High school theatre is a cesspit of hormones, teenage angst and egos, fermented by the sky-high dreams of both students and their teachers. It’s a space ripe for heartfelt drama, and forms the centre of brand new Stan series, Rise.
I can’t speak for you – maybe you had very cool interests in high school/didn’t harbour an undying love for v camp musicals – but I am a person who loved youth theatre, even if a lot of that love came from having an excuse to hang out after school with my m8s and my new Shakespeare-frothin’, thespian boyfriend. Teenage theatre groups are a universe unto themselves, a hypercharged setting for teenage precociousness, horniness and (sometimes misguided) ambition, replete with kids falling in love for the first time, testing the waters of underage drinking, indulging their worst vanities and rivalries, and generally just feeling ALL the emotions, sometimes in order to harness them for their final act monologue.
The producer of hit Broadway musical Hamilton, Jeffrey Seller, and the producer of Friday Night Lights (also on Stan) and Parenthood, Jason Katims, have fused their interests in the theatre and high school football into new drama series, Rise, starring How I Met Your Mother‘s Josh Radnor and Moana songbird Auliʻi Cravalho.
Radnor as devoted teacher Lou Mazzuchelli, newly promoted as head of the drama department, is desperate to connect with his students, and for them to connect with each other. He comes off as a mash of inspiring like Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society and down-to-earth like Tina Fey in Mean Girls, a kind of Coach Taylor for theatre geeks. He’s determined to get the best from all his students, and to put on the best production – even if that means recruiting a talented football player as the lead in the school musical, much to the community’s outrage/bafflement.
Rise is actually based on the 2013 book Drama High by NYT Mag writer Michael Sokolove which tells the true story of drama teacher Lou Volpe, who, for 40 years, before he retired in 2013, mounted controversial plays, like Rent, Spring Awakening and even Les Mis, at a high school in Pennsylvania, attracting both critical acclaim and the admiring attention of famous theatre producers.
Rise is set to break a leg (and your heart) from March 14, airing exclusively on Stan. Have a gander at the trailer and take your places *claps* on the lounge.