Zac Efron has really made the so-called awkwardness of adolescence work in his favor.

"The new American heartthrob," as Rolling Stone dubbed its Aug. 9 cover boy, has signed on to star in the comedy Seventeen, a Big-in-reverse tale of a 36-year-old man who wakes up one morning to find himself a high school senior again, according to Entertainment Weekly's Website.

But at least he wakes up and has been miraculously transformed into the most popular cinematic senior in recent memory.

Efron, 19, who's currently in theaters playing Link Larkin, the big—yet sensitive—man on campus in Hairspray, made a name for himself last year as the basketball jock who falls for the brainy girl in the Disney Channel phenomenon High School Musical, one of the cable network's most successful original movies ever.

The peppy song-and-dancefest went on to snag an Emmy for Outstanding Children's Program, sell more than 6.5 million DVDs and spawn the bestselling album of 2006, a book series, a concert tour featuring the original cast, an ice show and professional stage tour.

Not to mention it made fat bank for Disney, which started work on a small-screen sequel almost immediately and has a feature film, Haunted High School Musical, on tap for 2008.

HSM also made stars out of Efron, Ashley Tisdale, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, Monique Coleman and Corbin Bleu, all of whom returned for High School Musical 2, which premieres tonight on the Disney Channel, and the upcoming third installment.

In addition to his already-confirmed teenybopper roles, Efron is in talks to star in a remake of Footloose, which, along with the HSM franchise, Hairspray and Seventeen, could put him in the position of perennial prom king, whether he wants to be that guy or not.

Perhaps because he needed a break from being the BMOC for awhile, Efron was the only one of the movie's main stars to sit out the HSM live concert tour, which was often sold out despite the original Troy Bolton's absence. (Efron was replaced by Drew Seeley on tour.)

"If I had to hear the High School Musical songs anymore, I probably would have jumped off something very tall," Efron, who didn't sing in the first movie, told Rolling Stone.

But Efron apparently sees something in Seventeen besides school dances, peer pressure and high school drama.

''It's a good transitional movie that will appeal to his audience and hopefully bring in more adults,'' Efron's sister and Seventeen producer Jennifer Gibgot told

In the meantime, however, no HSM fan is in any rush to let Efron go. HSM2 brings the entire cast back for more vanilla-flavored shenanigans, this time set at a resort (like the Malibu Sands Beach Club from Saved by the Bell, only with golf) where Troy, Gabriella, Chad and Taylor have summer jobs thanks to Sharpay and Ryan.

The Jan. 20, 2006, premiere of the original HSM attracted 7.7 million viewers and, thanks to tons of repeat airings, was eventually watched by more than 200 million people worldwide, so Disney is heading into the home stretch tonight with awfully high hopes.

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