TV Review: “Encore!” on Disney Plus – Should You Watch It?
“The show is so quintessential Disney, that if not for Disney+, this is a show that could have aired on Sunday Nights on ABC”
In the 25 years since graduating high school, so many things change. People build families, old friendships fade, insecurities might disappear, but what happens when you’re asked to relive your defining moment of high school one more time.
When Disney+ debuts on November 12th, one of the original series that is available at launch is
“Encore!”. In the series, Executive producer Kristen Bell brings together former cast-mates of a high school musical, tasking them with re-creating their original performance in a high school reunion like no other.
Disney shared with The Streamable a sneak peak of the first two episodes of the series. In those two episodes, Santee High School (Class of 1996) and Sagniaw High School (2007) are asked to reprise their high school renditions of “Annie” and “Beauty and the Beast.”
Each episode starts with what’s happened since high school. Some have faced health scares, others have found comfort in their sexuality, and most have lost touch without one another.
In the case of Santee High School 1996 cast of “Annie”, none have performed since the fall of the final curtain over 20 years ago. With just five days to pull together the cast, they’ve brought in the professionals.
In the first episode, Marcia Milgrom Dodge, the director of the 2009 Broadway production of Ragtime, has been asked to get a cast full of theater novices back on stage one last time. Adam Wachter, an award-winning composer, joins as the production’s music director and Melinda Sullivan, a finalist on “So You Think You Can Dance”, serves as the show’s choreographer.
When the group comes together and sings for the first time, it’s clear that it’s going to be a miracle to pull off a production in just 5 days. The show has a similar feeling of other reality shows of years past like “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”
The fact that they are putting on a musical is just a backdrop in what the show is really about. While in high school, every major event feels like it defines your life, it never does.
In the first episode, the show really hits its stride when the group is around a camp fire after rehearsal. Benaiah, talks about coming out in high school, after writing an editorial in the school newspaper following a series of gay bashing. The rest of group couldn’t recall the incident, just showing how one event can be so defining for one person, and not even be on the radar of another.
Jeremy, who plays “Daddy Warbucks” in the musical, had cancer in high school. “I didn’t know if I was going to live, so I wanted to have a blast.” He recalls a story, how one day after treatment, his then girlfriend Jamie (who is also in the musical), brought a poster with “weird things” like a “giraffe with human legs” that said on the very top, “see you’re not so different.”
“It was huge because (in high school), one of the biggest things I didn’t want was to stand out,” says Jeremy. Jamie, who was the school’s homecoming queen, remembered how terrified she was at the time. They had told Jeremy that he would never have kids, so to “High School Jamie”, that meant if she married him, she would never have kids either.
As with most shows in this genre, the show hits a breaking point in the middle, where the cast doesn’t know whether the show can go on. Annie, who plays “Annie” in the musical, says “you know how they say you can never go home again. I just feel like we should have never gone home again.”
One of the shining lights in the premiere episode is Miss. DiPuma, the high school’s drama teacher, who surprises the cast. The way the cast talks about her shows that being a teacher often means more than just teaching. Benaiah remember her as being his support system while finding comfort in his sexuality, while Jeremy recalls her letting him sneak into her classroom to nap on the couch when he was too tired from his cancer treatments.
Whether you are a musical-lover or not, this is a feel good watch that will take you back to your defining moment in high school — whether it was your final game, winning a class election, or your final performance.
As the five days tick down, it’s clear that no matter what happens, the show must go on. Each episode ends with Kristen Bell surprising the cast before their big performance. But, the reality is, that as adults, the cast realizes that unlike in high school, this might be the last time they all see each other.
The show is so quintessential Disney, that if not for Disney+, this is a show that could have aired on Sunday Nights on ABC (because in fact, before it was reborn as a series, it did as a special in 2017). We do wish the show had faster pacing, as it does drag on at times, but you will enjoy watching it. Encore! isn’t going to be the reason you sign-up for Disney+, but of the early originals, it is feel good show that will put smile on the faces of your entire family.
Disney+ will launch on November 12th at just $6.99 a month. The service includes four simultaneous streams, unlimited downloads, 4K streaming across a range of devices including Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, Chromecast, iOS, Android, & Web.
They will launch with a deep catalog including the entire Disney Vault, Pixar and Star Wars libraries, MCU films like Captain Marvel, and the entire 30 seasons of The Simpsons. They will have six original series on day one including the highly anticipated Star Wars TV series — The Mandalorian.
Executive producer Kristen Bell brings together former castmates of a high school musical, tasking them with re-creating their original performance in high school reunion like no other. Emotions run high as the former students face faded friendships, former flames, self-doubt, and killer choreography.
“Encore!” will premiere on Disney+ on November 12th, with the second episode debuting on November 15th.