Wednesday, March 11, 2009

MTV sends Nick Lachey back to his old high school for 'Taking the Stage'


Wednesday, March 11th 2009, 4:00 AM

Shaakira Sargent (l.) Malik Kitchen, Jasmine White Killins, Tyler Nelson and Mia Curruthers star in MTV's 'Taking the Stage'

Folks on "The Hills" and other reality shows have often been accused of performing for the cameras.

The stars of MTV's latest series, "Taking the Stage," would take such a comment as a compliment.

Set in Cincinnati's famed School for the Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA), "Taking the Stage" features a cast of kids from all walks of life trying to launch professional careers in dance, music and acting, all while dealing with typical teenage drama.

The show is produced by Nick Lachey, a school alumnus. He brought the idea for the show to MTV because he says SCPA played a large part not just in his career, but in his life.

"That school is not like any other place in the world," he told the Daily News. "It creates a whole world of learning that you don't see very often in this country, and especially on MTV."

"Taking the Stage" premieres Thursday night at 10. And like every other school, has a wide variety of characters.

Among the students are ballerina Jasmine, who dreams of dancing with Alvin Ailey but becomes distracted by her budding relationship with Tyler, a hip-hop dancer who wants to be in music videos. There's Malik, Jasmine's best friend, who does not approve of her interest in Tyler. And there's Shaakira, a dancer and aspiring actress who's trying to make it on behalf of her struggling family. And there's Mia, a singer-songwriter who wants a record deal by the time she's 18.

While Lachey insists that the show is "reality," he doesn't doubt that some of the cast members might be turning it on for the cameras.

"At the end of the day, they are performers," Lachey said. "But at the same time, I went to that school and I can vouch for what that experience is like, and whether there is a camera crew there or not, you are performing."

Unlike such other MTV reality series as "Laguna Beach," "Taking the Stage" is actually filmed inside the school. It also has a much more diverse cast.

"There are white kids, black kids ... but you don't see people for their color, or their sexuality or their economic background; you see people for their talent," said Lachey. "That's what I wanted to show - that there was a school out there, an experience out there, that was not about money or who's entitled, it was about talent."