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Disney Channel casts pilot for musical comedy 'Madison High'

by jmaloni
Tue, Feb 22nd 2011 02:35 pm

"High School Musical's" Alyson Reed to reprise role of drama teacher Ms. Darbus

A favorite star from "High School Musical" will be joined by six multitalented performers in a new music and dance-driven comedy pilot, "Madison High" (working title). The series pilot introduces a troupe of theater students led by the melodramatic drama teacher Ms. Darbus, a beloved character from the cultural sensation "High School Musical." Production on the pilot begins in March in consideration for a Disney Channel series to premiere in early 2012.

To drive the storyline, "Madison High" will feature four original songs written by noted songwriters. They are: Matthew Gerrard ("Hannah Montana," "High School Musical"), Robbie Nevil ("Hannah Montana," "High School Musical"), Jamie Houston ("High School Musical"), James Dean Hicks, David Lawrence ("High School Musical," "High School Musical 2"), Faye Greenberg ("High School Musical 2"), Kara DioGuardi ("Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam") and J.D. Salbego.

Bill Borden and Barry Rosenbush ("High School Musical" and its sequels) and Lester Lewis ("The Office") and Paul Hoen ("Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam") are the executive producers. The pilot was written by Lewis and will be directed by Hoen.

In making the announcement, Gary Marsh, president, entertainment and chief creative officer, Disney Channels Worldwide, said: "'High School Musical' introduced the joys of musicals and musical theater to a whole new generation and kids and families. They embraced the themes explored in those movies - about expressing oneself and following your dreams. And now, with 'Madison High,' we hope to give kids a whole new set of characters with whom to engage - along with more great original music, dance numbers and songs."

Tony Award nominee Alyson Reed reprises her "High School Musical" TV and film roles as Ms. Darbus, the drama teacher at East High School who relocates to Madison High. The pilot will introduce several new characters, including students Devin Daniels, Peyton Hall and Wednesday Malone, played by actors/singers/dancers Luke Benward (Disney Channel Original Movie "Minuteman"), Leah Lewis and G Hannelius (Disney Channel Original Movie "Den Brother"). Additional casting announcements are forthcoming for the characters Cherry O'Keefe, Colby Baker and Harvey Flynn.

At Madison High, the students embark on a journey of self-discovery while trying to build a revolutionary theatre program under the tutelage of Ms. Darbus. She casts a diverse troupe of both seasoned and raw actors to create an original musical production based on their lives.

Reed stars as drama teacher Ms. Darbus, the role she originated in "High School Musical," followed by its sequel and feature film. The Tony Award-nominated actress starred on Broadway in "Dancin'," "Dance a Little Closer," "Cabaret," "A Grand Night for Singing" and "Marilyn: An American Fable." She can also be seen as Cassie in Richard Attenborough's film adaptation of "A Chorus Line," as well as multiple television guest starring roles.

15-year-old Benward has the lead role of Devin Daniels, a motocross racer looking for a new hobby. The native of Nashville, Tenn., is the son of an actress and a musician, and since age 5 has appeared in commercials, music videos and movies, including the Disney Channel Original Movie "Minutemen," "How to Eat Fried Worms," "Doggone," "Because of Winn-Dixie," "Mostly Ghostly," "Dear John" and "We Were Soldiers."

14-year-old singer Lewis has landed her first leading role as Peyton Hall, a formerly home-schooled tennis champion. Born in China and raised in Orlando, Fla., Lewis has appeared in national commercials for Kraft Cheese, Home Depot and Natures Own Bread, as well as an international commercial for Disneyland Hong Kong.

12-year-old G Hannelius is set to play Wednesday Malone, a precocious starlet in the making. The Boston native began her acting career at the age of 8 at the Children's Theater of Maine. A familiar face on Disney Channel, she starred in the short form series "Leo Little's Big Show" and "Den Brother," and has appeared on "Sonny With A Chance," "Good Luck Charlie," "Hannah Montana" and Disney XD's "I'm in the Band." Her other television credits include a series regular role on ABC's "Surviving Suburbia."

Casting will be announced soon for these characters: Cherry O'Keefe - Madison High's resident queen bee and blogger; Harvey Flynn - the overly officious stage manager and reigning president of the drama club; and Colby Baker - the artistic anime fan whose hand-drawn Manga is inspired by his high school experiences.

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