'The Sound of Music Live!' was a success – what should be next?

NBC says they're already planning on another live musical for next year. What show should they pick?

ZUMA Movie Stills Library
'West Side Story' stars Rita Moreno (center).

After the massive ratings success of NBC’s live broadcast of a production of “The Sound of Music,” the network is already planning another show.

NBC chairman of the entertainment division Robert Greenblatt told the New York Times that a new musical will arrive next holiday season. What show will be performed? No word yet, but Greenblatt says it would need to have lots of songs people know and that it would have to be appropriate for all ages.

Greenblatt says competition is already fierce.

“All weekend, people have been calling us and emailing us,” he said. “Rights holders of musicals have said, ‘Please do one of our shows.’ We’re excited to try it again.” 

So what should be next? While NBC may not yet know (or maybe they do, and they’re just not telling), I have a few suggestions.

(“Chicago” director Rob Marshall may have stolen my first choice by making a big-screen version of “Into the Woods,” but I’m too excited about Emily Blunt as the Baker’s Wife to mind.)

1. “West Side Story

I suppose whether this story, a 1950s update of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” as played out between American and Puerto Rican street gangs, would be a viable choice depends on your definition of “family-friendly” – as fans know, the show includes a lot of violence as well as a tragic ending that requires at least two boxes of Kleenex. So perhaps a few younger kids might have to leave the room for a few minutes but come back in for the flashy dance numbers. But don’t you want to see a live cast take on “America”? And “Tonight”? And “Jet Song”? And “Gee, Officer Krupke”? 

You’re humming them already, aren’t you? I rest my case.

2. “Oklahoma!”

With undemanding sets as well as not too many effects, the frontier drama, which follows cowboy Curly, his love Laurey, and the goings-on among the other settlers in their small town, would be a good fit for a live broadcast. And with the last big-screen movie version having been released in 1955, there may be some members of younger generations who aren’t familiar with the story. Villain Jud Fry is a little scary, but parents could talk younger kids through those scenes.

And while the video of the 1999 production has played before on PBS, it would always be worth checking if “Les Miserables” actor Hugh Jackman would be willing to reprise his wildly successful turn as cowboy Curly in the London revival of the show.

3. “Guys and Dolls

The fun story, following gamblers living in New York and their troubles with the women in their lives, would be enjoyable for all ages and the sets for “Guys,” often consisting of skyscraper backdrops, are never too complicated.

4. “Jesus Christ Superstar

Some may take issue with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s version of the life of Jesus, so this may not be the most likely pick, but the accessibility of the music – electric guitars are involved in so many of the songs! – and the novel way of telling the story of the New Testament would get the attention of younger viewers, if that’s what these broadcasts are going for.  

5. “My Fair Lady”

I asked my musical-loving colleague Marjorie Kehe, the Monitor’s book editor, for her pick for the next broadcast. She said she thinks the show based on “Pygmalion,” following a young flower-seller who's taught how to speak like a high-born young woman by a stuffy phoneticist, would appeal to many TV-watchers. “It's entertaining, it's a great story, it's great music,” Kehe said of “Fair.”

You’re welcome, NBC.

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