News Column

Look who's singing, too: More TV musicals

December 16, 2013

By Neal Justin and Graydon Royce, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

NBC is back in the Broadway business. After its disastrous experience with the musical drama "Smash," you might expect network executives to ban all forms of music theater from the premises.

Instead, NBC Entertainment President Robert Greenblatt bet big on a live production of "The Sound of Music" -- and won. The recent broadcast, starring former "American Idol" Carrie Underwood, drew 18.6 million viewers, three times more than expected.

NBC now says it plans to turn out a musical production every December.

Just what's on the docket is unclear, but based on what Greenblatt told the New York Times, he plans to follow the same formula: Recruit a big-name star for a mainstream, family-friendly musical with plenty of hummable numbers.

Following those ground rules, we've come up with some suggestions we think will have the network -- and audiences -- whistling a happy tune.

"Grease"

Featuring: Daniel Radcliffe (right) and Lea Michele.

The pitch: Getting Harry Potter to do network TV might sound like a stretch, but he might slum it for the chance to show he doesn't need a magic wand to look tough. Thanks to "Glee," Michele has perfected the role of the outsider who falls for Mr. Popular.

"Wicked"

Featuring: Jennifer Hudson and Kerry Washington.

The pitch: Hudson's dynamite voice and charisma would explode as Elphaba. Washington is petite, picture-pretty and perfect as Glinda. Getting the spectacle to fit into TV screens might be a challenge but the show is guaranteed box-office gold.

"My Fair Lady"

Featuring: Hugh Jackman and Miley Cyrus.

The pitch: Who better to tame the wild child than 'Enry 'Iggins? "Saturday Night Live" showed that Cyrus can handle both live TV and making fun of her image. Jackman may be hard to recruit, but his love for theater is so great, he may "Grow Accustomed to Her Face."

"Fiddler on the Roof"

Featuring: Mandy Patinkin.

The pitch: Are you kidding? Do we need to say more? It's Mandy flippin' Patinkin, America's greatest Jewish actor/singer, playing musical theater's richest Jewish role. He's singing "If I Were a Rich Man" and "Tradition" and "Sunrise, Sunset." Sold.

"Oklahoma"

Featuring: Rihanna, Jesse Martin, Jamie Foxx (as Jud) and Viola Davis (Aunt Eller).

The pitch: Getting Rihanna in the house might take some negotiating but she would be stunning as Laurey. Martin's musical theater credentials are well known for his work in "Rent." Foxx gets to play the most interesting character in the play and Davis lends gravity to the whole thing.

"Hairspray"

Featuring: Mindy Kaling and Martin Short.

The pitch: Kaling caps her multitalented package with enthusiasm and perfect comic chops. She'd be perfect as the outsider Tracy. Short, who thrives in total character roles, gets to put on his Jiminy Glick fat suit again and play Edna Turnblad.

"Mamma Mia"

Featuring: Taylor Swift and Bernadette Peters.

The pitch: Bringing a guaranteed fan base, Swift gets a chance to stretch her vocal repertoire with the Abba score. Peters, as the mother, brings the imprimatur of Broadway royalty to the party. Put it all together and not even Pierce Brosnan could ruin this.

"Singin' in the Rain"

Featuring: Justin Timberlake, Andy Samberg and Kristen Wiig.

The pitch: JT would create a giant splash in Gene Kelly's tap shoes and the thought of Samberg doing a madcap "Make 'Em Laugh" already has us roaring. Bonus points for getting other "SNL" regulars to make cameos.

"The Music Man"

Featuring: Neil Patrick Harris and Zooey Deschanel.

The pitch: Harris, who returns to Broadway next summer, is a music man and -- based on his dazzling turns as Emmys and Tonys host -- he does know the territory. He's had plenty of opportunity to hone his con-man tricks on "How I Met Your Mother," and the oh-so-innocent star of "New Girl" seems like perfect prey as Marian the Librarian.

That's our take on what would work, but we're open to other suggestions. As the producers say, "We're listening."

neal.justin@startribune.com -- 612-673-7431 -- graydon.royce@ startribune.com -- 612-673-7299


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Source: (c)2013 Star Tribune (Minneapolis) Visit the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) at www.startribune.com Distributed by MCT Information Services


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