With just 3 episodes in Rise so far, the audience is taken to the small steel town of Pennsylvania which also happens to have a very underfunded theater department. Just cue the indie background music and shots of high school politics and small town gossip, this is just the beginning.
The series is inspired by Michael Sokolove’s novel, “Drama High” and the help of Jason Katims, executive producer of 90s classics Friday Night Lights and Parenthood, alongside Jeffrey Seller who is the producer of Tony-Award-winning musical, Hamilton.
COURTESY OF IMDB.COM
(L) Josh Radnor as Mr. Mazzu in NBC's new original series Rise
which can be seen Tuesdays at 9/8 C on their website or via Hulu.
The show begins with an overview of Pennsylvania and Lou Mazzuchelli, a.k.a Mr. Mazzu, played by Josh Radnor, better known as Ted from How I Met Your Mother. Driving around town on his way to Stanton High School, it is shortly revealed that Mazzu has been on an educational rut and decides to take over the theater department.
(May contain spoilers, read with caution.)
As Mazzu takes over, we find out that he took it from underneath the theater assistant’s feet, Tracey Wolfe who is portrayed by Rosie Perez.
It doesn’t end there, Mazzu takes Tracey’s plan on doing Grease and changes it to Spring Awakening, a show about teenagers’ view on life dealing with sexual tension, homosexuality, non-understanding parents and premarital sex in late-19th-century Germany.
An introduction to most of the main characters via audition montage and a glimpse of their personalities is given. First off, we have one of the main guys, Simon Saunders (Ted Sutherland) who comes from a very religious household and is usually the male lead in theater.
The female lead, Gwen Strickland (Amy Forsyth) is a powerhouse performer with a big dream and a lot of passion. The viewer is then shown a couple of familiar faces such as “Barb” from Stranger Things (Shannon Purser) who plays the part of Annabelle.
Straight out of water is Auli’i Cravalho, better known as the voice of Moana, playing the character of Lilette Suarez; and she seems to be one of the main characters thus far. Among these performers, we also get Maashous Evers (Rarmian Newton) a foster child that takes charge of light both for the shows.
Like every other American high school theater troupe, the department is lacking male actors.
Evers tells Mazzu about Michael Hallowell (Ellie Desautels,) a transgender boy that joins the musical soon after, and when there seems to be no hope, Mazzu also realizes that star quarterback, Robbie Thorne (Damon J. Gillespie,) is full of raw talent when he gives a rap performance at the homecoming pep rally.
Mazzu threatens Thorne that he won’t be eligible to play in the homecoming game for failing his class unless he auditions. As Thorne is given the lead role, the battle between Mazzu and Coach, Sam Strickland (Joe Tippett,) is officially on.
The show is set to have 10 episodes for the first season in which Mazzu and Wolfe need to work together and find a way to produce their show with a lack of funds, fight for the lead’s rehearsal/practice time and are try to handle each student’s problems.
While the show is realistic and has a hipster there doesn’t seem to be a particular villain nor hero. The characters display good and bad qualities and the consequences that go with them, just like in real life.
That being said, I like that they also don’t suddenly break into song and dance like in Glee. Rise is wonderful and has a shot of becoming a weekly favorite if they play their cards right and don’t become a cookie-cutter-type drama.
For now, watch Rise every Tuesday evening at 8 p.m. on NBC or catch up on Hulu or the NBC website.