Actress and singer Brittany Dankwa performs onstage at the “Broadway or Bust” panel during day 1 of the PBS portion of the 2012 Summer TCA Tour held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 23, 2012 in Beverly Hills

*Premiering this weekend on PBS is the new documentary series, “Broadway or Bust,” which follows some of America’s top high school theater stars as they gather in NYC to compete in the National High School Musical Theatre Awards (a.k.a. The Jimmy Awards).


“I don’t think I ever wanted to do musical theater. I wanted to be a neurosurgeon,” says contestant Brittany Dankwa, one of the standouts in the series, premiering Sunday (Sept. 9) at 8 p.m. The East Point Ga. native decided to give the stage a try by joining the cast of her high school play “Once On This Island.”

Then, she never got off the island.

“The kids there were so inspirational. It’s like one big family,” she told us about her first theater experience. “The stuff that you go through, that whole time period of rehearsals and just everything that happens during the production, you connect with people that you may have never ever connected with, and so I wanted that feel. And from there, I was just like this is where I want to be.”

But Dankwa, who will be seen in the series belting “I’m Still Here” from “The Color Purple,” has already learned firsthand that the theater experience is not all good, all the time.

“There’s going to be obstacles. People told me no all the time,” she said. “I’ve auditioned for every lead and maybe get, like, two out of all the 50 I tried. But it just makes me feel completely at home, and that’s what I love about it.”

Brittany Dankwa as Celie in “The Color Purple” on PBS’ “Broadway or Bust”

Performing in high school plays is one thing. Taking that talent to New York City to compete against the best singing, acting and dancing triple threats in the country is quite another. Dankwa admits she was a little intimidated in the beginning.

“I know when I came, I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. Here comes all the divas, thinking they can sing,’” she recalled. “But it’s because we all love what we’re doing. [Eventually] it came so easily for us to perform together, like we’ve known each other for years.”

At the end of the day, however, it was still a competition – and that wasn’t lost on Dankwa at any point in the process. In fact, during a recent Q&A with her fellow competitors on the show, she was the only one willing to admit to viewing the process as a competition…and not a love fest.

“Broadway or Bust” will air for three consecutive Sundays from Sept. 9 through 23, 8-9 p.m. on PBS. Watch a promo below.

Watch Extended Preview on PBS. See more from Broadway or Bust.