We’ve heard a lot about how the world is missing superhero and action films this summer, but you know what else we haven’t seen? Dramatically large scale musicals with infectious songs that we can sing along to and complicated choreography we attempt to recreate in our living rooms. That is until now, fellow musical nerds, because Julie and the Phantoms hits Netflix this week and it is the ear-worm cheese bomb you know you’ve needed for most of 2020.
Based on the Brazilian series Julie e os Fantasmas, the Netflix YA series follows Julie (Madison Reyes), a seemingly shy high school sophomore who has lost her lust for music after the death of her songwriter mother. However, Julie reconnects with her undeniable musical talent when she encounters three super cute boy ghosts in her garage who can only be seen when they play music with her. Hijinx ensue as Julie has to explain her “hologram band” to friends and family as the crew gets more gigs and the boys discover their time hanging among the living might be limited.
If this sounds like hardcore Disney Channel Original Movie-type kind of magic, there’s good reason for that. High School Musical and Descendants architect Kenny Ortega teamed up with Dan Cross and Dave Hodge for the American adaptation of Julie and Ortega’s signature is all over the nine-episode series. The producer made stars out of names like Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Dove Cameron, and Sofia Carson, and he looks to do the same with Reyes and her Phantoms — Charlie Gillespie, Jeremy Shada, and Owen Patrick Joyner — who sing and perform every song in the series. At only 16, Reyes has a timeless vocal quality, and a power to her voice that feels completely unexpected until Julie sings her first ballad in the opening episode. And the Phantoms? Well, expect every tween who is into cute boys you know to have their faces plastered on cell phone wallpapers and bedroom walls.
The musical talent of the cast is supported by the genuine bops that fill the soundtrack of the series from start to finish. Yes, the songs speak to the plot of the show as any good musical should, but they also stand alone as infectious pop-rock jams. Check out the first single, “Edge of Great,” if you’re doubtful, and then come back and cry with us when you’ve heard Episode 8’s tearful, “Unsaid Emily” — which is an acting and singing showcase for Gillespie and proves the show’s commitment to good song storytelling beyond empowerment anthems.
The catchy songs and elaborate numbers is not only great content for current youths, but will be a welcome dose of nostalgia for millennials who grew up on Ortega’s earlier work (the show goes full High School Musical for Episode 4’s opening number, “I’ve Got the Music.”). Cheyenne Jackson brings something electric and fun to series antagonist Caleb Covington (no, really, we have so many questions about this enigmatic, scatting magician), who gives the show a slight dose of danger to up the tension while you’re watching.
The best thing about Julie and the Phantoms, though, is that this is a show about hope. The multiple ghost romances will bring out the shipper in the coldest of hearts (shout out to Descendants fave BooBoo Stewart, who effortlessly steals our affection as the adorable, mysterious ghost skater boy, Willie). If you thought that Troy and Gabriela had it hard overcoming the chasm between jock life and musical nerd, just wait until you see Julie and Luke (Gillespie) try to figure out a connection when one of them is dead. As the non-stop news cycle makes us feel more and more cynical about the world around us, Julie and the Phantoms arrives just in time to give us a reminder that joy is not only possible, but should be celebrated.
Who you gonna call this weekend when you’re looking for respite from a hopeless world? Julie. She and her Phantoms have just what you need to forget your troubles for a while and make you eager for the next chapter of their adventure.
Julie and the Phantoms premieres Thursday, Sept. 10 on Netflix.