Corbin Bleu will be the first “High School Musical” alum to hit Broadway, with the thesp stepping into the lead role of Tony-winning tuner “In the Heights” early next year.Bleu, who appeared as basketball player Chad in both “HSM” telepics as well as the 2008 “HSM” feature, will play young bodega owner Usnavi in “Heights.” His 13-week stint in the musical runs Jan. 25-April 25.
Casting has the potential to prompt a significant boost at the box office for “Heights.” Celebs with an avid fanbase (such as the youthful one generated by the “HSM” franchise) can pull in new audiences for a Main Stem production, particularly when the target demos of the show and the star overlap. “American Idol” winner Fantasia Barrino’s stint in the lead role of 2005 tuner “The Color Purple,” for instance, resulted in a major sales spike that helped extend the Broadway lifespan of “Purple.”
Storyline of “Heights,” set in a diverse neighborhood in upper Manhattan, may well appeal to Bleu’s fans and features its fair share of college-age protags grappling with the various decisions of young adulthood.
Also a recording artist, Bleu released his second solo album, “Speed of Light,” earlier this year. Bigscreen work includes “Catch That Kid” and “Free Style,” on which the thesp was also a producer, and his TV resume includes 2007 Disney telepic “Jump In!” and CW skein “The Beautiful Life.”
Among Bleu’s legit credits are Debbie Allen’s “Brothers of the Knight.”
The stars of the ultra-popular “HSM” franchise (including Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens and Bleu) have long seemed desirable gets for a Broadway musical since the popular thesps have already proven they can sing and dance.
The potential B.O. jolt for “Heights” couldn’t hurt. While far from dire, grosses of the show have tapered somewhat in recent months following the robust sales propelled in part by the show’s four 2008 Tony wins.