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‘Camp Rock': Another ‘High School Musical'?

Camp Rock

8 p.m. Friday, Disney Channel

Demi Lovato recalls with delight “my first – and my only! – fan mob scene.”

The 15-year-old had dropped by a friend's autograph session at a Disney Studios event to say hi when suddenly a little girl shrieked her name. Within seconds, hundreds of kids clutching pens and autograph books had surrounded her.

“I was like, ‘What! How do you even know me?'” says Lovato, rising partly out of her chair, tossing up her hands in disbelief and bursting into laughter.

As the star of the latest Disney Channel original movie “Camp Rock” – which the Mouse House hopes will be its next “High School Musical” – it's a scene Lovato might have to get used to.

“I'm getting kind of anxious, and a little nervous, because there was a picture I saw the other day of Ashley and Vanessa,” she says of “High School Musical” stars Ashley Tisdale and Vanessa Anne Hudgens. “They were at a McDonald's and there was paparazzi all over the place.

“I'm excited, though. For the most part,” she concludes.

Only time will tell whether the Disney Channel can capture lightning in a bottle twice in the same decade. Disney is clearly banking on it, however, rolling out buzz about the movie on the Internet for months, offering various “Camp Rock” tchotchkes and casting as co-stars the mega-hot pop group the Jonas Brothers.

“People are expecting it to be the next ‘High School Musical.' That would be an honor if it is,” says 14-year-old Alyson Stoner, who plays budding music producer Caitlyn Geller.

In the film, Lovato plays Mitchie Torres, a musical prodigy who can't afford to attend a prestigious music camp filled with snooty rich kids until her mother gets her a break on the tuition by landing them both jobs in the kitchen.

Once there, she's befriended by miscreant rock star Shane Gray, played by 18-year-old Joe Jonas. She's also hounded by the rich girls, particularly after she's outed as a kitchen worker, until one of them (17-year-old Anna Maria Perez de Tagle) comes over to her side.

Then, in the time-honored tradition of kid musicals dating to the days of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, they bring everybody together for a show at which the irrepressible Lovato says happily, “I get to rock the house.”

As was the case when the first “High School Musical” film debuted in 2006, most of its teen stars, although unknown to mainstream audiences, already have followings among the demographic of 8- to 13-year-olds.

Lovato developed a cult following as one of the stars of “As the Bell Rings,” the five-minute mini-show Disney uses to fill breaks between its regular programming. Stoner voices Phineas' precocious girlfriend in the Disney cartoon series “Phineas and Ferb.” Perez de Tagle plays Ashley DeWitt on the Disney series “Hannah Montana.”

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