US broadcaster Fox is challenging rival network NBC’s reputation as the TV home of live musical theatre by lining up two new pieces of event programming.
A major new production of Jonathan Larson’s innovative musical Rent and a version of A Christmas Story with new songs written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul will follow on from the network’s Grease Live! which proved a surprise hit with audiences last year.
According to US media, the announcement of the new televised production of Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning Rent follows protracted negotiations with Larson’s estate. Representatives of the estate will be on board as executive producers alongside theatre and film producer Marc Platt who won an Emmy for his work on Grease Live! and who will also executive produce A Christmas Story and NBC’s recently announced Jesus Christ Superstar.
Inspired by Puccini’s opera La Bohème, Larson’s critically-acclaimed work won four Tony Awards, six Drama Desk Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1996. Rent has book, music and lyrics by Larson who died suddenly just before the show’s Off-Broadway premiere in 1996.
A film version of the show in 2005 featured many of the Broadway cast reprising their roles including Idina Menzel, Jessie L. Martin, Anthony Rapp and Taye Diggs.
Further details of casting, creative, and broadcast date for the Fox version will be released at a later date.
The broadcaster will partner with Warner Horizon Unscripted Television and producer Platt on this December’s live event A Christmas Story. The piece will be based on the much-loved movie and the Tony Award-nominated Broadway musical which featured music by rising stars Pasek and Paul. The writers will provide new songs for the three-hour live broadcast.
NBC’s live festive offering this year will be Bye Bye Birdie starring Jennifer Lopez who will also executive produce, directed by double Tony Award winner Jerry Mitchell and double Emmy Award winner Alex Rudzinski, the team behind last year’s Hairspray Live!
The actress and singer who stars in the network’s hit crime drama Shades of Blue will take on the role originally played by Chita Rivera in the 1960 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical that also starred Dick Van Dyke.
Musical theatre legend Harvey Fierstein is also back on board to pen the television adaptation for Bye Bye Birdie Live! The star also provided the teleplay for the network’s The Wiz Live! and last year’s Hairspray Live! in which he also starred.