A time-honored tradition of holiday celebrations is to crank up the Christmas tunes. For some, that happens right after Halloween ends, others might actually wait until December. And the die-hards never turn them off. As someone wise and impeccably dressed in elf attire once said, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” In the High School Musical: The Musical: The Holiday Special, we’re treated to an hour of festive performances featuring all our favorite HSMTM actors. In a year that’s been tough to cope with from start to finish, this holiday special hits home as it celebrates what Christmas means to each cast member.
The Holiday Special brings together the entire cast of HSMTM. This includes Kate Reinders and Mark St. Cyr, who play teachers Miss Jenn and Mr. Mazzara. Each cast member performs a holiday song of their selection, encompassing 80s ballads, old-school Christmas carols, and modern bops. Christmas songs aren’t the only offering from the cast. A notable performance by Julia Lester, who portrays Ashlynn in HSMTM, is a Hannukah medley. In the special, Julia explains growing up Jewish and celebrating Hannukah every year. Her choice of song, or songs, honors her heritage and the time she spends with her family each December.
Every cast member tells a story of what the holiday season meant for them and the people they grew up with. With their family’s unique traditions, they talk about the reasons Christmas or Hannukah is so special. Kate Reindeers got teary-eyed when she thought about how Christmas time is even more treasured now that she has her son Luke.
The HSMTM then give it their all in performances that highlight their talents. Larry Saperstein blows us away again in his dance performance that accompanies his rendition of White Christmas. Dara Renee sings out soulfully with the song “Believe” from The Polar Express. Olivia Rodrigo goes old-school with Joni Mitchell’s “River,” one of Olivia’s favorite non-traditional Christmas songs.
We even get to see some duets between a well-loved couple (Joe Serafini and Frankie Rodriguez performing Feliz Navidad). And an unusual pairing (Joshua Bassett and Matt Cornett taking on the Beach Boys’ Little St. Nick). One of the most exciting songs is Joshua Bassett’s original “The Perfect Gift,” as it ties into the love story between Nini and Ricky.
The Holiday Special also treats us with a small peek behind the curtain of season 2! The cast makes some intriguing promises about a certain social media platform… That should prove interesting to anyone excited about next season’s Beauty and the Beast musical. Of course, a musical holiday special involving the cast of HSMTM wouldn’t be complete without an ensemble song. The students sing and dance down the halls of East High School in true High School Musical style.
The crowning moment of The Holiday Special is when Frankie Rodriguez, Joe Serafini, Julia Lester, and Kate Reinders come together to sing a harmonized rendition of “That’s Christmas to Me.” The song encapsulates the idea that everyone treasures a different part of the holidays. It’s a song that works to unify us with the hope, love, and peace of this season – something we need more than ever at the end of this year.