The Laura Benanti-produced documentary special Homeschool Musical: Class of 2020 premieres on HBO Max December 17. Inspired by the Tony-winning Gypsy and She Loves Me star's #SunshineSongs social media campaign, the film centers on the struggles and triumphs of seven theatre kids of the class of 2020 as they face school musical cancellations in the wake of a global pandemic. Each profiled student also gets to share a self-produced music video inspired by their experiences as they explore the power and impact of their own art.
Originally announced as a scripted special, Homeschool Musical was born of Benanti's wish to bring a little light into the lives of theatre kids whose spring musicals were canceled when schools around the world shut down.
"This may seem a little silly, but I know a lot of high schools were going to have their musicals and those musicals got canceled, and that is a bummer because I know for so many of us—I know for me, my high school musical was like a life saver," says Benanti in a video posted March 13. "So, if you would like to sing a song that you are not going to get to sing now and tag me, I want to see you. I want to hear it."
Benanti's call got a huge response with thousands of submissions and views in the millions. Benanti then teamed up with community activist Kate Deiter-Maradei to produce a series of online concerts with performances from the students of #SunshineSongs that was distributed to senior living communities and homes, offering connection and entertainment to communities of people largely not connected to social media and, because of COVID-19, unable to even have family visits.
Homeschool Musical is executive produced by Benanti along with Randy Barbato, Fenton Bailey, Tom Campbell, Sharla Sumpter Bridgett, and Alex Coletti. The documentary is produced by World of Wonder (RuPaul's Drag Race).