‘Julie and the Phantoms’ stands tall

September 25, 2020

“Julie and the Phantoms” is the feel-good musical series that 2020 needed. The goofy writing and the light-hearted plot is enough to make it good, but the soundtrack is what takes this series to the next level. Each episode has incredible numbers, and the musicians cast are incredibly talented. Pair it with Kenny Ortega’s directing and you’ve got a musical that you never want to end. 

The show follows the main character, Julie (Madison Reyes), on her journey to love music again. Though talented, she gave up singing and performing when her mom died. As it turns out, a trio of phantom teens from the nineties is just the spark Julie needs to rekindle her passion. After a killer school performance, Julie and her ghostly band quickly become the talk of the town, but conflicting romances and some not-so-friendly ghosts from the spirit world promise to keep things complicated.

Despite the drama, friendship and music are the clear themes of the show. Phantoms Luke (Charlie Gillespie), Reggie (Jeremy Shada) and Alex (Owen Patrick Joyner) were three members of the 90s band Sunset Curve, but they died before the band could truly blow up. The boys adapt to being ghosts together, knowing that no matter what, they’ll always have each other. Their goofy moments together never fail to make me laugh, whether it be serenading Julie with the word “sorry” or stuffing their faces after finding out they can eat as ghosts. Each of the boys befriends Julie in their own unique way, finding aspects of her life that they can relate to. By the end of the series, the four are like family. The group dynamics are so wholesome, so heartwarming. Alex and Reggie become the biggest supporters of the possible romance between Luke and Julie—whose adoration for each other is amplified when they sing together—exchanging little glances everytime they flirt on stage. 

The antagonists are just as playful (and flirty!) as the protagonists. The beautiful and friendly Willie (Booboo Stewart aka the hottest man alive) introduces Luke, Reggie and Alex to the villain of the show, Caleb (Cheyenne Jackson). Caleb seems to be an easygoing showman, an attention seeker with over-the-top musical productions. He makes dreams come true, putting on spectaculars every night complete with dancers and ghostly tricks. But he also takes dreams away, putting a curse on the souls of those who try to escape his exclusive club. That doesn’t bode well for the boys just trying to get back to Julie. Caleb wants the phantoms to perform nightly at his club, but they only want to play music with Julie. 

The music is easily my favorite part of “Julie and the Phantoms.” The entire soundtrack may or may not be on my “On Repeat” playlist on Spotify. Reyes’s voice is stunning. When she harmonizes with the boys, especially Gillespie, it’s like pure magic. Dirty Candy, the all-girl band led by antagonist Carrie (Savannah Lee May) brings pure pop perfection with their two songs. The only thing more fun than the Dirty Candy songs are the dances—the girls never stop moving the entire time they’re performing, hitting every beat possible. The girls’ lyrics were completely right: they really do make you go wow. The energy in every performance in the show, from both bands, is so high. Dirty Candy serves with coordinated choreography that makes you want to stand up and learn the moves. Julie and the Phantoms might not have choreography but their passion is infectious. 

Despite the overall lighthearted nature of the show, there are moments that tug at the heartstrings. Julie grieving her mom hurts to watch, but it’s nowhere near as sad at Luke mourning his. Though some of the acting is definitely corny—looking at you, episode two—the cast, especially Gillespie, is able to deliver powerful emotions in the sad scenes. 

This is truly the show I didn’t know I needed. It contains element after element that I adore: dramatic musical numbers, funny one-liners, an enjoyable plot, Booboo Stewart. Netflix hasn’t confirmed season two, but I’m cautiously optimistic based on how well the first season is performing. With six songs on the soundtrack already hitting over a million streams, “Julie and the Phantoms” is shining bright and standing tall.  

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