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7 Moments From The ‘Rise’ Premiere That Are Guaranteed To Thrill Theatre Nerds

Last night, spring’s newest show, Rise, premiered on NBC. The series, which stars Josh Radnor as small-town drama teacher Lou Mazzuchelli, follows what happens when students from all different backgrounds come together to put on a production of the musical Spring Awakening. While the show has received mostly positive reviews, it sure drums up feelings of nostalgia in anyone who was involved with their high school drama club (myself included).

But beyond nostalgia and touchy-feely TV, Rise offers something that many hard-core theatre nerds (again, myself included) have been hungering after for a long time: representation of theatre in mainstream pop culture. So, here are seven moments from the premiere episode that are guaranteed to thrill theatre nerds! 

1. Hamilton makes an appearance about five minutes in.

GIF made by Sarah Shevenock 

These days you can’t talk about theatre without mentioning the juggernaut that is Hamilton. So, of course, it wasn’t surprising that Mr. Mazzu’s daughter was listening to the cast album while doing her homework—especially since one of Rise’s producers also produced Hamilton.

2. Speaking of Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda contributed a song to the premiere.

GIF made by Sarah Shevenock 

As Entertainment Weekly reports, Lin-Manuel Miranda (yes, the LMM of Hamilton-fame) contributed a musical number to the premiere episode. Early on in the episode, football player Robbie raps (and catches Mr. Mazzu’s attention) at a pep rally. Those rhymes he was spitting? They are a Lin-Manuel original.

3. There are Broadway actors and theatre alums all over the place!

As someone who loves theatre, I always feel a sense of pride when someone I’ve seen on stage lands a role in a large film or television project—and Rise is no exception. Tony nominee Stephanie J. Block (Falsettos, Anything Goes) stars as Patricia Saunders, Simon’s conservative mother; Sean Grandillo (who was actually in the Broadway revival of Spring Awakening!) plays Jeremy, Simon’s co-star; and Damon J. Gillespie (football player Robbie) had roles in Newsies and Aladdin.

4. We are getting covers of some Top 40 hits and Broadway classics.

One of the best parts of a musical TV show is all of the songs that come with it. Just like its predecessors Smash and Glee, Rise will be releasing tracks from each episode. According to Playbill, music from the episodes will come out the Friday before new episodes air. Check out some highlights from last night’s episode below.

5. Spring Awakening gets a moment.  

GIF made by Sarah Shevenock 

Musical theatre nerds (or MTNs, for short) have long been familiar with the angsty genius that is Spring Awakening but now, the mainstream public is learning all about this musical. Based off of Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play about teens discovering sexuality, Spring Awakening won the Best Musical Tony in 2007 and had a revival in 2015. Not a traditional musical by any means, Spring Awakening’s new 15 minutes of fame is helping those less versed in the ways of theatre, see how diverse musical theatre can be.

6. Mr. Mazzu schooling Coach Strickland in the art of proper theatre terminology.

GIF made by Sarah Shevenock 

In only one episode, we have already been given what I’m sure will be one of Rise’s most iconic lines. As football Coach Strickland is trying to keep Robbie from joining the drama club, he makes a grave mistake: he calls Spring Awakening a play, instead of a musical. Not to worry theatre fans—Mr. Mazzu corrects him with the oh-so-sassy line “Actually, musicals are typically referred to as shows, not plays.” YOU GO, MR. MAZZU!!

7. We have a musical series back on our TVs!!!!!!

Image from Giphy

Smash, and Glee for what it’s worth, were widely loved by musical theatre fans. In the years since those shows ended, television has been lacking a certain musical flair. And while Rise looks to be different in tone from its predecessors, it’s still a musical television series, something all MTNs have been craving.  

Make sure to catch Rise when it moves to its normal time slot, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.

Sarah Shevenock is a graduate of The College of William and Mary, where she served as a staff writer and Campus Correspondent for Her Campus William and Mary. Currently, she is a National Contributing Writer and Entertainment Blogger. In her free time, she enjoys reading voraciously, watching morning news programs, and keeping up with the latest television and movie news. She loves to talk about anything and everything related to theatre, cheer for her beloved Pittsburgh Penguins, and drink fancy coffee.
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