'Perks' online musical created by playwright with ties to Augusta

The Perks cast includes Broadway performers Alex Brightman, Allison Strong, Alex Wyse and Paul Cereghino.

The old idiom “time will tell” seems to have taken on a whole new meaning in the age of the Internet.


Web shows have grown in popularity and are being made into Web series. And now there’s a Web series that’s a musical.

“It’s unusual for a Web series to be a musical, and that’s what’s different about Perks,” said playwright Tom Diggs. “It’s so new, no one knows what to call it – Web show? Web series? Or original series for the Web?”

Perks’ pilot came out on YouTube several months ago and has garnered more than 14,000 views. Many comments made by viewers say they are ready to see the entire series.

Since it’s a first for those in the profession, the process is still being fine-tuned.

“We were told to make the entire story but only do the first one. Now, we are in search of the right sponsor,” Diggs said.

Even though he’s new to musical Web series, Diggs is well-established in the arts and entertainment world. As a child growing up in Augusta who attended William Robinson School, Diggs was active in the Augusta Mini Theater.

“I’ve always been interested in theater,” he said. “As a child, I always adapted the books I read to make plays from them. It’s one of my favorite parts of American culture.”

He continued as an actor in the 1980s, then went to New York University and earned his degree in dramatic screen writing. His plays have won numerous awards, and one, commissioned by The Kennedy Center, was nominated for a Pulitzer in 2008. After that, Diggs worked with a group writing TV shows, which evolved into Web shows.

“Web shows are amazing,” he said, explaining that the traditional play process takes three to five years, but a Web series takes six months.

“Which is phenomenal,” he said. “It’s funny, because now if something takes an extra week, then you really feel it. Everything is done online, so everything we were taught in school doesn’t exist anymore.”

Perks is based on the book The Perks of Being a Wallflower, an epistolary novel by Stephen Chbosky. Diggs said the storyline is about a boy who’s very shy in high school and is in love with a girl he’s afraid to talk to.

“It’s really a story of friendship, and it’s also a love story,” he said. “It’s a boy-meets-girl kind of story.”

As creator and executive producer of the series, Diggs said most of the work is fun, but there have been challenges, such as keeping up with the changing demographics of the Internet – “when we started, it was mostly young men. Then in the middle of it, the mommy bloggers took over” – and coordinating schedules of the cast members, all of whom are involved in Broadway productions.

“But people have been very generous with their talent and time,” he said.

Jason Michael Snow is the composer and Mischaela Faucher is lyricist and choreographer for the series, which is slated to be out in the spring. Diggs said the plan also is to sell the songs on iTunes or Amazon.

As with any other successful musical, the show will be available in a two-hour format with limited voice range for high school students to perform.

“That’s the object of musicals,” Diggs said. “Everything is age appropriate. We have a lot of talented professional people around who are working on that.”

See your Facebook friends in 'Aim High'