OnStage New York Columnist
Last year, Fox broadcast a new (though not live) production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and NBC broadcast a live performance of the musical Hairspray. This was NBC’s fourth annual live broadcast of a musical, and Fox’s third broadcast (the network had broadcast Grease: Live and The Passion earlier in the year). NBC’s broadcasts come in the middle of the holiday season, and tend toward the more family friendly. Even if The Wiz and Hairspray are arguably edgier than Peter Pan and The Sound of Music, the former is essentially The Wizard of Oz and the latter has a mostly upbeat score and delivers positive social messages. Bye Bye Birdie will continue NBC’s pattern this coming December.
Grease aside, by broadcasting Rocky Horror in the lead up to Halloween, Fox, in a way, was continuing an old tradition of people getting together to re-enact the classic rock musical around that time of year. This usually occurs with the movie being played on a screen behind or above the cast and an unofficial set of lines being shouted by a live audience, but it was a television event, so it had a different mold to fit. While Fox will probably re-run this broadcast in years to come, it seems to want to keep producing new such events. No announcement for the future has been made along these lines at this time, but one may be coming soon. Just as NBC has claimed the more wholesome Christmas season, Fox should grab Halloween.
Fox already broadcasts darker, creepier content throughout the television season, with shows like Gotham, Sleepy Hollow, and Lucifer. It is the right network for a Halloween tradition of live musicals (and they should be live, as the Rocky Horror broadcast was originally intended to be). They should follow Rocky Horror with Little Shop of Horrors, another well-known, campy monster musical with a fun rock-based score that audiences will love. They might not be able to coax Rick Moranis out of retirement to play Mr. Mushnik, but as Ellen Greene proved in 2015 at New York City Center, she’s still got what it takes to pull off the roll of Audrey, which she originated off-Broadway in 1982 and went on to play in the 1986 movie. Her involvement would be an event in itself.
From there, Fox has plenty to work with. It could produce a live broadcast of Sweeney Todd, if it wants to go particularly dark and bloody one year, or Wicked, which, cute as it is, is about witches and talking goats, if it wants to approach family friendly. Perhaps they decide to go with Mel Brooks’s musical adaptation of his movie Young Frankenstein, another familiar title, or embrace the dark and brooding but still smolderingly handsome type of monster currently in vogue with a production of Frank Wildhorn’s very popular Jekyll & Hyde. Who knows how long live musicals will be a thing on television, but while they are, Fox can keep NBC on its toes, and create some memorable nights of Halloween viewing at the same time.
Aaron Netsky's writing has also appeared on Slate, Atlas Obscura, TheHumanist.com, Thought Catalog, and Medium. He has written a few novels, one of which explores how a teen can fall in love with musical theatre, and he has worked in a variety of jobs off- and off-off-Broadway, most recently on an East Village production of Anna Christie. Check out his personal blogs (http://cantonaut.blogspot.com and http://366days366musicals.tumblr.com) and follow him on Twitter @AaronNetsky.