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The TV musical is back!

Updated: Mar 2, 2019

NBC has had some success in the past with “Smash” in this genre. Jason Katims (creator of Friday Night Lights and Parenthood) takes us to high school. I think he’s a fan of teen angst.

Josh Radnor from How I Met Your Mother, is Lou Mazzuchelli, an English teacher who decides to expand his horizons and take over the theater department of his high school. His wife reluctantly gives her blessing, even though she is concerned that their family—(three kids) especially the troubled eldest, Gordy, will be short changed by this endeavor.

The ensemble cast includes several talented newcomers including Damon J. Gillespie as Robbie, the football star who’s drafted into the male lead role in Lou’s first production, "Spring Awakening". Auli'i Cravalho, the voice of Disney's Moana, is Lilette, who Lou decides to cast as the female lead. She is raised by a single mother who gives Lilette greater pressure at school through her affair with the football coach.

Rosie Perez is a standout as Ms. Wolfe, who is bounced from the theater head, but decides to assist. She is not happy about the demotion, but soon sees that Lou’s choices, especially on the leads for the musical, are good ones.

In the pilot, we see the rehearsals of the show via a great montage that shows the progression of the cast as they bond and gain confidence. The choice of putting up “Spring Awakening”, with its controversial subject matter (suicide, teen pregnancy, homosexuality) creates even more conflict for Lou and his students. The principal tries to take back his hiring decision, but the kids have had their own “awakening” and take a stand for both Lou and the production.

I really enjoyed the performances and will keep my hopes high that “Rise” will get the numbers/viewers to survive.

-L.C. May


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