It’s Upfront Weeks, when TV network reveal to advertisers and media types what they’ll be rolling out in the fall. And this year, stage actors and musicals will be gleefully represented on the small screen.
We already know Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (Smash, Chicago) are bringing The Wiz Live! to NBC on December 3, with Kenny Leon directing and new material provided by Harvey Fierstein.
Now comes news that Stephanie Mills, who played Dorothy in the original 1975 Broadway production, will appear in NBC’s version as Aunt Em. Famed choreographer Fatima Robinson, who worked on the Dreamgirls movie, is also on board. And the Shuberts already plan to bring this reimagining to Broadway in 2017.
Also confirmed for NBC: Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris, a new one-hour variety show based on the popular UK series Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.
Hosted by the Tony-winner, this much-anticipated series will feature comedy sketches, musical numbers, mini-game shows, pranks on celebrities and more. Sounds like a gay ol’ time!
One of ABC’s most surprising renewals was their musical fairy tale, Galavant, which featured music from Alan Menken and Glenn Slater. The underwhelming first season featured the pretty-to-look-at Joshua Sasse in the title role, with guest stars like John Stamos and “Weird Al” Yankovich (above).
Some new series, however, have big potential: ABC greenlit Dan Savage’s The Real O’Neals starring Tony Nominee Martha Plimpton. The comedy chronicles the lives of a close-knit Chicago family, whose personal secrets come tumbling out—including that their youngest son is gay. It was given the “go” despite protests by religious conservatives.
And The Muppets are back on the small screen for the first time in two decades! The show will be a documentary-style series that will delightfully parody pop culture. I’m crossing my fingers for some musical numbers. A Muppets musical is also in the works for Broadway.
Showtime premieres Alec Mapa: Baby Daddy, written and starring Broadway vet Alec Mapa, on June 12. In the show, which sold out in L.A. and NYC, dirty-minded Mapa tells the true story of his son’s adoption. Trans activist Andrea James cut a live taping of the show, docu-style, and the result is furiously funny and smart.
A musical adaptation of Tuck Everlasting is finally coming to Broadway, after a false start in 2013.
The show is based on the 1975 fantasy novel by Natalie Babbitt about a young girl who encounters a family who live forever by drinking from a magic spring. (Two film adaptations of the book have been made, the most recent by Disney in 2002.)
The musical premiered in Atlanta earlier this year with Andrew Keenan Bolger (Mary Poppins, Newsies) as Jesse Tuck—we hope he’s still attached when it opens on the great white way in April 2016, at a Broadway house to be announced.
She Will Always Love You
In other news, Deborah Cox will star in the U.S. tour of The Bodyguard musical next year. The show, which premiered in the West End with Heather Headley in 2012, was adapted from the 1992 Whitney Houston-Kevin Costner movie of the same name about a Secret Service agent turned bodyguard who falls for the pop superstar he’s hired to protect.
The stage version, which won the Olivier Award for Best Musical, includes numerous Houston hits, including “Queen of the Night,” “So Emotional,” “Saving All My Love,” and, of course, “I Will Always Love You.”
Cox previously appeared in Broadway’s Jekyll & Hyde and provided Houston’s singing voice in the contervsial Lifetime biopic, Whitney.
Judy, Judy, Judy
Speaking of divas taken from us too soon, tickets are now on sale for Night of a Thousand Judys, an annual celebration of Francis Gumm engineered by the incomparable Justin Sayre. Benefiting The Ali Forney Center, the June 1 event features songs, skits and more by Sayre, Melissa Errico, Liz Callaway, Michael McElroy, Lauren Worsham, Rachel York, Randy Graff, Kim David Smith, Danielle Grabianowski and others.
Order a “Ruby Slipper” ticket package now, and you’ll receive a signed cast poster, access to pre-VIP reception, premier seating, and a gift bag.
All Sewn Up!
Broadway message boards are all atwitter with rumors about who will replace Darren Criss as the next Hedwig—and Taye Diggs’ name keeps climbing to the top of the list.
Having appeared in Rent, The Wild Party, Chicago and Wicked, Diggs certainly has the musical chops for the part. And while the Tony-winning revival has seen a number of stars put on that iconic wig, no actors of color have played the lead role.
AdWeek’s Jason Lynch, reporting from the Turner Entertainment upfronts, tweeted that Diggs was next in line for the role. (Diggs appears in the TNT crime drama Murder in the First.)
The 44-year-old actor posted an Instagram today with the script on his desk—so this could be pretty close to a done deal. We think Diggs would make a great Hedwig alongside Rebecca Naomi Jones’ killer Yitzhak.
Criss is scheduled to depart the show on July 19, but so far press reps have given “no comment.” Stay tuned for official word on casting whomever will play East Germany’s most famous trans rock star.
Ties That Bind
And finally, Jesse Tyler Ferguson isn’t nominated for a Tony this year, but he’s still giving Broadway’s biggest night his all: He and husband Justin Mikita have designed a special 2015 Tonys bow tie benefiting their charity, Tie the Knot, which sells custom neck ware to raise money for marriage equality.
The exclusive tie is available at Tie Bar for $25.