GREENBERG STARS IN PBS’S “BROADWAY OR BUST”

Evan Greenberg

Evan Greenberg on stage for his solo at the Minskoff Theatre. PHOTOS/Henry McGee

Evan Greenberg, a 2012 graduate of Riverwood International Charter School in Sandy Springs, will make his television debut in his first reality show this fall for PBS’s show “Broadway or Bust.”

The new three-part documentary miniseries chronicles the real-life experiences of America’s top high school musical performers will premiere nationwide on PBS stations in September. The show follows 60 high school students from across the country, all whom are vying in the ultimate competition to find the nation’s best young theater stars, and highlights 10 of the strongest contenders, of which Greenberg is one.

The students converge in New York City to compete in the fourth-annual National High School Musical Theater Awards in New York City, otherwise known as the “Jimmy” Awards, which were held on June 25 at the Minskoff Theatre on Broadway. To qualify, students must win their regional competitions.

Greenberg won the Shuler Hensley Award (Georgia’s Tony Awards for high school students) for his performance in RICS’s spring production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” The prize on the national level was the honor of being named Best Actor, as well as merit scholarships and professional opportunities.

In July, both he and fellow Shuler Hensley winner Brittany Dankwa of Tri-Cities High School (East Point, Ga.) were also selected among six other nominees to fly to Los Angeles to help promote the miniseries for PBS.

“Intense” is the word Evan used to describe the six-day New York City experience of arduous rehearsals under the guidance of director Van Kaplan, choreographer Keisha Lalama and various NYU faculty. The proceedings culminated with a final performance.

“I knew we weren’t going to have a break,” Greenberg said. “I didn’t even get to unpack; I got out of the cab and the PBS people were right in my face saying, ‘Let’s go to Times Square to film you there!’

“We worked from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., never leaving the [New York University’s] Tisch School of the Arts.”

Students had to learn medleys and choreography and participate in vocal coaching, dance lessons and master classes with Michael Feinstein and other theater professionals.
The Awards’ nickname “Jimmy” remembers producer James M. Nederlander, Chairman of the Nederlander Producing Company of America Inc., the owner/operator of a vast chain of theatres, including nine Broadway houses, and a producer of entertainment for more than 70 years. The three-year old program welcomes students from across the country who earned top recognition in their regional and state award ceremonies.

NHSMTA has been recognized by The National Endowment for the Arts, The Broadway League, The Shubert Organization and other industry organizations and foundations committed to nurturing future artists and audiences.

“I’m more physical; I try to bring more realism to my performance,” Greenberg said of his own performing style.

Of the other nominees and their abilities, he had nothing but compliments admiration:

“All of them could easily be on Broadway. There was so much talent.”

Having gone from being a big fish in a little pond to a little fish in a big pond, the experience was admittedly a little intimidating.

“It steps up your game and makes you so much better than you thought you could be,” Greenberg said. “There are so many people that are just as good as you. And you have to work, work, work if you want to do what you want to do. You have to be so dedicated because if you don’t have that dedication, you’re not going to make it anywhere.”

His commentary on his own performance of his other solo, “Master of the House” from his appearance as second-rate thief Thenardaux in RICS’ 2011 production of “Les Miserables,” was:

“The best I’ve ever done, thanks to the coaching and that I was around all these other kids.”

Were most of the others focused on a Broadway career?

“Oh my gosh, yes!” he replied with a smile. “I was the only kid that didn’t have a Broadway song on his iPod. In the dressing room, I think I was the only one listening to Radiohead while they were listening to ‘Newsies’ or ‘Hairspray.’ I was a little different.”

The eight nominees chosen to represent the Jimmy Awards in the PBS L.A. promotional event were treated “very high class,” Evan recounts.

“We got there and a limo jeep picked us up and took us to the Beverly Hills Hotel.”

For the press performance, the students rehearsed on the ballroom stage – where the Golden Globes are held – and completed their day with a talk-back session and personal interviews.

Evan concludes that it was an amazing experience.

“This was crazy, you know – I think I really just got lucky,” he said. “It was a huge opportunity.”

As he leaves Riverwood behind and heads off to major in communications at the University of Georgia, he will take this special experience with him, appreciating the preparation that the Riverwood theatre department and overall high school education provided him.

“I think definitely the best part about Riverwood is it made me a well-rounded person,” Greenberg said.

Without revealing the winner – because you have to watch the miniseries – each hour-long program will have a clear and dramatic story arc that ends with a cliffhanger.

The three parts are broken down into “The Casting Call: The Big Break,” where viewers 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.

Editor’s note: “Broadway Or Bust” will air on three consecutive Sundays, Sept. 9, 16 and 23, at 8 p.m.

By Anne Boatwright
For the Atlanta Jewish Times