THEY’VE hardly had a day off in six months.
Now the big moment is drawing near for the stars of major new ITV1 musical drama Britannia High.
The six young talents who lead the show were introduced at a London press launch this week.
They play students on a two-year course at a performing arts school.
You can read more about the series – on screen next month – in the online version of today’s MEN TV feature here.
ITV’s Head of Entertainment Paul Jackson spent 20 minutes explaining the background to the show and then chatting to the six leads.
We watched some of the teaser trailers soon to appear on ITV1 and already online – you can check out one at the bottom of this blog.
Followed by a screening of episode one and a press conference with co-creators Arlene Phillips and David Ian, along with director Brian Grant and producer Gareth Philips.
And then small round table interviews with each of the six stars, as well as Mark Benton, who plays the college principal, and Adam Garcia, who features as the dance mentor.
Manchester-born Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene smiled when someone mentioned the fact that all six leads are extremely good looking.
“Aren’t they? Anybody that has known me from the days of Hot Gossip will know how important the way people look are,” she replied.
“There, I’ve said it. They are gorgeous, aren’t they? I’m not letting this lot go anywhere. They’re mine.”
Clockwise from top left below they are: Georgina Hagen (Lauren), Mitch Hewer (Danny), Matthew James Thomas (Jez), Rana Roy (Lola), Marcquelle Ward (BB) and Sapphire Elia (Claudine).
There will be more about them both in this blog and in the MEN nearer transmission.
Britannia High should be a huge hit.
But that depends on a family audience embracing the series in large numbers.
ITV is aiming to create a web and word of mouth buzz among young viewers by putting the first episode online a week before it’s screened on TV.
The first track from the campus – Start Of Something – will be available to download from next Monday in partnership with Bebo and iTunes.
Free downloads will also be available in the run-up to the release of a full CD album on Nov 17.
Fans will be able to make friends with the cast, here at Bebo, and explore a separate dedicated site for the college, which will be the virtual home for the performing arts school.
There’s a danger, of course, that young viewers might feel ITV is trying just a little too hard to be cool and win them over.
Britannia High will also have to attract ratings in a tough weekend primetime evening slot.
But I don’t think the team behind the show could have done any more.
For my money, it’s great TV, with far more magic on screen than much-hyped, but so far disappointing, BBC1 new weekend arrival Merlin.
Theatre impressario David Ian hopes to take the stars across the UK on an arena stage tour – if the TV series is a hit.
He told us that Britannia High will show just how hard you have to work to get to the top.
“It will be a reality check.
“This is what it really takes and this is really the lifestyle that you have to adopt in order to be in it.
“It’s not a question sometimes of appearing very quickly on television and becoming famous overnight.”
There will also be some seriously non-fluffy storylines.
“I’m told that everybody’s three-year-old sings High School Musical,” said Arlene.
“This isn’t for three-year-olds, that’s for sure. There’s some really intriguing and very emotional stories.”
Britannia High is filmed in and around Manchester and Salford.
But the series is actually set in London, where some exterior scenes were also shot.
Manchester-based producer Gareth Philips explained: “London felt to be the right setting for Britannia High because that’s where the entertainment industry flocks.
“However, when you look at the characters in the show, they come from all over the country.”
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Britannia High Home Page
Britannia High Bebo