Unfortunately for Rise, “Opening Night” was not only the season one finale, but also the show’s final curtain call after it was revealed last week that NBC would officially be canceling the show.
It is sad to see another great musically-driven show be cut. A few have made it through and had long runs, like Glee, but Rise was one of the unlucky ones. There honestly hasn’t been this much injustice in cutting a theater-centric show since Smash was cancelled following a phenomenal second season.
Thankfully, the Rise writers kept the finale pretty vague in terms of storylines. While it did end on a “what will happen next note,” fans are able to finish the stories of the various characters for themselves.
The finale begins the day of opening night. Lou confronts Tracey after their blowout. She informs him that accusing her of sabotage hurt, especially after she was passed over for the promotion she had been working towards for 20 years by a “middle-aged white guy” with less experience. Even though Lou apologizes profusely and tells her she needs to be there tonight, she says she won’t be.
The drama doesn’t stop there. An hour before the show begins, Principal Ward goes backstage and tells Lou he wants to make one more change to the show. Lou, already at his wit’s end, tells him the change would ruin the entire thing. In that moment, you could see the fire ignite in his eyes with anger.
When Principal Ward leaves, Lou tells the troupe that they’re going to perform the original show. The kids start asking if they’ll even make it to the second act but he takes it as a lesson for the kids, he doesn’t want them to bend to the will of others and to believe in what they’re doing.
It’s a lesson everyone should take to heart every day. Since the beginning of Rise, Lou has been the teacher that not only challenges them as individuals and performers, but also teaches them it’s okay to be sloppy and imperfect, as long as they’re being themselves.
With that lesson, Lou gives the troupe the choice on which version they want to do. Of course, it’s unanimous on which version they should open with, even if they go down in a blaze of glory.
Once the show begins, with Lilette in the skimpier version of her approved dress, Principal Ward begins to freak out. This gets to Tracey, who shows up in the lighting booth asking Maashous about what is going on. That’s when he informs her they went back to the original show.
After confronting Lou, who tells her he won’t do anything, Ward shows up in the booth and demands they shut the lights off. That is when Tracey stands her ground and defends the students, saying they can’t shut it down.
Throughout the magical performance, Robbie tells Lilette he loves her, Simon gets his kiss, Tracey and Lou make up, and everyone is happy in their moment of euphoria.
What breaks the moment is when the superintendent tells Lou before the final scene that, while impressed with everything he did, the Stanton theater department is done. Lou pleads with the superintendent to not shut the theater down and do that to the kids. He asks that he be fired instead. The superintendent says that even though he admires what Lou does, Spring Awakening is their final performance. Not only does the troupe go out with a bang, but so does Rise.
Let the final curtain close.