Everything you need to know about...Britannia High

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The Independent Culture

Rule Britannia!

Created by ITV in conjunction with Globe productions, Britannia High is a new musical drama series set in a fictional performing arts school. The story revolves around six bright young things, Claudine, Lauren, Danny, Lola, Jez and BB, who are all attempting, with ever-bubbling enthusiasm, to sing, dance and act their way to the top. A mix of Fame! and High School Musical, the show contains enough jazz hands and perma smiles to last a lifetime.

But aside from the gruelling process of scales and pirouettes en route to musical and theatrical stardom, the programme also, naturally, touches on closer-to-home issues of love, life and friendship. Viewers are taken on a journey from the first real-life casting process through to an eight-part scripted drama series which will conclude with a spectacular live episode.

How did it come about?

The show was created by Strictly Come Dancing judge and choreographer Arlene Phillips and the theatre producer David Ian, with music penned by Take That star Gary Barlow. As with many reality TV talent programmes, the creators held open auditions to find Britain's hottest young talent. When auditions began in November 2007, there was no script, no set storyline and no characters. The producers insisted that they wanted to find the talent first, and work the entire thing around them. After a year of tooth-combing their way through the good, the bad and the hideously tone deaf, the panel settled on the final seven.

So who are they?

The show is set to feature a whole host of celebrity cameos– from Girls Aloud to Boyzone via less immediately recognisable guest appearances from Coronation Street's Ryan Thomas, ex-Busted star and I'm A Celebrity winner Matt Willis, EastEnders and Hollyoaks actress Gemma Bissex, and comedian Richard Blackwood. Supporting the troops through their musical madness is Principal Nugent played by Mark Benton (The Street, City Lights) and dance mentor Stefan, played by Adam Garcia (Coyote Ugly and Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen).

Mitch Hewer (fun-loving Danny) previously played Maxxie Oliver in Skins, and Georgina Hagen (Lauren) will be known to tweens for her role as Rebecca Chalmers in the final series of The Story of Tracy Beaker.

Can they cut it?

The troop's first fictional single "The Start of Something" is a teeny pop nightmare, as though S Club Juniors have revived their pop career and come back with dental veneers and a choreographer. With their exuberant bounce and "tits and teeth" stage-school scariness, they tick all the boxes for a classic high school musical troop.

The show is a soufflé of musical cheese. And for fans of reality TV auditions the documentary offers a chance to see an impressive selection of British talent while also offering the sick satisfaction derived from watching young wannabes who resemble half-dead cats with two left feet crying their way towards a predictable rejection. Sure to attract teenage wannabe followers.

Britannia High vs High School Musical

Following in the footsteps of the wildly successful, Emmy-award winning American television film High School Musical, Britannia High has a lot to live up to. Perhaps the familiarity of its British setting will be more appealing to teenage viewers, and certainly being able to following the team from auditions, through training to a finished programme will excite their fame-hungry appetites.

Where High School Musical revolves around two juniors from rival cliques – Troy Bolton ( Zac Ephron), captain of the basketball team, and Gabriella Montez ( Vanessa Hudgens), a beautiful and shy transfer student who excels in maths and science – Britannia High studies each of the seven starlets in equal light, and concentrates more on the process of making it on stage.

The hour-long episodes will need constant shots of thrilling stories to keep up the audience's morale. But perhaps, as they did with Skins, younger viewers will yet again lap up the chance to watch kids their own age living the kind of lives they can only dream of.

HEY, LET'S PUT ON A SHOW! MEET THE MAIN PLAYERS

Lola (Rana Roy)
A phenomenal dancer and highly popular, Lola has no idea how good she is. A true scatterbrain, she shows no real interest in academic subjects.

Lauren (Georgina Hagen)
Brainbox Lauren is the most un-street-savvy of the group. Unlike her rival Claudine, she has never had any sort of formal training.

Claudine (Sapphire Elia)
With showbiz on the brain 24/7, Claudine is determined and hardworking. Social butterfly Claudine boasts the highest number of friends on both Facebook and Bebo.

Danny (Mitch Hewer)
Funny, polite and good looking, Danny has all-round star qualities. Having struggled academically, Danny's discovery of performance allowed him to really find his true passion.

Jez (Matthew James Thomas)
Excelling in both singing and song writing, Jez surpasses in both intelligence and wit. Jez has told his disapproving billionaire father, who wants him to take over the family business, that he is at economic college.

BB (Marcquelle Ward)
Having dragged himself out of his council-estate past, BB soon comes face to face with tough life-changing decisions.

Mr Jeff Nugent (Mark Benton)
The students' mentor at Britannia High. He is an unconventional and witty head teacher who gains full respect from his pupils by treating them like his equals.

Stefan (Adam Garcia)
Having moved to the UK from Australia at the age of 18, sexy dance tutor Stefan had a successful career in the West End before deciding to share his talents with others through teaching.

ITV, Sunday, 7pm

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