"Broadway or Bust" Miniseries, About National High School Musical Theater Awards, Begins Sept. 9 on PBS

By Michael Gioia
and Adam Hetrick
September 9, 2012

"Broadway or Bust," a new three-part documentary miniseries chronicling the experiences of high school kids with showbiz dreams, premieres on nationwide PBS stations Sept. 9.



The documentary follows 60 high school students as they prepare to compete in the National High School Musical Theater Awards in New York City, otherwise known as the Jimmy Awards. Named for producer James M. Nederlander, the awards welcome students from across the country, who earned top recognition in their local high school award ceremonies.

"I think these kids are our future," James L. Nederlander, the son of James M., told Playbill.com. "Last year, [my] friend's daughter was in camp in Texas — a camp where you do everything from archery to drama — and the girl in the bunk next to her said, 'I always wanted to be in the Jimmy Awards.' I almost fell off my chair hearing that… [The awards are presented] on a Broadway stage, and it's in New York, so that brings [students] to a climax of: 'Look where I am. Look where I'm heading. Look where I can go.'"

He added that the Nederlander mission is "to get as many children around the country as excited in theatre as they can [be]."

He continued, "As we all see, sometimes theatre programs are the first to be cut, and if there's a child out there who has the will and desire to do theatre, they'll figure out a way to do it. In a business that's so difficult to break into, I feel that the Jimmy Awards give them hope to say, 'I can do this. I can be a part of this community.'"

Two actors compete to win the Jimmy Award for Best Performance by an Actress and Best Performance by an Actor. The Jimmy recipients receive college scholarships for their achievements. Leading up to the awards ceremony, students participate in a week of rehearsals, coachings and auditions.

Deborah Cox and Constantine Maroulis
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The fourth annual National High School Musical Theater Awards were held June 25 at the Minskoff Theatre. Tony Award nominee Constantine Maroulis and Grammy nominee Deborah Cox co-hosted the ceremony and appear in the documentary.

"We've got some amazing judges," added Nederlander. "Everyone from Scott Ellis, the great director, to Bernard Telsey, the casting director, to [The Broadway League chairman and Nederlander executive] Nick Scandalios… They're striving for the best."

"Broadway or Bust" will air three consecutive Sundays, Sept. 9-23 from 8-9 PM ET on PBS. The three-hour mini-series is produced by WGBH Boston's Laurie Donnelly and Lance K. Shultz. The three parts are broken down into "The Casting Call: The Big Break," where we see regional auditions across the country; followed by "Behind Closed Doors: The Cram Session," as the students prepare to compete in New York City; and finally, "And the Winner Is…" in which the judges deliver the results.

Here's how it's billed: "Part competition, part performance and part non-fiction drama, 'Broadway or Bust' will capture the highly charged atmosphere as the country's most talented teens are plunged into the theatrical capital of the world to compete for a shot at Broadway and college scholarships. In addition to being hosted by Broadway stars Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox surprise visits and cameo appearances by some of today's biggest Broadway names will offer the kids insider perspectives and tips about working on the Great White Way."

"Full of captivating performances, compelling characters and dramatic storylines, this series will pull back the curtain to show viewers the whole process — the talent, ambition, drive, vulnerability, discipline, resiliency, dreams dashed and dreams fulfilled — both the highs and lows of what it takes to make it to Broadway," producer Shultz added in a statement.

Here's a look at the trailer: