‘High School Musical's’ Hudgens promises great show at state fair

Nicole Milstead

Following up 2007’s one-off double bill of ’tween-aiming pop stars Corbin Bleu and Drake Bell, the Illinois State Fair Grandstand is taking the same approach with a pair of female pop singers.

Vanessa Hudgens, the 19-year-old “High School Musical” sweetheart, will open for Natasha Bedingfield, singer of the ubiquitous “Unwritten,” Saturday at the Grandstand.

Hudgens started her tour in Alabama on Aug. 1. But in a recent telephone interview, the young singer — what with all the excitement — wasn’t sure which state she was in.

Currently on her first solo tour, Hudgens is performing tracks from two solo albums (“Identified,” released July 1, and 2006’s “V”) as well as new songs. She has performed in Illinois, but this will be her first show here without her classmates.

Hudgens promised an exciting concert with a lot of dancing, and mentioned several times that she sings live.

“I have six dancers and I have really stepped it up,” she said. “It is a cool thing. It is gonna be a blast.”

Hudgens added that the Springfield concert would be the only chance fans had to see her with Bedingfield.

Hudgens called herself a “huge” Bedingfield fan and jumped at the chance to perform with her.

Describing her music as fun, funky, young and flirty, Hudgens cites her biggest influence — at least right now — as Christina Aguilera and her latest album, “Back to Basics.” “She taps into jazz and it gets funky and I really like that,” Hudgens said.

Before the tour, Hudgens only had been to one state fair. At the age of 3, she went to the state fair in San Diego where she recorded a video of herself dancing and talking to the camera. She still has the tape, and giggled talking about it.

Hudgens says her key demographic comes from the “High School Musical” craze. Those fans will be excited for the Oct. 24 theatrical release of “High School Musical 3: Senior Year.”

“It is everything. It is senior year, it is prom, it is graduation and figuring out what to do next,” Hudgens said. “It will most likely be our last ‘High School Musical,’ because how can you do anything after senior year?”

At least until “High School Musical 4: The Reunion,” Hudgens plans to pursue other films because she loves acting. She has a film in postproduction called “Rock On,” with Lisa Kudrow, scheduled for release in February 2009.

Asked for a personal tidbit fans couldn’t find on the Internet, Hudgens said her family has three dogs: two toy poodles named Shadow and Romeo and a Brussels Griffon named Gigi.

Gigi is particularly funny, Hudgens added, because “it has lips and mustaches.”

Nicole Milstead can be reached through the A&E editor at 747-9587.

Vanessa Hudgens

Opening for Natasha Bedingfield

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Illinois State Fairgrounds Grandstand

Tickets: $25 for track and best reserved seating; $20 for reserved seating. Tickets are available at the Grandstand ticket office or through all Ticketmaster options — 544-9400, (800) 827-8927 and (800) 359-2525 for TTY orders, online at www.ticketmaster.com and at all physical outlets.