Fresh off the success of The Wiz Live!, producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan are taking a look back at NBC’s previous attempts at live musicals.
The Wiz, which starred Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Common, and newcomer Shanice Williams as Dorothy, beat out last year’s Peter Pan Live! in the ratings, and though it fell short of 2013’s The Sound of Music, critical reception was much improved from previous years’ “hate-watched” musical specials.
“To wake up and read the response online and from critics and to actually have them embrace what we were doing for the first time in three years is really gratifying and a deeply emotional feeling,” Meron told The Hollywood Reporter on Friday. “We did have a mission set up in our minds to bring theater to a big audience and that's one of the reasons why we got into this and wanted to do it live. To have it all pay off after this three-year learning curve has been sensational.”
When asked if they’ll return for another musical, however, the producers couched their answer with an interesting observation about last year’s Peter Pan, which starred Girls actress Allison Williams in the titular role.
“We're not so slaphappy to jump in and pick a title because that's what we did when we came off the success off Sound of Music and went into Peter Pan,” Zadan explained. “What we didn't know about Peter Pan — and there was no way to know this — was that Peter Pan, as a piece, has overstayed its welcome. What we discovered, too late of course, is that people aren't interested in Peter Pan.”
Zadan cited the recent box-office flop Pan as further evidence that audiences are no longer interested in the tale of the boy who “never grows up,” originally created by Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie.
“Clearly, this idea of Peter Pan being a viable story right now is not the case,” he added. “As a result of that, we made a mistake in choosing it and I don't think we should jump on something; we should think it through and figure out what the next choice should be in the progression of ‘what do you follow The Wiz with so we can keep moving forward and not backward?’”
While the producers wouldn’t take any ideas off the table, they probably won’t be making Grease Live!, as Fox is jumping on the live musical bandwagon with their own production of the ‘70s classic, starring Julianne Hough, Aaron Tveit, and Vanessa Hudgens, which will air on Jan. 16.
“We wish them the best of luck because their success helps our success,” Meron said. “The more, the merrier!”