A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Reaching a common goal always takes perseverance and teamwork, and cast members reap their just rewards as they accept applause and praise after their performances. Re-staging a show with scant rehearsal time also takes significant courage.
Positive Role Models
Some of the most interesting drama is offstage, as ex-classmates connect to talk about how their lives have changed, reflect on what brought them to where they are today. Some participants are touchingly honest, like Annie cast member Jarron, who talks about how being abandoned by his parents as a child affected him as a parent. Another cast member remembers how kind others were to him during high school cancer treatment. One actor emphasizes communal nature of theater: "It's not about you tonight, it's about giving to the audience." Since each episode features a different cast, audience members won't get to know participants on a deeper level, but we do connect to their hopes and fears, see how their adult lives compare to high school.
Violence & Scariness
Some musicals may have violent aspects (e.g., kidnapping and imprisonment of Beauty and the Beast, guns used as performance art in Annie Get Your Gun. In one episode, a man talks about "gay bashings" that took place at his school in the '90s (boys were thrown into trash cans by bullies); a participant talks about having had cancer as a teen and we see a photo of him in bed with a breathing tube.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some plays have elements that are slightly risque: Grease has a subplot about pregnancy; in Annie Miss Hannigan wears lingerie and flirts with men. Participants may talk about dating and romance, like one actor who remembers figuring out he was gay while he was in his high school show.
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Any cursing is bleeped; actors may say things like "We freaking did it!"
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults gather at bars and drink beers and cocktails; no one acts drunk.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Encore! is a reality show about former cast members of high school musicals who are brought back together years after the show to mount one more performance. The amount of sexual content and violence in each episode varies with the show being produced. Some shows, like Grease, have risque elements like songs about sex and a subplot about pregnancy; Oklahoma! has a song about suicide. These references are very brief and not lingered on. Any cursing among cast members is bleeped. Adults drink together responsibly, toasting each other with beers or sharing wine at dinner with no one getting drunk. Cast members talk touchingly about their lives in high school and how they've changed; expect to hear personal anecdotes about marriage, divorce, parenthood, illness, and other sensitive topics. This sharing is generally well-received, with understanding and hugs. Participants demonstrate perseverance and teamwork as they rehearse the show for long hours over a five-day period; they then show courage by getting onstage in front of their loved ones to perform.
Is It Any Good?
Sweet and easy to love, this charming reality series will inspire wistful nostalgia in viewers of a certain age. Theater is a time-honored gathering place for misfits; even those who didn't painstakingly prepare an audition song for their high school production of Cabaret already know that the stage was a place where outcasts could belong. The lovely thing that Encore! uncovers is that this "all for one" vibe is just as important to middle-aged people as to high schoolers. Watching former classmates and compadres reconnect, at first stiffly and haltingly, then more genuinely as they rehearse together, is simply gorgeous. In the Annie episode, former cast member Jarron says he was so shy in high school that he had barely any friends; his fellow Annie re-launchers don't even recognize him when he walks into the first day of rehearsals. Over beers, he admits he feared having kids because his own parents abandoned him; he didn't want to ruin someone else's life. "I bet you're a really good dad, though," says Jaimie, the former homecoming queen who barely even noticed Jarron in high school. Jarron's face lights up at the thought -- and it's obvious that Jaimie's right when we see his elated kids watching Dad onstage.
If it's sweet watching reunited cast members connecting to their high school selves and each other, it's even sweeter how touchingly grateful they are to have the experience, and how thrilled their loved ones are to share in it too. "It probably wasn't an Academy Award performance," says one player's dad after the end of a show, smiling from ear to ear, visibly proud. "But he did well." Debbie, who's playing multiple orphans in the Annie cast, calls her young children on the phone to demonstrate her dance number. "I want my kids to see 'Hey, she can do something!'" They do -- and they cling to her like burrs after she finishes her turn, clearly impressed with this version of their mother. No, these aren't Academy Award performances. But you'll want to present Encore! with a great big bouquet of roses anyway.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.