My latest television obsession is Encore, a reality series on the Disney+ streaming service.
The concept of the show is incredibly compelling: the casts of various high-school musicals around the United States are reunited several years after their performances, paired with Broadway and Off-Broadway directors, choreographers and musical directors. Together, they have five days to restage the show they performed in their youth.
When I first started watching, I felt Encore belonged to that category of TV that includes Queer Eye, House Hunters, Extreme Home Makeover and pretty much everything that airs on Food Network. The human element is touching, and no matter how high the stakes feel, they’re ultimately never actually that far out of reach. These shows sometimes function as the visual equivalent of a bag of chips.
As I’ve continued to watch, however, I’ve been drawn fully into the drama playing out onscreen.
Through the first six episodes, I’ve watched a class from California reprise their 1992 production of Annie; a group of Texas 20-year-olds mount Beauty and the Beast; alumni in their 40s stage The Sound of Music in Flint, Mich.; and New Jersey classmates pull off Grease after first performing it in 1990.
When I was a student at George McDougall High School, I didn’t participate in my school’s drama program (Annie, coincidentally, was the school’s major production while I was there) so Encore doesn’t resonate with me as a theatre kid. But, as a former teen, I do find it deeply emotionally engaging.
The high-school experience, for better or for worse, is one that the majority of us share. We remember sitting at those desks, walking those locker-lined hallways. We remember the friends we spent our time with, the clubs we belonged to, the people we avoided, the people we barely knew.
Encore is the embodiment of that famous Bruce Springsteen lyric, “Glory days, they’ll pass you by.” It’s a show about getting older, and about the passage of time. It’s about the dreams we insisted would fulfill us when we were young, and the things that end up fulfilling us once we became adults. It’s about the friends and romances we clung to as teenagers that, for whatever reason, we lost hold of.
Watching Encore reminds me of the high-school friends I haven’t seen in the last decade, of important friendships that fizzled out or ended abruptly. It reminds me of the dreams I had as a teenager that ultimately went unachieved, and makes me grateful for the opportunities and experiences I couldn’t have anticipated.
By watching other people reunite and relive their glory days, you can reflect on where you’ve been – and how far you’ve come.
Ben Sherick, AirdrieToday.com
Follow me on Twitter @BenSherick