Quarantine Musical Special From Laura Benanti Set at HBO Max

The scripted effort is inspired by the Tony-winning actress' online Sunshine Songs initiative.
Jenny Anderson
Laura Benanti

HBO Max is staging its own high school musical.

The just-launched streaming platform has greenlit Homeschool Musical: Class of 2020, a special inspired by Tony-winning actress Laura Benanti's Sunshine Songs initiative, in which high schoolers upload at-home performances from spring musicals that were canceled when the coronavirus pandemic shut down schools across the country.

The scripted project, targeted to premiere later in the summer, will feature a diverse group of student actors playing seniors from the same high school. It will explore tried-and-true themes from teen movies through the lens of a world turned upside down by the pandemic — and while the virus may have shut down their school, the drama and romantic intrigue live on.

Composer Leland (aka Brett McLaughlin), who has written songs for Ariana Grande, Troye Sivan, BTS and RuPaul's Drag Race, will write the original songs and score for the special. Benanti executive produces with World of Wonder's Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato and Tom Campbell.

"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 canceled,” Jennifer O’Connell, executive vp original non-fiction and kids programming for HBO Max, said Thursday in a statement. "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."

Added Benanti, “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. 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."

HBO Max launched Wednesday with a handful of original series, including the Anna Kendrick-led Love Life and a new Looney Tunes animated show. It also features a sizable library of shows from WarnerMedia properties, including the Harry Potter moviesFriends, Game of Thrones, The Sopranos and The Big Bang Theory