By Rick Bentley The Fresno Bee
Choreographer and director Jeffrey Hornaday has loved musicals since he saw “Cabaret” 14 times when he was young. The veteran dance man never expected to find new fans that share his passion for the genre.
“I am so surprised that a young audience would embrace that old convention,” Hornaday said. “I guess it’s in the American DNA to like musicals.”
He’s counting on that interest in movie musicals for his new “Teen Beach Movie.” The made-for-cable film follows teen surfing sweethearts Brady (Ross Lynch) and McKenzie (Maia Mitchell), who ride the last wave of summer that mysteriously takes them into a classic beach party movie: “Wet Side Story.”
It’s a tale of surfers vs. bikers who battle over a beach hangout, told with modern musical tastes.
“Teen Beach Movie” is the latest in a string of made-for-cable musicals on the Disney Channel that started with “High School Musical” in 2006. The movies use contemporary music and dance moves to attract large numbers of young viewers.
The challenge of “Teen Beach Movie” was entertaining that young audience while blending elements from ’60s movies and Broadway shows.
“I started by looking at the old movies from the ’60s. I realized that the musical numbers weren’t real musical numbers but just kids dancing.
“I looked at this film like a Broadway show where the songs were very specific to what was going on in the sequence. That took the shackles off and I could come at it at a more imaginative point of view,” said Hornaday, who made a splash with “Flashdance” and created a singular dance sensation in the film version of “Chorus Line.”
His blend of styles includes a character in a fringe bikini that’s a nod to the beach movies, a dance that’s a tribute to the performance of “Cool” in “West Side Story” and a cast that will be familiar to the channel’s audience.
Hornaday’s worked with some of the top names in the music industry: Paul McCartney, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Miley Cyrus, Reba McEntire, The Backstreet Boys, Mariah Carey, Lionel Richie, The White Stripes, Train, Devo, Stone Temple Pilots and Barry Manilow.
“Teen Beach Movie” premieres at 8 tonight on the Disney Channel.