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By Sydney Bucksbaum
February 24, 2021 at 01:30 PM EST
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What time is it? Premiere time for High School Musical: The Musical: The Series!

Mark your calendars and get your tickets (slash Disney+ subscription) now, because season 2 raises its curtains on Friday, May 14, the streaming service announced Wednesday. And since the High School Musical series previously announced that season 2's show-within-a-show is actually Beauty and the Beast instead of High School Musical 2, EW went straight to creator Tim Federle to find out why.

"I think for the mega High School Musical OG fans, there are nods and music moments, and there are the winks of the Wildcat East High vibe throughout the season, and I never wanted that to go away," Federle tells EW. "But I do think in the realm of the Degrassi franchise and anything that's able to go that distance as a series, you have to at some point get away from the very original premise and say, 'Who are these characters and do we care about them and do we want to know more about them?' Beauty and the Beast is not only one of my favorite scores — the music is so emotional — but it allows us to see these kids cast in roles that might surprise you. And also just scenically and costume design-wise and musically, it's so different from High School Musical that it's just a nice way to expand."

So what does that mean for the music of season 2? Don't count out hearing songs like "What Time Is It?" just yet. While Federle teases that fans will have to wait and see what the balance will be of new versions of classic HSM songs, Beauty and Beast songs, and new original songs, he did reveal that iconic mockumentary film Waiting for Guffman was his biggest inspiration.

"Because it's a show within a show, the devices that are available and obvious are pulled from the best of Waiting for Guffman and shows that show you how they put on the show," Federle says. "Beauty and the Beast is largely focused on as this rehearsal room experience where the kids are practicing and making costumes and fighting over roles. High School Musical outside of that, it's at East High, it looms large as a presence, and so maybe, maybe there are some songs that you'll hear from High School Musical 2 sprinkled throughout the season in plot driven ways."

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series
Credit: Fred Hayes/Disney+

What really excited Federle was the opportunity to debut more original songs like season 1's "All I Want" and "Just for a Moment," which were written and performed by series stars Olivia Rodrigo (currently dominating the charts with her debut single "Driver's License") and Joshua Bassett. "Last season those songs really popped out and developed their own audiences, so I didn't want to skimp on original songs this season," Federle says. "That's been just so cool to listen to all of this new music coming in and hear characters sing solos who didn't get them last season and really expand and surprise people with just how gifted this cast is."

And speaking of Rodrigo and Bassett, their onscreen alter egos Nini and Ricky finally said "I love you" to each other in the season 1 finale, and they're starting off season 2 as an official couple. Federle can't stop gushing over "how much" they're exploring that relationship onscreen this season. "Selfishly, I always hoped it wouldn't be a one-season show because of that," he says. "One of the things that's true about the experience of being a young person is you figure out who you love, what you love, who you are, and sometimes that means leaning into who you were as a kid, and sometimes it means flexing and trying out a new identity or a new way of being. I'm sort of speaking around the answer because, frankly, we're still writing this season [laughs], but there's definitely stories to be told with those two, and there's also decisions for them to make based on opportunities that Nini is handed and surprises that we're trying to throw into the show."

But High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is so much more than that one relationship, and Federle is proud of how he's shifting the focus towards being a true ensemble show this season. "I really, really wanted to commit to making sure these characters felt full-bodied, really lived in, and not sidekicks," he says. "Because nobody is a sidekick in their own life, everyone is their own star. Part of that meant committing gladly and with open arms to a much more diverse writing staff who I think was able to confidently expand these characters' universes. If you had a favorite character last season, I can pretty much guarantee you they get their moment in the spotlight this season."

And, of course, get ready for even more musical fun. "Even before the madness of 2020, I felt there was an opportunity to make a show that exploded and was even more musical," Federle says. "So one of the things we wanted to do is just frankly more songs, more music moments, and really lean into the thing our show can do that a lot of shows just can't, by DNA." Because why stick to the status quo when you can bop to the top?

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High School Musical: The Musical: The Series

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  • TV Show
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creator
  • Tim Federle
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  • Disney+

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