TV Week

March 11, 2018

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22 Sunday, March 11, 2018 The Daily Herald By Sarah Passingham TV Media O n the heels of the much- anticipated season finale of "This Is Us" is the premiere of "Rise," a new series that prom- ises to fulfill viewers' desire for an emotional roller-coaster of a drama with a notable musi- cal twist. "Rise" is a musical drama that makes use of the talents of relative newcomers Auli'i Cravalho ("Moana") and Damon J. Gillespie ("Inside Amy Schumer"), who star as high school students participating in their school's production of "Spring Awakening." The new series debuts Tuesday, March 13, on NBC. Rounding out the cast are fa- vorites Rosie Perez ("White Men Can't Jump," 1992), Marley Shelton ("Planet Terror," 2007) and Josh Radnor, whom "How I Met Your Mother" fans will rec- ognize as Ted Mosby from the hit sitcom. Perez plays the high school's drama teacher who be- comes inspired upon the arrival of Radnor's character. In "Rise," Radnor portrays drama coach Lou Mazzuchelli, a character based on legendary real-life theater teacher Lou Volpe. Volpe runs the incred- ibly successful drama program at Harry S. Truman High in Levittown, Pa. Students of the program have gone on to be- come producers, entertainment executives and community theater founders, and led author Michael Sokolove to shadow and document the group for his non-fiction book "Drama High," from which "Rise" is inspired. Producers have been quick to note, however, that though the series is inspired by Sokolove's book, "Rise" will not be a retell- ing of the events detailed there- in, perhaps assuaging worries from fans of the original text. The series differs significantly enough from the source that it was determined that executive producer Jason Katims be cred- ited as having created — not developed or adapted — the show, according to Entertain- ment Weekly. The series features some exciting young talent among its leads, including the multi- talented Cravalho making her on-screen debut in "Rise" as student Lillette Suarez. Cravalho voiced the titular character in Disney's hit animated 2016 film "Moana" and recorded all of the songs sung by the character as well. The film and character made history as the first ani- mated Disney movie to feature a heroine without a romantic storyline. The role of Moana was Cravalho's big break, and it took her all the way to the Oscars stage that year to perform the film's nominated song "How Far I'll Go." The song was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose own breakout hit on Broadway in 2015 was "Hamilton," pro- duced by the executive producer of "Rise." The connections between some of the biggest recent moments in entertainment come full circle in "Rise," as the heavyweight talent doesn't just exist onscreen. Behind the scenes is executive producer Jeffrey Seller, who is best known as the producer of such major Broadway hits as 1993's "Rent" and one of the biggest tickets since 2015, "Hamilton." Seller gives "Rise" real credibility as a musical production, and the connection between his projects makes it feel like the series was meant to be made in this mo- ment. Also behind the scenes is ex- ecutive producer Jason Katims, responsible for the cult hit teen drama "Friday Night Lights." The show ran for six seasons and was beloved by fans for its realistic portrayal of family life in Texas. Though it never garnered a massive audience, "Friday Night Lights" was a favorite among critics for its balanced storytelling and compelling performances, which have made their mark on the cultural landscape. While a musical television series set in a small town's high school theater department may call to memory "Glee," which ended its six-season run in 2015, "Rise" is set to take more cues from Katims's "Friday Night Lights" than its musical predecessor. "Glee" relied on sharp comedy to dramatize the inherently dramatic high school setting, while "Rise" takes a more character-driven approach to its story development. The emotional, often under- stated style of storytelling that "Friday Night Lights" utilized always grabs audiences, and the most recent examples of that also come from NBC with "This Is Us" and "Parenthood." Audiences revel in the gripping emotional family drama of "This Is Us" and have ensured that there is a place for devastatingly moving stories on their screens. "Rise" has the opportunity to rouse fans possibly still fragile directly after the "This Is Us" season finale, and is poised to impress. Here to fill the void of musical theater on television created with the departure of "Glee," "Rise" certainly could have been made in another time and on another network, but there's no denying that now is its time to soar. Catch the series pre- miere of "Rise," airing Tuesday, March 13, on NBC. feature story TV that soars: Musical drama 'Rise' premieres on NBC Something for everyone. SUBSCRIBE & NEVER MISS AN ISSUE! Plan your weekend! It's fina y Friday! Section inside The Daily Herald on Thursdays featuring dining, theater, music, movies, DANCE and events to plan for your weekend. A & E

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