Netflix returns with another beloved hit in its new original series “Julie and the Phantoms,” inspired by the Brazilian show of the same name. In the show, a teen girl struggles to rediscover her voice after her mom’s death, until three members of a ’90s pop/rock band reappear to her as ghosts.
While geared towards kids, the underlying emotional themes and well-developed soundtrack will appeal just as much to college-age viewers.
While the script can be a bit childish — one can only watch a teen girl stress over going to a high school dance so many times — a variety of topics are brought up (and done well!) in the show, including grief. “Julie and the Phantoms” discusses death in a gentle but easy-to-understand manner by providing a new twist on the much-discussed afterlife concept.
Kenny Ortega, director of many beloved films (including the “High School Musical” franchise, the “Descendants” franchise, “Dirty Dancing” and “Hocus Pocus”) returns again with some of the movie magic that filled the childhoods of current college kids — in just nine episodes.
Ortega pays homage to some of his own work; the track “Finally Free” echoes the iconic “Breaking Free” number of the original “High School Musical,” and some recognizable “Dirty Dancing” choreography is implemented towards the end of the series.
The charming cast features not only great actors, but also great musicians. All of the members of the “Julie and the Phantoms” band are actually singing and playing the instruments of the characters, something relatively unique to this show. Newcomer Madison Reyes shines with her powerhouse vocals at just 16 years old, across from Charles Gillespie (“Charmed”) as lead guitarist and love interest Luke.
Similarly to last year’s “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” it was the music that drew in a large audience. “Julie and the Phantoms” features 15 new songs from David Lawrence, including pop-punk jams and moving ballads. Gillespie and Reyes co-wrote “the song “Perfect Harmony” for the show as well.
What truly separates “Julie and the Phantoms” from other kids’ shows is “Unsaid Emily,” Luke’s ballad to his mother. This heartbreaking song drew thousands of watchers to tears, as everyone can find a little piece of their own regret in the lyrics of the song.
Easily bingeable with just four and a half hours in total, “Julie and the Phantoms” delights audiences of all ages and leaves them begging for a second season. The songs will be stuck in your head for hours, but when they sound this good, that’s hardly a complaint.