Over 200 students, Yale affiliates and family of the cast and crew flocked to the Whitney Humanities Center Sunday night for the premiere of “College Musical: The Movie,” Kurt Schneider ’10’s musical comedy about a hapless freshman’s quest for love (and his TA).
The 93-minute film, a spin-off of Schneider’s previous “College Musical” online series, was screened for the first time for members of the Yale community at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Many of those present were family and friends of the actors and production team, and the audience consistently clapped, laughed and cheered along with the movie’s action.
“The audience energy is great,” Schneider said in an interview after the first showing. “We’ve seen [the film] so many times that we’ve almost forgot what’s funny on an emotional level. Feeling their energy was incredible.”
Produced by Andrew Johnson ’06 with a screenplay by Jake Bruene ’09, the film follows college freshman Cooper (Sam Tsui ’11) as he attempts to win the heart of his teaching assistant, Bianca (Allison Williams ’10). Cooper is so enamored of Bianca that he cannot pay attention in English class — during a midterm, he mentally erupts into song, the ballad “I Want to Bone My TA” — and is failing, set to lose his college scholarship if his performance does not improve.
Enter Nate (Miles Jacoby ’11) and Lubo (Brennan Caldwell ’12), Cooper’s two roommates, who decide he must seduce his TA once and for all to boost his grade and overcome his insecurities about women. But Cooper ends up falling for his classmate Jackie (Julie Shain ’13) instead, a girl he originally sees as a “stepping stone” in his path to romance with Bianca.
In an additional twist, Jackie and Bianca are competing against each other in a prestigious essay contest, and Bianca turns into the movie’s villain when her plans for winning the contest go awry.
We won’t spoil the rest, except to say that a student with “man-child syndrome” — a disease the filmmakers invented in which a grown man reverts to the mind and behavior of a child — provides both humor and a crucial part of the plot. Being a musical, the film tells the story through a mix of spoken dialogue and spirited, vibrant song.
“I think it’s a great blend of adult humor and the [Disney] ‘High School Musical’ love of life,” said Allen Zhang ’11, who attended the 8 p.m. screening. “It’s a funny, feel-good movie.”
Hobart Lim ’14, who said he came to the premiere after the “College Musical” web series left him wanting more, called the movie a “faithful representation” of the online original. “They kept the spirit of the web series, being funny and over-the-top,” he said.
The movie was almost entirely shot at Yale — a few scenes take place in nearby New Canaan, C.T. — over five weeks in June and July 2010. While the film takes place at an unnamed institution, Yale viewers can recognize Old Campus, Cross Campus, the interiors of Linsly-Chittenden Hall and William L. Harkness Hall and parts of Hillhouse Avenue, among other locales. One particularly impassioned scene takes place atop East Rock.
The film shown at the premiere, while very close to its final version, has yet to be tweaked in minor ways, members of the production crew said. The movie was screened with a temporary sound mix, but a professional company in Los Angeles will redo the sound, Johnson said.
He and Schneider said they do not yet have plans for distributing the movie.
“We focused on just making a great film, and now we’ll just try to put it out there and see what happens,” Schneider said.