Musical fans rejoice, because NBC is definitely going to be producing another live musical in 2016. After the critical and financial success that was The Wiz Live!, fans of NBC’s annual live musical experience have been wondering which piece of musical theatre would be making its way to the small screen. Well, we have our answer.
Today, NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt announced that hit Broadway musical Hairspray would be the next foray into the new winter tradition. This news comes to us via EW, with the news being announced at the Television Critics Association Press Tour.
Hairspray seems like the perfect choice for NBC to produce next winter, for quite a few reasons. Let’s break it down.
For one, this is a contemporary musical. Hairspray made its Broadway debut in 2002, being adapted from the original non-musical 1988 John Waters film. During its long run, the Broadway musical was performed over 2,5000 times. Additionally, there were a bevy of tours, regional productions, and now community theatre shows around the country. A fairly decent movie adaptation was released in 2007 with a cast of A-listers, so America is overall very familiar with the musical. Considering that NBC began its foray with classic musicals like The Sound Of Music and Peter Pan, this is quite the departure.
The most successful of NBC’s live musicals thus far has been last year’s The Wiz, boasting a much more contemporary feel. Pop stars were cast, the script was reworked to be more accessible to 2015 audiences, and NBC stopped trying to pretend that the sound stage they were using was a glorious movie set. This modern feel was something that viewers around the country could relate to- most people haven’t physically sat in a Broadway audience. Peter Pan and The Sound Of Music felt stuffy and somewhat awkward because they were strange mixtures of a movie and a play. Plus, the material itself is classic Broadway which is not a universally enjoyed genre.
The Wiz Live! has also been praised for for highlighting an exclusively African-American cast, which is indeed how Broadway musical The Wiz was originally produced. This change caused an increase in viewership for regions with larger African-American populations, opening up an entirely new demographic of viewers for the future. The main theme of Hairspray is the social injustice and segregation of America in the 1960’s, which will allow for healthy discussion regarding race and inequality during and after Hairspray Live!’s airing.
Hairspray is also a great choice for NBC because it is simply a funny show with great music. The piece is self-aware and purposefully cheesy, which will disallow people to hate watch it as they did with the first two shows. The music contains elements of pop, funk, soul, as well as callbacks to classic 1960’s music. There will be no operatic sopranos or classical voices- Hairspray will be full of pop belting with contemporary vocal choices which modern audiences can relate to and appreciate.
Overall, I think Hairspray is a brilliant choice for the next NBC live musical. The execs at NBC clearly heard the feedback after The Wiz, and will continue to give audiences modern musicals that are neither stuffy nor boring. NBC is hoping to air Hairspray Live! in December 2016. We’ll keep you posted as more information is revealed.