Every TV Musical, Ranked | TV Guide
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This weekend, Fox will grace us with another live musical event in the form of Rent— one of the most celebrated musicals of all time. Broadcast networks have taken on other popular titles, from Grease and The Wiz to Sound of Music, all with varying degrees of success.
Sometimes the live musicals have embodied the fun and glitz that’s supposed to come with such a production, while others have failed to find a way to connect with the broadcast audience. What is it that makes a musical television event successful? It might be hard to pin down, but TV Guide has tried to figure it out by ranking the musical events that have come before. What ended up being No. 1? Scroll down to find out!
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10. Dirty Dancing
Sometimes cashing in on nostalgia backfires, and it’s usually when people try to recreate perfection. The original Dirty Dancing is an iconic classic that is still watched and beloved by millions. So when ABC tried to remake it, it was impossible to find people who shared Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze’s on-screen chemistry. Abigail Breslin and Colt Prattes didn’t even come close, bless their hearts. At the end, we felt dirty, like we had cheated on one of our oldest loves rather than basking in its glory. It was just painful.
9. A Christmas Story Live!
There were a lot of issues with A Christmas Story, ranging from technical issues to the fact the original film was not a musical, so the songs that were created felt forced on a story that people already love. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, producers. It was a good idea in theory, but it just didn’t get pulled off in the actual execution.
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8. Peter Pan Live!
Honestly, this isn’t really NBC or Allison Williams’ fault. It’s the fact that Peter Pan the musical is a very different entity from the cartoon and story so many grew up with. The musical and original book really played up Peter’s and the Lost Boys’ mommy issues and is actually kind of creepy? The NBC production stayed faithful to that, but the cognitive dissonance was too much for many people to bear. And if anyone can explain to me what Christopher Walken was doing for three hours, I would be eternally grateful, because I am still so confused.
7. The Passion
Religious musicals are always going to be tough (though it can be done — just scroll down), and Tyler Perry’s take on The Passion felt like an extra long church sermon rather than being entertaining and uplifting. They tried to make it fun by introducing modern day songs into the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, but is that really what you want on Palm Sunday? Hoobastank and crucifixions just don’t mix well together. It ended up being more cringeworthy than fun, but it was almost bad in a really enjoyable way.
6. Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again!
Rocky Horror had a lot of the same issues as Dirty Dancing, just better executed. It wasn’t even live so it made us wonder: Why are we doing this? We can just watch the perfect original and call it a day. While the choice to have Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank-N-Furter was inspired, it still didn’t seem worth a three-hour investment. Nor did it add anything else to the conversation so many years after the original debuted.
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5. Sound of Music Live!
Welcome to the OG musical event! Sound of Music Live! proved what was capable with these type of things, and its ratings success paved the way for everything else on the list. Carrie Underwood was delightful as Maria, but the production left a lot to be desired when it comes to comparisons to the original. Yes, that feels like an impossible standard, but as the first was one of its kind, it’s hard to compare it to anything else. It was a really great first effort, but now we know that we can do way better.
4. Hairspray Live!
Hairspray Live! gets a lot of points for casting, to be honest. Kristin Chenoweth! Ariana Grande! Harvey Feinstein! They bridged a lot of gaps between hardcore Broadway fans and today’s pop culture generation, even though we’ll say the John Travolta and Zac Efron movie was more enjoyable (and the original Broadway cast recording will always be tops). Still, Hairspray Live! understood the most important tenant of a live musical, and that’s to make it fun! It wasn’t perfect, but you still had a good time watching.
3. The Wiz Live!
The Wiz Live! was really cool because it introduced to the musical to a new generation. Unlike Peter Pan where people expected something else, people went into The Wiz at least knowing it wasn’t exactly like The Wizard of Oz, even if they hadn’t seen the iconic Diana Ross and Michael Jackson film from the ’70s. The acting was great and the songs were so fun, which made watching it a delight. Have we mentioned that enjoyment is the key here?
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2. Grease: Live!
When it comes to entertainment value, nothing can top Grease: Live! Plus, it came with the bonus of Aaron Tveit in short shorts. The musical stayed true to the one that everyone knows and loves, and the live element made it that much more daring as the cast and crew raced through the Warner Bros. lot to create a full experience not only for the live audience, but for everyone watching at home as well. The reason the musical lands at No. 2 is because, well, as classic as Grease is, it is still problematic AF and keeping a line like, “Did she put up a fight?” in 2016 is still cringeworthy.
1. Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert
Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert pretty much had it all — an all-star cast, a recognizable property executed with great technique and a visually stunning performance. And it was rewarded with the Primetime Emmy for Variety special (plus a handful of other noms), making it the most decorated of all the musical events so far (though, Grease Live! also won some below-the-line trophies as well). Honestly, did you think they could go wrong with Mr. Butter Voice himself John Legend at the center with the ridiculously talented Sara Bareilles at his side? This is how you get the best of all the worlds and make a smash hit.
Rent Live! premieres Sunday, Jan. 27 at 8/7c on Fox.