Kristen Bell is making it possible for adults to re-do high school — at least a really important part of it.
For Encore! — an original docuseries that’ll debut November 12 on Disney+ — former teenage drama geeks are asked to reconvene at their alma mater to re-stage their old musical. Bell put out a casting call for folks who performed in shows like Annie, Anything Goes, or Oklahoma! during the 1970s through the 2000s to give it another go.
The series actually began as a special on ABC in 2017 before the streaming service picked it up as part of its lineup of unscripted and scripted shows. It wasn’t a hard sell, says Bell, who not only executive produces the show with Jason Cohen and Will Gluck (Easy A) but also hosts and mentors Encore!.
“Everybody knew something was there, as you can see from the previews,” says the Frozen 2 actress during a recent Disney+ presentation in Hollywood. “There is so much in this country that divides us and everywhere, and the one thing that everybody has the same reaction about is when you mention high school. That pit in your stomach whether it was amazing or traumatic or both. It really brings people together and there was so much to do in the show.”
Starting with the original special at ABC, “thousands” of people applied to participate in the show that required a one-week commitment. It helped if video exists from the original production; if the original director wasn’t around, there are actual Broadway mucky-mucks who help out during the series.
“No matter what job you had, everybody wanted to come back,” says Bell. “That speaks to how much you grow as a human being from high school to adulthood. We have a 44-year reunion in this show featuring the cast of Anything Goes at Los Angeles High. They come back on stage and they nail it! Everyone wanted to do it. There is something beautiful about reintroducing yourself to your friends and shedding the labels that you had, the box you were in, before you knew how to communicate, before you knew what vulnerability meant.”
Watch the video above for more about Encore!, which premieres Tuesday with the debut of Disney+.