Are you all as excited about Rise as I am? The show is being billed as Friday Night Lights meets Glee, which sounds like perfection. It also means that there will be a musical element to it. But is the Rise cast really singing? Based on the casting of Auli'i Cravahlo, who starred in Moana, alone, it's a safe bet that this show has its actors really sing their parts. But don't expect them to be singing in a traditional musical sense.
In musicals, traditionally the characters sing without consciously knowing they're singing. Singing is just a form of expression for them, like Sandy and Danny singing "Those Summer Nights" in Grease, or Rachel belting out her feelings on Glee. Make no mistake, there are musical numbers galore on Rise, but they are mostly in the context of the musical the show's high school is putting on, a production of the controversial Spring Awakening. So most of the musical numbers are from that show and not used as a way to convey a character's inner-monologue. So if you're going to be watching, I hope you don't get sick of this particular musical's songs, because you're going to be hearing a lot of them. Luckily they're often sung by the delightful Cravahlo, who is a joy to watch wherever she is.
Slate describes the show's musical elements, stating, "Rather than just the lyrics paralleling its characters’ lives, the very act of singing functions for them as a path to self-expression and discovery." So basically, the characters sing as they are practicing the musical, and this in and of itself helps them on their paths toward self-actualization. So while it isn't a musical in the way you might traditionally conceive of it, the characters are very much singing and the singing is very much an important part of the plot.
As far as whose voice is behind the belted out numbers, you can be pretty confident that it is the cast themselves who are doing the actual singing. For one, it would extraordinarily weird if Cravahlo, who sings with the voice of an actual angel, was dubbed with the voice of someone else. In fact, the practice of putting an actor in front of someone else's voice died out a long time ago. Audiences want to see the real thing. And it wouldn't make a lot of sense. Aside from Cravahlo, most of the young actors playing teens on the show are relatively unknown. So it's not as though the show is trying to capitalize on a famous name and just subbing in an actual singer for the song-parts.
Musical shows in the past, like the short-lived Smash and Glee, cast actors who could actually sing their own numbers like Lea Michele. So it just makes sense that Rise would do the same. Personally, I'm excited to see what these young actors have to offer and fully expect to see all of them killing it on Broadway in the near future.
The show is about a working-class high school in rural Pennsylvania, and a dedicated teacher determined to use the drama department to inspire his otherwise disaffected students. Josh Radnor of How I Met Your Mother fame stars as the drama teacher Lou Mazzuchelli, and Rosie Perez plays the deposed drama teacher that Lou replaces. Knowing that Perez is starring in the show would be enough in and of itself to get me to watch, but add in a few inspiring musical numbers and there's no way you can keep me from this stuff (or from loudly singing along).
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