Lauren Levine has come a long way since her days making coffee and typing scripts for the “Max Headroom” show. “I don’t know which was worse,” she says, “my coffee or my typing.”
Levine, the producer behind Nickelodeon features “Bridge to Terabithia,” “Shredderman Rules!” and “Gym Teacher,” was given the daunting task of developing a franchise for the network capable of rivaling Disney’s “High School Musical.” Her response? “Spectacular!” — a rock musical centered around a high school choir.
“The challenge was working within a well-mined genre and coming up with something fresh where both the characters and the story sing,” Levine says. “Our priorities were to make it funny in the spirit of ‘Bring It On’ and romantic in a way that would make (“Grease’s”) Danny and Sandy proud.”
Producer Jessica Horowitz and writer Jim Krieg were inspired by a production of “A Night of Magic” at Burbank High School. The two pitched the idea to Levine, who turned to YouTube. “Search ‘show choir’ and you won’t be disappointed,” she says.
Levine sees “Spectacular” as ushering in a new kind of musical to young audiences. “If you put jazz hands, ’80s rock ballads and sequins in the blender, you have a whole new genre of musical comedy,” she says.
Whether teens will get behind the idea remains to be seen — “Spectacular!” is set to be released in early 2009. But Levine, already instrumental in Nickelodeon’s recent expansion of its film division, has taken on the “HSM” powerhouse, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.
“We’re planning to shoot four movies next year,” she says.
Recent breakthrough: One of the creative forces behind “Spectacular!” — a Nick tuner designed to take “High School Musical” head-on.
Role model: “I’ve loved all the kids I’ve worked with: Josh Peck, Bailee Madison, Nolan Funk.”
What’s next: “Even though my niche is kids and family, I’m also producing a theatrical R-rated comedy, ‘Stretch, 29,’ based on Damian Lanigan’s novel.”