by: Carly Noel Updated:
PITTSBURGH,None - The Academy at Westinghouse is one of the first schools to be chosen for NBC’s "Smash: Make a Musical” program.
“Smash” actors Christian Borle, Brian d’Arcy James and Jaime Cepero and “Smash” executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron made the announcement at the 2012 Junior Theater Festival held Jan.13-15 at the Cobb Galleria in Atlanta.
Timed with NBC’s launch of the new musical drama series “Smash,” the initiative will work with local schools across the country to stage their own productions and implement self-sustaining programs.NBC will underwrite the initial 20-market program roll-out with Broadway master professionals going into the schools and mentoring students and teachers.
The project leaders of the program at Westinghouse, Richard “Muzz” Meyers of the Pittsburgh Public Schools and Dan Derks of the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, are excited about the opportunity.
“I was surprised, excited and really hopeful,“ said Meyers.
“NBC has been great. They are really on board with the idea of us having limitless possibilities. I’m glad they’re sending in artists, I think from NY, and that’s exciting for the kids to work with people bigger than Pittsburgh,” said Derks.
Derks, the education director at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, said Westinghouse hasn’t performed a production in 10 years. He’s hoping the cast will either perform “Fame” or “Once on This Island.”
“We’re hiring a theatrical director. We’re looking for a music director,” said Derks.
“We’re hoping this can jump start a tradition of musicals here,” said Meyers.
Other schools chosen for the program include: Renfroe Middle School in Decatur, GA; The University of Chicago Charter School Woodlawn Campus in Chicago, IL; Paschal High School in Fort Worth, TX; Place Bridge Academy in Denver, CO; Middleton Street Elementary School in Huntington Park, CA; Independence Charter School in Philadelphia, PA; Desert Sands Middle School in Phoenix, AZ; Wheaton High School in Silver Spring, MD; Sharpston High School in Houston, TX; W.H. Oliver Middle School in Nashville, TN; Leadership and Public Service High School in New York, NY; KIPP Bridge Charter School in Oakland, CA; Stroud High School in Stroud, OK; and Morris E. Ford Middle School in Tacoma, WA.
“There are standards that get put on the schools. You have to meet something that the state puts out there. There is nothing in there that gives kids the human experience like they get when they are in an arts class. You have to grapple with yourself, what you feel and the world around you. It’s great for opening up the possibility, especially for kids who believe their outcomes are dictated by things outside of their control,” said Derks.
The 20-market pilot launch will be the catalyst for iTheatrics’ Junior Theater Project to produce 180 additional “Make a Musical” programs in the fall.
In 2013, iTheatrics plans to launch an additional 200 programs, and by 2014, the goal is to have 1,000 new arts programs positively impacting over one million U.S. students.
NBC’s new drama “Smash” premieres Feb. 6 and stars Debra Messing (“Will & Grace”), Katharine McPhee (“American Idol”) and Oscar winner Anjelica Huston (“Prizzi’s Honor”), among others.
Julia and Tom, a successful songwriting team, played by Messing and Christian Borle, begin work on a new musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. When a tenacious producer, played by Huston, jumps aboard, so begins the difficult task of casting the silver screen icon.
Ivy Lynn, a tough Broadway veteran, seems like the obvious choice. But enter Karen Cartwright, played by McPhee, a young girl from Iowa with a dream of making it on Broadway who walks in and blows everyone away. So who will get the part and begin a journey that will change their lives? It's an age-old story, but a star just might be born once again.
While everyone is consumed with putting the show together, real life has a tendency of getting in the way. Julia and her husband are in the middle of a complicated adoption; the producer's husband begins divorce proceedings which could threaten the finances of the show; and the brilliant but womanizing director could derail everything if he puts the young star in a compromising position. This will be a rollercoaster ride that culminates on opening night when the audience gets to determine whether or not the show is a smash!
In the era of The Voice and Glee, executive producers Steven Spielberg and Craig Zadan & Neil Meron (producers of Chicago and Hairspray), and songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray), bring you the blood, sweat, and tears of the making of a Broadway musical.