San Antonio high school senior Elizabeth Ramirez was supposed to be on her way to Oklahoma City University for her freshman year in the fall of 2020. She had earned scholarships and was going to study vocal performance and musical theater. Then, COVID-19 delayed her plans.
Around that time, Tony Award-winning actress Laura Benanti (Gypsy) jumped onto social media and asked high school students from across the country to submit videos of themselves singing a song they would not get to perform in their own high school musical because of the pandemic. Benanti received thousands of videos. Of those videos, she chose seven seniors, including Ramirez, to be highlighted in the documentary Home School Musical: Class of 2020, which debuts on HBO Max Dec. 17.
After learning that she wouldn’t be attending her dream school in the fall, Ramirez, who is Mexican American, made it a goal this year to “grow [her] voice and mature as a person.”
“I hope that I can find success in my craft—this thing that I put so much work into and that I pour my heart into,” Ramirez says in the film. “Hopefully, I can open doors for girls that look like me.”
For the documentary, Benati asked each of the seven seniors to “craft a musical performance to reflect their 2020 experience.” Ramirez chose the song “Somewhere” from one of her “favorite musicals ever,” West Side Story.
Ramirez says she chose the song, which she sings in Spanish in the film, because she feels it encapsulates the optimism people need going into 2021. “I feel like in the world that we’re living in there’s a lot of…unrest. What we need now, more than anything, is peace and quiet and hope.”