‘High School Musical’ star Corbin Bleu is in concert and back on TV with new movie

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LOS ANGELES (AP) – Corbin Bleu is living a rock star’s life, or at least a well-scrubbed Disney version.

The 17-year-old actor of “High School Musical” fame is on a nationwide concert tour that’s delivering the young cast of Disney Channel’s hit TV movie to fans, who amount to horde status at each stop.

The 40-city schedule is hectic, the bus travel is taxing and the audiences are in full scream. To hear Bleu tell it, there isn’t enough time – or energy – for outrageous rocker misbehavior.

“At this moment, I am ready to fall,” Bleu said by phone from New York, a few hours before a Long Island concert. “Last night, we finished our show (in Washington, attended by 14,000-plus), got on the bus, drove until 4 in the morning to get here, then woke up to go to a hotel.

“At 6:30 a.m., we got up to do “Good Morning America.’ Then we came here to do the show,” he said. “The thing is, I’m having so much fun that it’s hard to notice when my adrenaline goes.”

In between the concerts, which began in San Diego in late November and are set to end Jan. 29 in Los Angeles, Bleu is promoting a new Disney Channel movie, “Jump In!”, debuting Friday, Jan. 12.

This time, he’s the star.

“That sounds so weird, that kind of thing,” he said, laughing at the heady title being affixed to him. It’s among the refreshingly unstudied reactions from Bleu, who is poised beyond his years but comes across like an actual teenager (of the good-natured variety).

He plays a younger boy, Izzy, in “Jump In!”, about a 14-year-old New Yorker from a long line of boxing champions who’s expected to keep the tradition alive. He’s on board until he discovers another, very different sport – double-Dutch jump rope.

Far removed from the realm of typical playground games, the athletic version uses two ropes moving at rapid-fire speed and relies on gymnastics, martial-arts moves and complex dance steps.

There’s a gulf as well between the frothy “High School Musical,” in which he played a basketball hotshot, and “Jump In!”, Bleu said.

The new movie is “a whole different tone, more gritty, more urban. Even the look of the movie is darker,” he said. “What I’m hoping is (fans) see I can play a jock who’s always up, but can play more a soft-spoken edgier guy. I’m just hoping it can show my different characters.”

Bleu still boasts his glorious mop of hair in the film, which co-stars Keke Palmer (“Akeelah and the Bee”) and an actor close to Bleu’s heart, his real-life dad, David Reivers.

Reivers, who has appeared in TV series including “24,” “My Name is Earl” and “Charmed” and in “Poseidon” and other films, plays Izzy’s dad, a former boxer who’s unsettled by his son’s decision to abandon the family pursuit.

Working with his father, who’s also his longtime acting coach, was a goal for Bleu: “I look up to him so much. I always said the three people I want to work with are Johnny Depp, Denzel Washington and my dad. There’s one off my list.”

Reivers, accompanying Bleu on the tour, returns the compliment. He and his wife, Martha, also have three daughters.

“It was probably the best working experience of my life. Coaching Corbin his whole life, we know each other,” said Reivers, who calls Bleu “an old soul” and proudly deems him one of the best young actors around.

Both Reivers and Bleu – who dropped the family name so the two could have separate professional identities – appreciated the movie’s portrayal of a black man, a widower, who is devoted to his children.

“People don’t get to see positive African-American father figures (in movies) really working hard to raise their kids in positive ways and not have it be about drugs or alcohol or something negative,” Reivers said.

Bleu was literally carried into acting on his father’s shoulders: When Reivers was auditioning for roles in New York he would bring Bleu along in a knapsack. Soon, the father’s agents were suggesting the photogenic boy try for his own gigs.

He started appearing in print ads and commercials at age 2, then moved on to films (including “Catch That Kid,” “Galaxy Quest” and “Soldier”), stage (“Footloose,” “Grease”) and TV (“Flight 29 Down,” “Hannah Montana” and “Malcolm & Eddie”).

The work “was playtime, it was Corbin getting to be around people and adults, which he was so used to and so loved doing,” Reivers said. “But at the same time, my wife and I always made sure that school was important.”

Although Bleu attended the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (finishing work for his degree with home schooling) and studied dance with Debbie Allen, he planned on becoming a pediatrician until a year ago.

After attending a program at John Hopkins University that immerses students in medicine, he realized he had to pick between his passions.

“The decision was tough; medicine is something I love. But I love acting way too much and I wouldn’t give it up for the world,” he said.

He’s also added singing to his repertoire, with the concert tour and his own CD coming out. Bleu is living a dream that materializes for few, his father said.

“Starting with the success of “High School Musical,’ my speech to him has been, “Really enjoy the moment.’ … You may have a successful career after this, but you may never have anything like this. So take what you can from this and enjoy the ride.”

The teenager says he gets it, and so do his concert co-stars Lucas Grabeel, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Tisdale.

“We all realized that this is a huge moment in our career right now, and you never know happens. Is it going to continue or stop. So we’re just all taking in every single moment, from being up on that stage to riding the bus.”

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