Broadway veteran Aaron Tveit has reportedly been cast as male lead Danny Zuko in the Fox live musical “Grease.”
Mr. Tveit starred in the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical “Next to Normal” beginning in 2009 as well as the Broadway musical version of the film “Catch Me If You Can” in 2011. He also played one of the lead roles in the 2012 film version of the classic musical “Les Miserables.”
Julianne Hough, a judge on the ABC dancing competition “Dancing With the Stars” who previously starred in the 2011 film “Footloose” and 2012’s “Rock of Ages,” is playing Danny’s love interest Sandy in the live show. “High School Musical” actress Vanessa Hudgens, who also recently played the title role in a Broadway revival of “Gigi,” is taking on the role of Rizzo. “Grease” is set to air on Fox in January.
[Editor's note: The original version of this article misspelled "Gigi."]
“Grease” is only one of a recent spate of live musicals on television, a format thought previously to have hit its zenith decades ago. But then NBC scored an unexpected hit in 2013 with “The Sound of Music Live!,” which starred country singer Carrie Underwood as Maria von Trapp and “True Blood” actor Stephen Moyer as the Captain as well as Broadway veterans such as Christian Borle, Audra McDonald, and Laura Benanti. NBC quickly planned a follow-up and Fox planned “Grease.”
However, “Grease” is far from a sure thing in terms of ratings. NBC’s 2014 live musical, “Peter Pan Live!,” didn’t reach the ratings of “Music.” For "Pan," the country music audience wouldn’t have been brought in like they were by Ms. Underwood and “Music” was a novelty at the time – perhaps viewers were less curious about a live musical follow-up.
In addition, both “Music” and “Pan” aired in early December as family programming. The month is ideal for shows around which the entire family can settle. In January, Fox will be competing against the normal schedule of TV shows and “Grease” could be overshadowed.
So why are networks continuing with live productions (NBC is planning “The Wiz” for this December as well as Fox’s “Grease”)? If they can get viewers to tune in, a live show is something many would want to be watching as it happens, following along on Twitter and texting with their friends. In the age of DVR and online viewing, this is increasingly hard to come by. It worked for “Music” and now executives hope to recapture the magic.
And “Grease” is a very well-known property, one that could get viewers of many ages tuning in (though perhaps not the whole family as envisioned by NBC for “Music” or “Pan”). Time will tell whether "Grease" will prove a success for Fox.