Engineered by veterans of Rolling Stones tours and tricked out with intricate choreography, confetti drops and a giant backdrop screen for heartthrob close-ups, the concert was designed to wow the "tween" fans who made the TV movie a nationwide hit faster than Paris Hilton can say "hot."
The snappy 90-minute stage performance zips along untethered from the plot of the movie, a love story between a basketball jock and an academic decathlon nerd who upset their school's social order by auditioning for lead roles in a musical.
Instead, the concert features the six stars as celebrities, rather than in their character roles, and showcases hits from the movie soundtrack. Lucas Grabeel, one of the movie's main characters, emcees the proceedings, giving frequent shout-outs to the audience and stringing together set pieces with good-natured onstage banter.
Three cast members with newly released or forthcoming solo albums — Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale and Corbin Bleu — do solo sets.
The only cast member missing the concert tour is Zac Efron, who played the male lead in the movie. He is working on the movie version of the musical "Hairspray." Drew Seeley, who sang on the "High School Musical" soundtrack and co-wrote one of its songs, is touring in Efron's place.
Nine trucks, 10 buses and about 90 crew members will accompany the six performers on the 40-city arena tour, which begins in San Diego on Nov. 29 and wraps up with a finale in Las Vegas on Jan. 28. The group will play a hastily added Dec. 31 gig in Uniondale, N.Y.
"I'm freaking out!" exclaimed Coleman as she bopped around backstage in San Diego before the show's last dry run. At 26, Coleman — who parlayed her popularity into a stint on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" — is the oldest of the group.
Minutes later, she was twirling across the stage in a pair of sparkling high heels she called "blinged out."