Today in unrealistic musical theater: The "Rise" kids aren't off-book but are learning the choreography anyway, and okay, sure
Do you know the plot of Spring Awakening? To put it simply, it’s basically like the mid-2000’s version of Rent, meaning that it completely pushed the boundaries of what it meant to be a Broadway musical. There were no showstopping musical numbers, or epic costume changes, or even elaborate scenery. It was — or, should I say *is* since the show is still performed all the time today — a story about a group of kids just trying to find their place in the world, along with what it means to be alive.
So yeah, in some ways it makes sense that the kids in Rise — who are also trying to find their place int he world and figure out what it means to be alive — would tackle Spring Awakening. But also, it makes absolutely ZERO SENSE. Throughout the course of Spring Awakening, there is a suicide, an abortion, and oh yes, the first act ends with two characters having sex on the stage. This is not a high school, family-friendly spring musical in any sense of the word. In fact, if you google “Spring Awakening” + “high school” you find a whole treasure trove of young adults complaining about things like:
1. Their school not being able to do Spring Awakening, because of it’s context.
2. Schools doing hella modified versions of the show, which means it doesn’t hold as much emotional weight.
However, Rise’s very own
Ted Mosby Mr. Lou Mazzuchelli and his merry band of musical theater kids are pressing ahead with Spring Awakening, even though they have literally no budget to do it anymore. Remember in the pilot of NBC’s latest tv show, when Ted Mosby Lou burned the props, scenery, and costumes from Pirates of Penzance (because the school was, and then wasn’t doing that musical for a hot second)? Yeah, welcome to the second episode, “Most of All to Dream,” and the principal is pissed Ted Mosby Lou has lost all his money for his production of Spring Awakening.
Even though, and I will literally never stop bringing this up becuase this is just a cold hard musical theater FACT, does he even have the rights to do Spring Awakening? The rights for the high school edition of the show are hella expensive. Also pretty sure they take months to secure. The principal should really be yelling at
Ted Mosby Lou about the fact that they spent their entire budget getting the rights to the eight-time Tony winner Spring Awakening, not about the musical theater bonfire that closed out the pilot episode.
But, I digress. Because we’re really here to talk about how the kids are already learning the choreography for the *musical numbers* but the lead isn’t even off book yet.
Once more for those up in the balcony:
THEY ARE LEARNING THE CHOREOGRAPHY AND THEY’RE NOT EVEN OFF BOOK YET.
Okay, so my high school theater teacher, Mrs. Byrne (hello Mrs. Byrne, if you are reading this. I assume you have a Google alert set up for your name), was downright terrifying when it came to learning lines. I think all theater teachers are like this, where they are just able to instill a sense of fear into you with one look, and Mrs. Byrne did that with flying colors. This one time, back in high school theater, I remember I didn’t have a monologue memorized and I — oh god, forgive me, theater gods — wrote parts of it on my hand.
I managed to get halfway through the monologue before I needed to look at it to double check something…and I swear to god Mrs. Byrne threw a script at me. You do not fuck around with not learning lines for The Tempest. During my time as a high school stage manager, I remember throwing things at kids who messed up lines — but I was throwing things like pencils, erasers, and small props because I couldn’t throw my 3-ring binder script. (I was the stage manager, my script full of notes and blocking was the *Bible.*)
And oh god, you do NOT start teaching the kids the dance numbers and blocking before they have everything completely M-E-M-O-R-I-Z-E-D. That is like, the first rule of teaching kids theater. Don’t teach them movements, WITH PROPS FOR PETE’S SAKE, until they can recite everything backwards and forwards.
But clearly since
Ted Mosby Lou is ~new~ at this, and honestly I doubt he did high school theater himself way back when, he has the kids singing, and dancing, and holding props and my god it is a trainwreck. It’s a trainwreck and I can’t look away.
Are the kids…holding their scripts? Are they…oh god are they highlighted? And folded and bent, and DO YOU NOT HAVE TO RETURN THOSE AT THE END OF THE MUSICAL? Is anyone in charge here??
I can’t tell the timing of this show, and whether the kids are putting on a fall musical or a spring musical. Considering the rest of the school (and town) is obsessed with FOOTBALL! FOOTBALL! FOOTBALL! it must be fall. So, uh, when is this musical happening? Before or after Thanksgiving? This is a completely fictional musical on a fictional TV show, and I am super anxious thinking about it.
Ted Mosby Lou makes a student cry, which is actually a thing that happens *a lot* when it comes to HS theater, but don’t make them CRY ON THE STAGE. Wait until after rehearsal and then pull them aside so they can cry to you, and only you, in the wings of stage left.
The realest part of the episode is when the theater department argues with the FOOTBALL! FOOTBALL! FOOTBALL! crowd at the town meeting, because that is a real thing. That’s not a cliché, I think in every single school the athletics department is at war with the theater department, so at least Rise is getting SOMETHING right in it’s portrayal of high school.