NBC’s halls are alive with the sound of sequels.
After the triumph of last week’s "The Sound of Music Live!" NBC understandably is now planning more live musicals.
This is welcome news for anyone who likes seeing a network get off the beaten path. Few observers have failed to cheer NBC for raw ambition in presenting a live musical more than a half-century after the previous one aired. Attaboys even came from the loudest critics of the broadcast and its leading lady, Carrie Underwood, who played Maria.
"I think we can do this again — and again and again," NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt told The New York Times this week, while allowing, "There may be a little bit of a phenomenon to the first one of these. Who knows what happens Year 2, 3 or 4?"
Who indeed? Can the interest, excitement and nearly 19 million viewers scored by "The Sound of Music Live!" be matched a year from now by another such TV event? Or was "Music" a one-note wonder?
The answer might lie in determining why so many viewers tuned in.
Was it Carrie Underwood who served as the big draw?
Was the main attraction "The Sound of Music" itself, a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic that, largely thanks to its 1965 film version, is one of the most recognized and popular family entertainments in the world?
Or did the audience simply rally to the anything-could-happen unpredictability of live TV, something no viewer had experienced with a musical since Eisenhower was president?
Odds are, all three reasons help explain why "The Sound of Music Live!" made such a splash.
But a year from now, can NBC’s follow-up strike a similar chord? What manner of star could equal Underwood’s drawing power? And, maybe most important of all, is there any other musical that could grab the attention "The Sound of Music" automatically claims?
Although NBC isn’t saying which musicals may be under consideration, it’s easy enough to play a guessing game.
Maybe "Peter Pan" or "The Music Man" (though both have been revived as filmed TV productions).
Perhaps megastar Hugh Jackman could reprise his triumphant performance in a TV revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s "Oklahoma!" (Except his 1998 Royal National Theatre appearance was filmed and has previously aired.)
What about "Mame" with Cher? Bette Midler in "Hello, Dolly!"? Reba McEntire in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown"?
But do any of these projects come close to "The Sound of Music Live!" and its provocative appeal, as it dared to reimagine — and, in the minds of some fans, tamper with — the film version held sacred by so many?
In short, is there another filmed musical everyone has seen and has such deep feelings for?
Of course. It’s time for NBC’s star-studded staging of "The Wizard of Oz Live!"
Sign Lea Michele of "Glee" to play Dorothy. Meryl Streep as the Good Witch. Anne Hathaway as the Wicked Witch. Tina Fey as the Wizard. Neil Patrick Harris as the Scarecrow. Alan Cumming as the Tin Man. Will Ferrell as the Cowardly Lion.
"The Wizard of Oz," with Judy Garland as Dorothy, reigns as a piece of pop culture that viewers would be thrilled or outraged — but most important, compelled — to see restaged for live TV. They would watch with bated breath for technical screw-ups (beware that flying house and melting witch!). They would scorch the Twitterverse with comments, flattering and snarky.
Before, during and after it aired, this show and its songs would be on everyone’s lips. A year from now, the yellow brick road could prove to be a straight shot to Must-See TV.
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