Lately, TV networks have been ushering us into the resurgence of the live, televised musical, and we’re more than happy about it. There’s just something about the elements that bring it all together: the music, the scenery, the live energy—in some ways, musicals were made to become event TV. And over the past few years, we’ve seen a wide range of musical stylings head to the small screen, from Peter Pan to The Wiz, The Sound of Music, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Grease, and—most recently—Hairspray. As a huge theater nerd myself who lives far away from New York, the rise of the live TV musical is the best gift ever. And while we’re super excited to see the Jennifer Lopez-produced live TV version of Bye, Bye Birdie coming to us in 2017, we’ve got a few suggestions for other Broadway shows to bring to the small screen.
This musical is hands down THE modern classic (until they start calling Hamilton that). If you’re like me and were a hardcore theater kid in high school, you likely spent many a car ride blasting songs like “Tango: Maureen,” “Out Tonight,” and trying to hit the high note in the musical’s most famous song, “Seasons of Love.” While you may have seen the film version that came out in 2005 with Rosario Dawson, there’s just something special about seeing the version meant for the stage. Plus, this movie would be perfect for some serious backlot BTS footage, and much like Fox did with Grease, they could integrate the audience with the show, making them a part of Alphabet City.
Fox got into the Halloween spirit by airing Rocky Horror Picture Show, and I can’t think of a better, spookier follow up than Sweeney Todd. This musical features the brilliant music of Stephen Sondheim and is the most fun you’ll ever have with a murderous barber who—spoiler alert—loves to kill his victims and let the lady who runs a meat pie shop downstairs use the corpses for her food. Plus, this show is perfect for television because it’s got a story that’s bizarre enough to pull in your non-musical loving friends, while also being a huge crowd pleaser for the theater nerds in your life.
West Side Story
Whether or not you’re into musicals, chances are pretty high that you’ve heard of this show, and its popularity would make for a really fun televised event. It’s a classic, it’s family-friendly, and the story of racial relations is an incredibly timely and poignant topic for audiences today. The story is beautiful, and the songs are so catchy you and your family will be singing them for weeks. Plus, there is nothing better than watching warring gangs fight one another with crisp jetes and intimidating snapping.
One of the greatest things about these televised musicals is it helps people get access to newer musicals without having to shell out huge bucks to get to New York or to a show from a Broadway touring company. Avenue Q is one of those awesome, modern musicals that would be great to see in a televised, live event. While the show may be a bit much for basic cable (who among us can forget the show’s classic song “The Internet Is For Porn”), its twisted Sesame Street vibe would play really well with a live audience. If Comedy Central ever decides to get in on the live musical act, this would be the perfect one (other than, y’know, The Book of Mormon).
This is the weirdest little musical about a mystical, Scottish town called Brigadoon. It’s fun and sweet, but it is also not a show everyone knows about, which would make it a great addition to a network’s live musical line-up. Because the musical isn’t as widely known as shows like The Sound of Music or Rocky Horror Picture Show, it wouldn’t have to live up to any sort of preconceived impossible-to-achieve expectations set by the memory of a fan’s first experience. Even better, the bizarre story makes it a great show to introduce your non-theater friends to, and is the perfect musical to live-tweet.
Even if you’re not one to go see musicals, chances are solid that you saw the film of this one starring Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones. While that movie is great, they had to seriously change up the show’s style in order to adapt it to film. To that end, it would be amazing to bring the stage version to live television, and the fun of the show will almost make you forget the awkwardness of potentially having to watch what is essentially an hours long, raunchy cabaret act with your parents.
Spamalot is essentially the musical version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and it’s hilarious, which makes it perfect for a live TV musical. It’s fun, the songs are catchy, and it will genuinely make you laugh. That’s what you want in a live TV musical experience—a show that is fun to watch and sing along with. Plus, the show would translate to television well. Spamalot’s narrator would be the perfect character to interact with the in-studio audience or with fans live-tweeting the show.
A Chorus Line
A Chorus Line is an icon of stage and screen—one of those shows that people see for the first time and suddenly start recognizing songs and lines they’ve heard people say or sing. While adapting such a classic for a television audience is risky, picking a show a lot of people love means that lots of people will come together to enjoy the show. A Chorus Line is certainly one of those shows that everyone loves, and its persistence in the musical world would make it fun to watch for parents, grandparents, and kids. Plus, that story of tirelessly pursuing your dream is an incredibly relatable one.
This musical is bizarre, to be sure, but it would be perfect for a live audience. Getting to hear an audience react to the craziness in Urinetown would only add to the strength of the show’s narrative. And because it is set in a sort of post-apocalyptic, dystopian world, this musical could have a extra, fun visual punch by being staged on a studio backlot. Additionally, the show’s underlying message of privilege and power (disguised cleverly behind a society that forces people to pay to use the restroom) is certainly a timely one.
I mean duh, right? Sure, seeing Hamilton for the first time via a live, televised event could take some of the magic away, but honestly, at the rate this show sells out, a live televised event is likely the only way you and I are ever going to get to see it. Plus, this would be the perfect occasion to get the original cast back together for a one night, special televised event, am I right? Think about it, Lin…
Do you agree with our list? Do you think we missed a title? Tell us your musical theater thoughts, and what musical you’d love to see next on TV in the comments!
Feature Image: Public Theater
Image credits: Columbia Pictures, Dreamworks, MGM, Avenue Q, MGM, Jeremy Daniel/Broadway.com, Spamalot UK, MGM, Constellation Theater, Public Theater