Tony Award-winning actor Laura Benanti has spent much of her quarantine launching an online movement where she offered to be an audience for those whose musicals were cancelled.
The project, #SunshineSongs, is now the inspiration for a special for nascent streaming service HBO Max.
The WarnerMedia-owned service has greenlit Homeschool Musical: Class Of 2020, a scripted musical special that features students from across the U.S.
It marks the first COVID-19-related order for HBO Max, which launched earlier this week.
Homeschool Musical: Class of 2020 will explore the themes of classic teen movies through the lens of a world turned upside down by the global pandemic. The cast, featuring a diverse group of student actors, will play seniors from the same high school and while the pandemic may have shut down their school, the drama and romantic intrigue live on.
Benanti, who also starred in Supergirl and Younger, will exec produce along with Randy Barbato, Fenton Bailey, and Tom Campbell for World of Wonder Productions and Leland, who has worked with Ariana Grande and Selena Gomez will write and compose original songs.
“As a mom of teenagers, I know that this time has been a struggle for them. High School seniors in particular have been hit hard by this pandemic, their dreams of homecoming, prom, spring performances and even graduation being cancelled,” said Jennifer O’Connell, HBO Max’s executive vice president original non-fiction and kids programming. “Laura’s brilliant idea to give these kids an audience and a platform has blossomed into this unique opportunity for us to not only celebrate their talent, but to entertain many other families across the country sharing their experience.”
“Our school shows are more than just entertainment. At the very least, they bring our communities together to revel in the talent of our young artists. At their best, they are a life changing experience that these kids will bring with them into the rest of their lives,” added Benanti. “I am thrilled that the #SunshineSongs initiative has put the spotlight on so many incredible young performers; grateful to World of Wonder for its grand vision and to HBO Max for providing a global platform on which America’s youth can shine.”
Benanti is represented by UTA and Untitled.