Musical theater broadcast live on TV for 1st time in Northeast Florida

Students perform songs from Disney's 'Newsies' live during 'Curtains Up' on WJXT

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Musical theater was broadcast live on television for the first time ever in the Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia area on Thursday night.

An hourlong special, "Curtains Up: The Making of a High School Musical," on WJXT Channel 4 took viewers behind the curtain with the High School Summer Musical Theatre Experience at Florida State College at Jacksonville as talented students in Northeast Florida prepared and presented numbers from Disney's "Newsies."

More than 70 students, grades seven through 12, were cast in this production as dancers, performers and technicians to recreate Disney’s 2012 Broadway hit.

REPLAY: "Curtains Up: The Making of a High School Musical"  |
PHOTO GALLERY: Behind the scenes of 'Curtains Up'

The Local Station teamed with FSCJ to produce the documentary-style special showcasing how the cast and crew were preparing for their performances Friday through Sunday and July 26 through July 28 at the Wilson Center for the Arts at the FSCJ South Campus. "Curtains Up" included exclusive footage of auditions in April; callbacks; rehearsals, which started in May; set development; and a special look at the training behind one of the choreographed fight scenes.

The program also had live performances of popular "Newsies" songs "Carrying the Banner," "Watch What Happens," "The World Will Know," "That’s Rich" and "The King of New York."

"I did not know it was going to be so awesome. Everybody needs to come and see this because it’s just great," said grandmother Rosilyn Spencer, who was in the audience as the students performed live. "Broadway has nothing on Channel 4!"

FSCJ President John Avendano was also in the audience Thursday evening.

"I thought it was amazing. It was just a great performance of very talented young kids. I understand the way the whole production was put together. In my mind, I think it was just brilliant," Avendano said. "The way the college can partner with the area high schools, like I said, these talented young kids, I think it is just a great way to showcase the community and the telling of the people who are within the community."

The live audience erupted into applause after each performance, including a few who know what it’s like to be on the stage. Joshua Johnson and Joel Oliver are alumni of the Summer Musical Theatre Experience. 

"It is so important to foster education in the arts for young students because it shows them that it is possible, that you can do it past high school, that there’s a world out there," Johnson said.

Oliver added: "This is a great place to start, also. And if you want to go into programs, if you want to go to school for it, this is a great place to get started in the arts."

For dates, times and details on how to get tickets for the upcoming performances, click here.

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