Live Musicals On TV

It all started with NBC's The Sound of Music Live! starring Carrie Underwood in 2013. I'm pretty sure we collectively hated it, so why did live musicals on TV keep happening? Oh, ratings. Hate watching brings in a lot of numbers! We were also blessed with the disaster that was Peter Pan Live!, followed by The Wiz Live!Grease: Live, and Hairspray Live! There are six more live events on the calendar. SIX.

NBC is doing a play for the first time on TV. Aaron Sorkin is on board to adapt and produce his original work, A Few Good Men, sometime later this year. Did you know it was a play before the Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson movie? I didn't up until a few years ago! Plays are always sort of awkward for me to watch. They are so serious and quiet. I love Sorkin though so I'm interested for sure.

ABC is finally getting in the game and with The Wonderful World of Disney: The Little Mermaid Live! on October 3. It's going to be a hybrid live action/animation experience, so not exactly like a live musical. The cast includes the same stars that performed at the Hollywood Bowl last year: Sara Bareilles as Ariel, Rebel Wilson as Ursula, Darren Criss as Prince Eric, Tituss Burgess as Sebastian, and John Stamos as Chef Louis. I'm in!

FOX's next live musical is A Christmas Story, coming this December. Marc Platt, who worked on Grease: Live will executive produce and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who wrote the music and lyrics for the show, will come up with a few new songs. (You may only know Pasek and Paul as the lyricists of the movie La La Land, but they've been writing things for Broadway for about ten years.) I don't like this movie and didn't care for the musical (which opened in Seattle) so I probably won't bother with this TV version. Most people love it though so I'm sure the ratings will be great.

NBC set the date for a live staging of the classic 1971 rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, for Easter 2018. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice are on board and casting has just begun. The chairman of NBC said they want to fill the show with as many recording artists as possible. I bought tickets to see it a few years ago on it's 50-city national tour starring Johnny Rotten, JC Chasez, Michelle Williams, and Brandon Boyd, but it was abruptly cancelled due to lack of interest. Hmm...

Sometime in 2018, NBC will also air Bye Bye BirdieHarvey Fierstein is setting it in present time, where Albert and Rosie are English and music school teachers instead of an agent and his secretary. Jennifer Lopez will star and executive produce and wants to highlight Rosie's struggles as a Puerto Rican woman in a relationship with a man afraid of commitment, as seen in the musical, but lost in the film. I've never seen either and I'm curious about J.Lo's performance so I'll definitely tune into this one.

FOX recently announced Rent, though there is no news about casting or a date. Marc Platt will produce this one too by working with the estate of writer/composer Jonathan Larson (how does that work?). Rent is my absolute favorite musical ever so part of me is really happy and excited, but the realistic side already knows it's going to be a catastrophe. The musical tells the story of starving, gay, trans, and AIDS infected artists living in NYC. It's heavy and it's explicit. They're gonna have to water it down so much, I can't see it being very good. 

As a lover of all things Broadway, I have mixed feelings about these live events. It's good to expose the masses to musicals and I will watch them all out of pure curiosity, but besides The Wiz, none of them have been very well done. Grease: Live and Hairspray Live! were pretty fun, but just sort of...off? I didn't like the audience as part of the stage or the commentary/behind the scenes stuff before and after commercial breaks. It makes the performance so uneven. I also think they need to cast Broadway actors, not celebrities. I wouldn't mind seeing A Chorus Line, The Music Man, Evita, and maybe even Cats in the future though!

What do you think about live TV musicals?
Will you be watching any of these announced shows? 


Audrey Louise said...

Hmm. I liked Carrie Underwood in The Sound of Music. Hahaha. That said, that's the only musical I've watched LIVE so obviously it didn't draw me in that much.
I LOVE Aaron Sorkin so I'm curious about that one. Same with Sara Bareilles!

Simply Alexandra // My Favorite Things said...

I actually haven't seen ANY of these! Woah. I remember wanting to see The Sound of Music and also Grease: Live! We'll see if I get around to it. For me musicals are fun, but sometimes a lot. Still debating whether I like them period. I tend to like the more classic ones a bit better, but I'm still exploring. :P XO - Alexandra

Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

Midnight Cowgirl said...

I haven't been a fan of any of the TV musicals, but I might have to watch The Wonderful World of Disney: The Little Mermaid Live!

Misty said...

I watched a bit of Peter Pan and Grease, but that's it. I just don't care to watch any of these.

Elle Sees said...

I love Broadway but haven't been into these live remakes. Maybe bc I want Broadway actors and not necessarily actors with no theatre training? I know those won't get views, but maybe that's what it is? Omg I LOVE a Christmas Story--my family hates it, haha.