With lots of smash hits in her name such as Déjà Vu and Good4You, Olivia Rodrigo has truly become a global superstar in this era with millions of fans and listeners worldwide. But, did you know she was a part of the High School Musical Franchise along with popular names such as Zac Efron and Vannessa Hudgens?

She played the talented songwriter Nini on High School Musical: The Musical: The Series television mockumentary spin-off. While she sung for the OST of a television series previously, the song, All I Want, gave her first hit debuting at #90 on the Billboard Hot 100.

This kickstarted her music career along with her breakthrough song Driver’s License and the rest is her-story (pun intended).

Although transitioning from High School Musical to acting in Hollywood movies or being a singer is a pretty common and straightforward path, Olivia Rodrigo does it in her own way.

Unlike other songs in the franchise, All I Want was written by her after the series creators asked her to do so. In an interview with Variety, she recalls vividly, “…They were like, ‘Here, you’re 16 years old and have no writing credits. Why don’t you write this song for us?’ And it actually did really well.” Since then, she has become a successful singer-songwriter in her own right.

Last year, Rodrigo took part in a TikTok trend where people “confess” to not being the “too-cool-for-school” rebellious adolescent with throwback pics as a proof of the same. The audio used for this was “I’m sorry, but you weren’t a teenage dirtbag, you were in Seussical.”, countering the popular “Teenage Dirtbag” trend in its own way. 

The video revealed that back in her school days, she played Gertrude McFuzz in the musical Seussical, coincidentally referred to in the audio clip used. She also captioned the post with “this audio was made 4 me” in it.

Despite the mainstream popularity of shows and movies like Glee, Degrassi Next Class and Pitch Perfect depicting the “highs and lows” (as Riverdale’s Archie Andrews puts it) of the theatre kid/club/society life, there are still negative stereotypes about them, which her video indirectly mentions. 

Being a Disney series, the High School Musical franchise was made mainly for children with a universal appeal. This was the only franchise which younger theatre kids could relate to and adults felt nostalgic about unlike others which was made for an older audience. Even though the story was about teens in the theatre club, the coming-of-age aspect was something everyone could relate to in some way or the other. For the first time, being a theatre kid became “cool “in Western pop culture.

While her character in the spinoff version was of a passionate theatre nerd, Olivia Rodrigo as a singer has a girl-next-door persona singing her heart out about relationships. Her early success in her music career has made it easy to distance from both her Disney kid and theatre roots. In fact, the final season of her High School Musical show sees her character drifting apart from her theatre friends because of her new-found passion in entering into a singing career. Truly, life imitates art.

As a Disney star kid, her fans were mainly young pre-teens and early teens who knew her mainly as an actor rather than the singer, despite the High School Musical franchise allowing her to showcase her acting, singing, dancing and songwriting chops respectively due to it being a reflection of a IRL (real-life) theatre club set in a high school. As Olivia Rodrigo the singing star, her fanbase is slightly more diverse and she herself hasn’t explored an acting career yet unlike Jennifer Lopez. There have been memes on social media about “geriatric millennials” listening to her songs either finding them relatable thanks to her lyrics or simply reliving their adolescence. 

From theatre kid to global star, Olivia Rodrigo conquers with versatility and talent.

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