After the success of The Sound of Music last December, with over 18.5 million viewers, NBC has signed on to do a musical again for the 2014 holiday season. This time around producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan (produced films Chicago, Hairspray) will be traveling to Never Never Land with the musical Peter Pan. This will actually be the fourth time the musical has been broadcast on NBC, the last time being in 1960. It’s great to see how the tradition of Broadway entertainment on national television is being brought back for new generations.
Part of the reason why I think NBC is cashing in on more live entertainment is the popularity musicals are bringing back in the 21st century. Ever since the 14 million dollar musical Wicked in 2003, blockbuster musicals are a growing trend on the New York stage. Big production companies like Dreamworks and Disney are bringing adaptations of books, movies, and television to Broadway. Musical theater has never been more in touch with pop culture than it is today.
NBC is also starting to see how music in television and movies are becoming popular, especially with younger viewers they are trying to attract. PBS started this tradition by bringing musicals like In the Heights, Memphis, and Les Miserables to TV. Pitch Perfect and The Sing Off have brought accapella music to the mainstream culture; choirs have also become popular with the hit TV show Glee. Talent competition shows like American Idol, The X Factor, America’s Got Talent, and The Voice attract viewers with live voting for their favorite competitors and have launched the careers of stars like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and Jennifer Hudson. Smash brought the world behind the musical to television and brought along the creation of new musicals Bombshell and Hit List through hiring Broadway and pop composers to write for the show.
Partly in thanks to producers like Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, the resurgence of movie musicals has brought the same enthusiasm to television. Musicals like Chicago, Hairspray, Mamma Mia, and most recently Les Miserables have become box office hits attracting audiences with spectacle and huge stars. In 2014 alone, three Broadway musicals are hitting the silver screen: Jersey Boys, Annie, and Into the Woods.
Not only is the popularity of musicals entertaining, but also keeps alive a deep rooted part of our culture: The American Musical. Keeping art alive is a part of being an artist, and reviving musicals on television from the 1950s is keeping that tradition alive.