7 Musicals That Should Get Live Television Productions
What comes next after Grease and Hairspray?
We at TheaterMania are positively thrilled that major television networks are broadcasting live musicals that all of America (not just those of us close to Broadway) can enjoy. In the last three years, NBC has aired live productions of The Sound of Music, Peter Pan, and The Wiz, with a broadcast of Hairspray in the works. Fox has jumped on the bandwagon with its own live version of Grease (Fox's remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, starring Laverne Cox, will be pre-taped). Since this trend seems to be sweeping the television world, we would like to make a few suggestions. Here are seven musicals that deserve their own live television productions:
1. The Music Man
Way back in 2014, NBC announced that it was considering a live television production of The Music Man, Meredith Willson's perennially popular show about Harold Hill, a slick musical instrument salesman who falls in love with a small-town librarian. The Peacock went with The Wiz instead (the production garnered 2.3 million more viewers than Peter Pan did the year before). We still think The Music Man would make a great show for another year, perhaps with Seth MacFarlane in the starring role.
Few moments in musical theater are more exciting than when the band strikes up the overture to Gypsy — Jule Styne, Arthur Laurents, and Stephen Sondheim's classic musical about burlesque goddess Gypsy Rose Lee and her ambitious stage mother. "Everything's Coming Up Roses," "Let Me Entertain You," "You Gotta Get a Gimmick": The score is a parade of memorable tunes, sure to delight home audiences. Tasteful choreography would keep this stripper's tale FCC-friendly, but still leave just enough skin to tease (Gypsy might be a better candidate for Fox than NBC). While she may still be a little too young for the role, we think Jennifer Hudson would eventually make an incredible Momma Rose. Just imagine her vocals on "Rose's Turn!"
3. Fiddler on the Roof
As the acclaimed Broadway revival has shown us, Fiddler is a surefire hit. Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, and Joseph Stein's musical about shtetl life in early-20th-century Ukraine features popular numbers like "To Life," "Matchmaker, Matchmaker," and "If I Were a Rich Man," all of which sound incredible with a big orchestra (the kind a major TV network can provide). Accounting for commercial breaks, Fiddler would easily run four hours, a long slog for television, but then again, many sporting events run even longer. It would be worth it for this unforgettable TV event.
4. A Chorus Line
The original Broadway production of A Chorus Line, director Michael Bennett's devised musical about the lives of Broadway dancers, ran from 1975 to 1990, making it the sixth-longest-running musical in Broadway history. While much of the credit for this megahit goes to Bennett's inventive staging and choreography, one cannot discount Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban's winning score, featuring such hits as "One," "Dance: Ten; Looks: Three," and "What I Did for Love." Considering the fact that the 1985 film was a flop, it's about time to bring this classic back to America by airing it live on TV, so it can reclaim its position near the top of the musical food chain.
Terrence McNally, Lynn Ahrens, and Stephen Flaherty's adaptation of E.L. Doctorow's novel about turn-of-the-century America powerfully captures our national spirit in song and story. It is a perfect candidate for a live national broadcast, hopefully spurring on living room discussions of where we've been, where we are, and where we're going as a country. Is it too much to ask that Brian Stokes Mitchell and Audra McDonald reprise their roles from the original production? The performance above is sheer perfection.
Everyone loves cats (especially the internet), so everyone will love Cats, the phenomenally popular Andrew Lloyd Webber musical adaptation of T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. It's a musical about dancing cats! The show has been on an endless tour for decades and with a revival soon to hit Broadway, now's the purrfect time for it to beam the show live into every living room. We nominate Adele for the role of Grizabella.
Lin-Manuel Miranda's hip-hop musical about U.S. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton is all the rage this year, and with good reason: It thrillingly mythologizes the American Revolution with a tuneful score and a Shakespearean command of verse. Considering how new the show is (and how it seems poised to run on Broadway for years), this project isn't likely to come to fruition anytime soon. One hopes, however, that NBC can arrange a live TV production for 2026, the year of America's sestercentennial. At the ripe old age of 27, Jaden Smith will certainly be a contender for the role of Aaron Burr.