Rise, the new series from Friday Night Lights and Parenthood executive producer Jason Katims, chronicles a teacher who leads his high school drama department through a production of Spring Awakening.
Each week on the show, which premieres March 13 on NBC immediately following the This is Us season finale, the cast will perform songs from the Tony Award-winning play as their production progresses, as well as cover songs and originals.
The Friday preceding each episode, Atlantic Records will release music from the forthcoming show via all digital service providers and streaming services. On May 11, the label will put out Rise Season 1: The Album, which will also contain additional unreleased tracks.
Below, Billboard premieres the full-length video to the Rise cast’s remake of Macklemore’s “Glorious,” snippets of which have been used in promos for the show.
“It wasn’t something that was in the show,” Katims says of the “Glorious” remake. “NBC started this promotion in order to launch the show and they came to us to do the song with the cast for the promos. It came out so well, we wanted to include it on the soundtrack, even though it’s not in the show.”
Also available today are the Rise cast’s covers of Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe,” “I Believe” from Spring Awakening and a Spring Awakening montage. Plus, the cast performs “Football Freestyle,” an original piece of music written specifically for the show by Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda. Rise executive producer Jeffrey Seller was a producer on Hamilton, hence the Miranda connection.
The cast includes Josh Radnor, Rosie Perez, Auli’i Cravalho, Damon J. Gillespie, Marley Shelton, Rarmian Newton, Ted Sutherland, Amy Forsyth, Casey W. Johnson, Taylor Richardson, Joe Tippett, and Shirley Rumierk.
Katims got his start as a playwright before moving into television. “I didn’t do musical theater, but coming back to work on a show with theater is such a joy to do,” he says. “We were really lucky to do ‘Spring Awakening.’ The sounds as so beautiful as you keep working with them over the course of a season. You hear more and more in them.”
The ancillary songs were added on a “case-by-case basis,” says Katims, who worked with music supervisor Liza Richardson on the show. “For example, there’s a song coming up where the cast is at a party and they break-in into song.”
Unlike Fox’s former high school musical juggernaut Glee, which released its music day and date with the episode, Katims and his fellow executives decided to advance each episode with the Friday music drop. “We’re so proud of this music, we’re so proud of the work this young cast is doing,” Katims says. “We don’t feel it will take away from the episode, rather, we think it will build to the excitement leading to the air date.” Plus, it will build awareness for each upcoming episodes.
The full-length songs released each week and on the soundtrack are produced by Atlantic Records President, West Coast, Kevin Weaver, and Atlantic Records President, A&R, Pete Ganbarg, the twosome behind Atlantic’s release of both the Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen original Broadway cast recordings, as well as The Greatest Showman soundtrack.
Rise brought in Atlantic execs toward the end of last year, in part, to prepare all the songs for release by recording full-length renditions, since abridged versions were often used on the show. “We saw the pilot and fell in love with it,” Weaver says. most of the songs for the 10-episode first season had already been chosen, Atlantic recorded stand-alone pieces of audio, Weaver says. “Plus, there are some covers that aren’t in the episodes that will appear on the album.”
Each Friday, the number of songs dropped will vary. “Some episodes have less music, some have more,” Weaver says. “We’ll base it on the music in that week’s episode. We’re releasing the most important featured songs.”
At this point, no single track has been selected to be worked at radio, but just as The Greatest Showman’s “This Is Me” provoked intense viewer reaction that led to the song being worked at radio, Weaver says Atlantic will be watching closely to gauge how the songs from Rise do upon release.
Rise premieres at a time when there is a new generation of fans gravitating toward musical theater due to the success of Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, The Greatest Showman and more. “I’ve always been a fan of musicals, but I would say over the last handful of years, I’ve fallen more in love with that genre than I’ve ever been,” Katims says. “And I think it’s because of those type shows, including Fun Home and La La Land. There’s a renaissance in musical theater happening right now that’s very exciting. It’s exciting to me to dip a toe in the genre and work with some phenomenal talent.”