NBC is taking audiences back to the ’60s for its upcoming musical Hairspray Live!, and for its next one the network is going back even further — to the ‘50s.
The network’s annual holiday musical event for 2017 will be a live telecast of the 1960 Broadway musical Bye Bye Birdie, starring Jennifer Lopez.
NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt made the announcement during a Paley Center panel interview with EW and PEOPLE editorial director Jess Cagle. Greenblatt also announced that Harvey Fierstein, who stars in Hairspray and adapted its book for television, will similarly adapt Michael Stewart’s original book of Bye Bye Birdie for the telecast.
Lopez will play Rose “Rosie” Alvarez, the secretary and miraculously patient girlfriend (not, as she had hoped by now, fiancée) of frazzled songwriter and music agent Albert Peterson.
In the original Broadway production, the roles were played by Chita Rivera and Dick Van Dyke. In the famous 1963 film adaptation, Van Dyke reprised his role alongside Janet Leigh as Rosie — whose surname was changed to DeLeon and whose showstopping second-act dance number “Spanish Rose” was cut entirely.
The show follows the hysteria of a small town in Ohio during a brief stopover by Conrad Birdie, an Elvis-like bad boy rock and roll heartthrob, who pays a visit to a member of his fan club (15-year-old Kim MacAfee) in a last-ditch effort to drum up publicity before he’s sent into the Army. Among the show’s most memorable songs are “The Telephone Hour,” “How Lovely to Be a Woman,” “Kids,” and Albert’s perennially optimistic solo, “Put on a Happy Face.” The show features lyrics by Lee Adams and music by Charles Strouse.
“To have a superstar like Jennifer Lopez starring in this classic show, which every high school in America has done, will ensure that our holiday musicals continue to be must-see events for the whole family,” said Greenblatt in a statement. “It was her idea to take on this classic singing and dancing role made famous by the legendary Chita Rivera, and we are so happy to oblige! This show has delighted audiences for generations with classic songs that include ‘Put on a Happy Face’ and ‘A Lot of Livin’ to Do,’ and this will be an extravagant production built around this big star.”
“Broadway musicals and films fueled my childhood,” Lopez said, “and Bye Bye Birdie was one of my favorites. I’m proud to be a part of the NBC family with Shades of Blue and I thought it would be a blast to take on one of their big live musicals.”
Lopez currently appears on NBC’s crime procedural Shades of Blue, which is presently in production on its second season. Lopez will executive produce the telecast with partners Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas and Benny Medina, as well as returning executive producers and musical gurus Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who have shepherded all of NBC’s successful live musicals thus far.
Hairspray Live! airs Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.