The Rise of the Televised Musical

NBC has taken on the task of providing the public with the newly popular “televised musical.” It all started in 2013 when the network first aired The Sound of Music featuring country music star Carrie Underwood. The live musical was extremely popular, bringing in over eighteen million viewers and a 4.6 rating among adults. NBC followed The Sound of Music with Peter Pan in 2014, which featured Christopher Walken, and was nominated for three primetime Emmys. NBC graced the nation with The Wiz in 2015 which brought in 11.5 million views and ranked high in ratings among adults across the nation. The Wiz is credited as NBC’s most popular movie musical and features big names such as Queen Latifah as The Wiz, Ne-Yo as The Tinman and Mary J. Blige as the beloved Wicked Witch of the West. Critics everywhere, including Carline Siede if the A.V. Club gave The Wiz an “A-rating.” Viewers were thoroughly impressed with newcomer Shanice Williams, the nineteen-year-old who was discovered via open casting call and had the honor of playing Dorothy. Critics were impressed with not only her performance, but Mary J. Blige’s as well and Uzo Aduba’s memorable performance as the universal favorite, Glinda. Amber Riley also provided the audience with a hair raising performance as Addaperle. NBC recently announced that its next televised musical will be Hairspray and that it will be airing in December of 2016.

Of course, The Wiz’s success could just be credited to its all-star cast, but NBC used its connections to acquire equally talented choreographers and costume designers as well as talented set designers and makeup artists.

So what does The Wiz’s and other televised musicals popularity mean for the future of musicals? Could the future include countless classics and newly popular musicals that are available for those who are unable to afford to see a musical live? Thanks to this relatively new phenomenon of the televised musical, musical theatre is reaching audiences that it has never reached before. People who had never seen or heard of musicals like Grease, The Wiz, and The Sound of Music now have the opportunity to watch such classics without even leaving their living rooms. Not only is the rise of the televised musical profitable to big name television networks such as NBC and FOX (who recently took a note from NBC and made their own version of the televised musical with the beloved classic, Grease).

The popularity of these musicals could potentially lead to the eventual downfall of Broadway, which was being hit with flat grosses and a decrease in attendance as of 2013. With the televised musical being so popular, the rate of attendance on Broadway could see another large decrease. Why pay money to see a musical and take the time to travel to see said musical when you could watch it from the comfortability of your own home? Of course there may still be those who think that the really truly “live” show is worth paying for, and on Broadway, no two runs of a show are the same. There are different takes on the same stories and different costumes and sets and actors, so in the end one may become bored of the televised musical with all of its constants. It could go either way when it comes to the future of America’s beloved Broadway.

Viewers are patiently waiting for NBC’s version of Hairspray to air in December. Other networks are bound to hop on the bus, as FOX has with Grease, and hopefully we’ll see more of our favorite musicals hit our television screens.