Who’s the one that you want?
Fox announced Monday that NBC isn’t the only studio that can bring musicals to the small screen: They’ll air a live, three-hour version of Grease sometime next year. If three makes a trend, I couldn’t be happier that musicals-on-TV are officially, finally back.
Now, there are a lot of considerations for a Grease adaptation. First of all: Will Fox stick solely with the Broadway version of the show (à la NBC’s decision for Sound of Music), which differentiates a fair amount from the John Travolta/Olivia Newton-John iconic movie? The stage show spends much more time with supporting characters as opposed to Danny and Sandy. People freaked out when Carrie Underwood sang “A Lonely Goatherd” in the first act of Sound of Music (a difference from the movie) — perhaps Fox will want to keep fans happy and keep things similar to the film.
Another reason the movie version — or at least an abridged stage version — may be the way to go? While the film version of Grease isn’t as family-friendly as people might remember (teen pregnancy!), the stage show is decidedly dirtier. NBC has said in the past that being “family-friendly” is one of the requirements they look for when picking which musical project to tackle next. I assume Fox — with its eye on Sound of Music-esque ratings — will want to ensure their audience is as big as possible, which might mean cutting some of the dirtier bits.
But. But. What if this is how Fox differentiates itself? Sure, I can imagine a Fox executive saying: Go to NBC for big, broad, family shows. Come to us for the cool, edgy ones. Think of the future possibilities for musical fans if an “R”-ish-rated Grease is a hit: Hair! Book of Mormon! Spring Awakening! (Okay…Spring Awakening will probably never air on the small screen.) A whole new catalog of possibilities just became possible.
The next big question, of course, is casting. Musical theater fans laughed when Carrie Underwood landed Maria von Trapp (We all remember that poster!), but Underwood and her fanbase brought in 22 million viewers, so Underwood certainly had the last chuckle. It seems likely Fox will want “a star” for Sandy and/or Danny, a.k.a. a combo of nameless Broadway vets who could crush the parts in their sleep are likely out. So who should take on Rydell High’s most famous alums? Check out a few of our suggestions below, and then tell us who you hope is singing about “Summer Nights” live come 2015.
Taylor Swift: Stick with me, haters: Doesn’t it seem like destiny for America’s teenager (who is actually 24) to play the most famous American (but really Australian) teen? She’s clearly a big enough star that everyone else in the show could be based solely on talent (Hooray!), because she’d deliver all the ratings they would need.
Laura Osnes: She’d bring Broadway chops to the role (she recently wrapped a Tony-nominated turn as Cinderella on the Great White Way), but her connection to Rydell High goes back. She got her start winning the NBC reality show Grease: You’re The One That I Want. She’s probably not a big enough name on her own, but if they stunt-cast Danny, Osnes could win over legions of new fans.
Kristen Bell: Her Frozen fame reminded people she can sing, and while she’s probably slightly too old to convincingly play high school, stick her next to an equally older Danny and no one will mind too much.
Aaron Tveit: The Graceland star sang his way into our hearts on the big screen as Enjolras in Les Misérables. It’s time for Tveit to be a bigger name.
Skylar Astin: Broadway chops, and a growing fanbase thanks to Pitch Perfect. Not a big enough star on his own, but opposite Taylor Swift? That could work.
Zac Efron: He’s said before that his musical days are behind him. But come with me for a beautiful dream for just a moment longer: His career could use a jolt, the PR would be fantastic, and, well, remember him as a leather jacket-clad teen heartthrob in Hairspray? He’d have people of all ages embracing their inner-teen.
Bonus write-in vote for Rizzo: Naya Rivera. It’s Fox. We know a Glee kid is showing up somewhere in this thing, and if you don’t want Lea Michele with an Australian accent or Darren Criss in a leather jacket — no judgment if you do — #Rivera4Rizzo seems like the most natural fit.
Just as long as Olivia Newton-John or Stockard Channing cameo as Principal McGee.