An insider-look at how schools ready their Mary Poppins productions for Rising Star Contention;

Playing important roles: budget, community involvement

mpMay 12, 2017 – NEWARK, NJ – NJTV, New Jersey’s public television network, takes to stages across the Garden State in a new documentary that that captures the vitality and diversity of the local high school arts community.  I Can’t… I Have Rehearsal premieres Wednesday, May 17th at 8pm on NJTV (check local listings).  Click here for a preview.

For a select few, the high school musical is sacred. Every year those students come together for the Tony Awards of New Jersey high school musical theatre: The Rising Star Awards. But first, they have to get their shows off the ground. This documentary is the story of six very different high schools from across New Jersey as they rehearse, perform and compete with the very same show: Mary Poppins.

The hour-long documentary, produced and directed by former NJTV News Arts Correspondent Maddie Orton, features the theater casts and crews from Franklin High School, Rahway High School, Somerville High School, Summit High School, Union High School and Vineland High School.  The film follows ongoing show rehearsals and the off-and-on stage drama and camaraderie of its actors.  I Can’t… I Have Rehearsal looks at the differences that budget, arts education offerings, and parental involvement make in the final product.

“I try not to compare what we do with someone else. I just want us to do the best show we can do,” says Tim Walton, director of the Franklin High School production, in the film.  “Money shouldn’t determine whether your show is good.  What your kids do with that show determines what’s good.”

Adding insight to the competition and culture of young performers are Tony-winner and TV star Laura Benanti (Gypsy), Tony-nominee Rob McClure (Chaplin: The Musical) and Shanice Williams (The Wiz Live!).

“This film takes a very unique look at what makes these high school musicals tick,” said NJTV General Manager John Servidio.  “The productions are as diverse as the towns of New Jersey from which they hail, but the passion to put them on is universal.”

“The world of high school musical theater is an incredible one that I was lucky enough to have inhabited when I was in school,” said Orton.  “I want to share that experience with those who love it, those who support it, and those who’ve always wondered what the heck those theater kids are up to in the arts wing.  Through theater arts education, these students not only hone a craft, but also become better problem solvers, storytellers, and collaborators.  There’s more to the high school musical than meets the eye, and this is a love letter to it.”

I Can’t… I Have Rehearsal is a production of Public Media NJ, Inc. for WNET.  John Servidio is Executive in Charge.  Phil Alongi is Executive Producer.  Maddie Orton is Producer and Director. Frank Guastella is Producer. Funding for this program was made possible by the Jean Dubinsky Appleton Estate.



Vineland High School's Jaclyn Kell as Mary Poppins

Vineland High School's Jaclyn Kell as Mary Poppins

Franklin High School's Angelina Frances as Mary Poppins