lake City, said more than 1,800 dancers were auditioned for the movie. Ninety percent of those hired are from Utah.
"It's probably one of the best in the nation," Story says of Utah's dancing talent. "There's a lot of great teachers in Utah. There's a lot of great studios in Utah. They all produce just some great technique."
As shooting wraps for the morning, the cast and crew are shuttled to base camp on the other side of the resort for lunch under a sweltering canvas tent. A reporter for Cosmo Girl, which is planning to publish a special insert on the making of the movie when it premieres, asks the caterer what the cast eats during production.
This day, it's wiener- schnitzel.
Post-lunch, the air is dusty and dry. Red-orange sand from the desert's layered rocks is getting on everything. "Nobody told me that I would be working on Mars," says one Hollywood publicist.
Golf club members don't seem to mind the many gaffers, grips and camera operators scurrying around the resort, according to Entrada general manager Rob DeMore.
"It's a little like the circus coming to town, but they have been great," he says.
"I don't know if it's going to make us any money at the end of the day. But it's going to be an interesting story to tell around the club."