PBS is bound for Broadway this fall with a three-hour primetime documentary series that tracks the real life stories of America's top high school musical performers vying in the ultimate competition to find the nation's best young theater stars. It's non-stop drama when 60 talented teens - chosen from a nationwide casting call of over 50,000 students - descend on New York for an intensive week of "theatrical boot camp" and a shot at stage stardom and scholarships. The annual event, held each summer, is filmed for the first time ever in BROADWAY OR BUST, airing on consecutive Sunday nights, September 9-23, 2012 at 8:00-9:00 pm ET on PBS (check local listings).
Part competition, part performance and part non-fiction drama, BROADWAY OR BUST is the first-ever TV series to capture the behind-the-scenes coaching, grueling rehearsal schedule and highly charged atmosphere leading up to the National High School Musical Theater Awards (NHSMTA). Popularly known as "The Jimmy Awards" - named in honor of renowned Broadway theatre owner and producer James M. Nederlander - this national competition plunges the country's top teens into the eye of the theatrical storm for one intense, make-it-or-break-it week in New York City. The whirlwind competition culminates in an awards event on a Broadway stage in front of a live audience and a panel of high-profile judges.
To bring this series to PBS, producers WGBH Boston and Lance K. Shultz have teamed up with the National High School Musical Theater Awards. Created by Nederlander Alliances LLC (a division of The Nederlander Organization which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this fall) and Pittsburgh CLO, NHSMTA is produced by The Broadway Education Alliance in association with Pittsburgh CLO, New Studio on Broadway, NYU Tisch School of the Arts Department of Drama, and 30 top regional musical theater programs.
"The BROADWAY OR BUST series is the inspiring real story of real kids from around the country who have guts, talent and passion, and are willing to put themselves out there to follow their dreams in a national competition that is both grueling and uplifting, physically and emotionally," says WGBH Executive Producer of Lifestyle Productions, Laurie Donnelly. "Viewers will watch the 60 gifted teens as they struggle under pressure and rise to the challenge during a uniquely transformative process that whips them into shape in a matter of days. Many have incredible backstories about pursuing musical theater against the odds, and the strength and confidence it gives to them."
Airing as part of the PBS Arts lineup, a multiplatform commitment to make the arts accessible to all, BROADWAY OR BUST is comprised of three hour-long episodes:
Broadway or Bust: The Casting Call (Sunday, September 9, 2012 @ 8pm ET)
The premiere episode, "The Casting Call," sets the stage for the challenge. Tens of thousands of high school musical theater students participate in 30 regional competitions. Of these, just 60 performers earn the right to come to the theater capital of the world to participate in the National High School Musical Theater Awards competition. The series begins as these "triple threats," the best young talent from all over the USA, catch their big break in cities like San Diego, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Memphis and more. Viewers get to know the performers as cameras follow them to New York City, where they meet face-to-face with talented colleagues and together embark on a weeklong, transformative journey. The teens hit the ground running, learning a new opening number from director Van Kaplan and choreographer Kiesha Lalama and receiving a surprise visit full of pointers and a demonstration by renowned Emmy and Grammy award-winning entertainer Michael Feinstein. They are left wondering, "Do I have what it takes to make it on Broadway?"
Broadway or Bust: Boot Camp (Sunday, September 16, 2012 @ 8pm ET)
"Boot Camp" catapults the students headlong into the fire of the rehearsals and immerses them in an intense learning experience - a grueling and energizing week of behind-closed-door performances, coaching and coaxing sessions in preparation of "The Jimmy Awards" ceremony. Cameras capture both the progress and the setbacks of individuals as they fight fatigue and get an eye-opening preview of what life is like on Broadway. Providing one-on-one coaching in music, theater, dancing and acting are some of Broadway's top talent - including Leslie Odom, Jr. (TV's "Smash"; Rent); Michael McElroy (Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations for Big River; Rent, Miss Saigon); Liz Callaway (Tony Award nomination for Baby; Cats, Miss Saigon); and Telly Leung (Godspell; Rent; TV's "Glee"). In the countdown to the show, the students must practice and then perform their solos in front of an incredibly connected group of judges.
Broadway or Bust: And the Winner Is... (Sunday, September 23, 2012 @ 8pm ET)
The big finish in the third and final installment showcases the 60 finalists preparing for the moment they've all been waiting for: a chance to strut their stuff on stage at New York's Minskoff Theatre before an audience of thousands. The lights come up, the theater is filled, and with the downbeat of the orchestra leader's baton, it's show time. After an evening of group performances and individual medleys, only six participants are selected as finalists and called upon to perform solos. A panel of industry experts then crowns the top male and female performers in America. But it's not just about winning. "This week is an experience these kids are going to take away with them for the rest of their lives, and it is going to shape their whole lives, whether they go into the theater or not," says Jimmy Awards director Van Kaplan.
"Full of captivating performances, compelling characters and dramatic storylines, this series will pull back the curtain to show viewers the whole process - the talent, ambition, drive, vulnerability, discipline, resiliency, dreams dashed and dreams fulfilled - both the highs and lows of what it takes to make it to Broadway," says BROADWAY OR BUST executive producer, Lance Shultz. "We're thrilled to be working with the NHSMTA to bring this experience to life for audiences across the country."
WGBH has developed a special comprehensive website - http://www.pbs.org/broadwayorbust - which will be updated through September 2012 and will feature exclusive videos with performances and interviews, additional information on the performers, news items and more.