The show opens as we see young people from all over New York City audition and hope to be accepted into the NYC High School of Performing Arts, [I Pray I Make P.A]. We are introduced to the main characters as well as the teachers, as Miss Sherman tells the successful applicants that it will take a lot of Hard Work to succeed at the prestigious school. In a drama class led by Mr. Myers we are introduced to Nick Piazza, a wannabe actor who is serious about his work [I Wanna Make Magic]. Lovesick classmate Serena Katz tries to win his affections, but Nick is more focused on rehearsing scenes. Joe discusses emotional and physical reactions as he sings about Carmen, a beautiful girl he sees in dance class and he tells the class that I Can’t Keep it Down.
Over in dance class Tyrone cannot get to grips with classical ballet. He is anxious to show Miss Bell that he is a good dancer, but is frustrated being paired with Iris, a ballet dancer who mocks his lack of experience. Tyrone begins rapping to express his anger [Tyrone’s Rap]. Iris is overtaken with emotion and kisses him.
Nick and Serena continue rehearsing together, and Serena suggests a more romantic scene [Let’s Play a Love Scene] but her advances are somewhat ignored. Over in music, Carmen interrupts Schlomo’s violin practice, suggesting lyrics for him to jam along to. Carmen joins his band and they begin to play together. During lunch Carmen and the other students dream of seeing their names in lights and how exciting it would be to be famous. [There She Goes/Fame]. Miss Sherman confronts Tyrone about his attitude towards learning, threatening to expel him if his grades do not pick up. Miss Bell argues that his artistic skills are worth keeping at the school [The Teachers’ Argument] and as Tyrone hears, he threatens to drop out of school.
The Junior Year begins with a Fall Festival, as the students sing I Want to Make Magic. Mabel, an overweight dancer, worries about dieting and how her life may progress [Mabel’s Prayer]. She decides to transfer to acting. Nick congratulates Serena on getting the lead role in their production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, and Serena is surprised that it will be Joe and not Nick starring as the love interest. Some of the students speculate the Nick is gay, and when confronted by Serena he angrily replies that he is not. Serena understands how hard it is to channel emotions [Think of Meryl Streep] and finally begins to understand acting. Carmen tells Schlomo of her plans to leave school and move to LA with a Hollywood agent. She is accused of taking drugs as Schlomo begs her not to leave, but is ignored.
Miss Sherman is keen to prove a point to Tyrone, making him read aloud in English class. He accuses her of being racist, and she slaps him in the face but is shocked at her own actions. Tyrone tells his classmates that he is a dancer and that is all he needs [Dancin’ on the Sidewalk] before writing ‘I Will Read’ on the chalkboard. Miss Sherman enters alone and is touched by the message and sings These are my Children.
In rehearsal for Romeo and Juliet Serena pleads with Joe to take it seriously. Nick tries to show Joe how to act, resulting in a stage kiss between him and Serena. Tyrone confronts Iris about her ignoring him, and he reads her passages of Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass’ to show her that he can be serious.
The teachers confront Miss Bell about helping Tyrone pass the year to get into dance school. She admits she has done wrong and that Tyrone has to repeat the year. Carmen’s body has been ravaged by drugs, and comes to school to tell Schlomo about her time in Hollywood [In L.A]. She promises to quit the drugs and to pick herself up.
At graduation ceremony Nick finally confesses his feelings for Serena and they promise to try and date despite living apart [Let’s Play a Love Scene – Reprise]. Schlomo tells the class that Carmen died from a drug overdose, and they sing Bring on Tomorrow in her memory.
- Pray I Make P.A – Company
- Hard Work – Company
- I Want to Make Magic – Nick
- Can’t Keep It Down – Joe, Students
- Tyrone’s Rap – Tyrone
- There She Goes! /Fame – Carmen, Students
- Let’s Play a Love Scene -Serena
- Bring on Tomorrow (pre reprise)- Schlomo, Carmen
- Teacher’s Argument – Miss Bell, Miss Sherman
- I Want to Make Magic (Reprise) – Nick and Company
- Mabel’s Prayer – Mabel, Students
- Think of Meryl Streep – Serena
- Dancin’ on the Sidewalk – Tyrone, Students
- These Are My Children – Miss Sherman
- In L.A. – Carmen
- Let’s Play a Love Scene (Reprise) – Nick and Serena
- Bring on Tomorrow (Reprise) – Schlomo, Students
- Finale: Hard Work/Fame (Reprise) – Company