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There have been a number of stage musicals made for live TV in the past decade, including The Sound of Music, Peter Pan, Grease, The Wiz, Jesus Christ Superstar, Hairspray, The PassionA Christmas Story and Wicked.

And, most recently, Rent made its way to FOX just last week (January 27). The rock musical first opened on Broadway in 1996. It’s based in NYC’s East Village when the AIDs virus was at epidemic levels, with the multiple storylines covering topical issues that come about when living as a struggling artist in a bustling city.

Putting Rent on TV was an attempt to go a sexier and more mature route versus the family-oriented productions we’ve seen of late. But, unfortunately, going more edgy fell flat when it came to more ratings. More specifically, Rent actually came in as the lowest ranking made-for-TV musical… ever (if you’re gonna fail, be the best at it).

There’s no exact formula on what’s going to work, but here are some of the shows that we would like to see reach a broader audience via TV:

1. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is based on British author Roy Horniman‘s 1907 novel, Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal. The story revolves around Monty Navarro, an Englishman who is set to inherit a large fortune, but there are some family members in line before him. There have been earlier adaptations on stage and screen, but the Broadway run began in 2016 and is currently on stage. We may pick up some etiquette tips if a TV production were to be made.

2. An American in Paris

And, for the Francophiles out there, An American in Paris will check that box. The story revolves around a young American man, who has just ended his service in WWII. He moves to Paris to pursue his dreams of being a painter. His plans are usurped when meeting a love interest by the name of Lise. She has her own not-so-secret-secret aspirations. The Broadway production premiered in 2015 and closed in 2016. That’s a great reason for the show to be performed on television, for those who may have missed it.

3. Thoroughly Modern Millie

Thoroughly Modern Millie the musical is based on the 1967 film, which is an adaptation of the 1956 British musical Chrysanthemum. Millie is not your typical gal. She packs up her suitcase and moves from small-town U.S.A to the big bad city of NYC. There she has her mind set on marrying for money versus love. Oh, Millie!! The show opened on Broadway in 2002. There was a revival tour in the U.K. in 2017. We’d like to see Millie’s return on modern-day TV. 

4. Chicago

The original Broadway production of Chicago opened in 1975 and is still running today. It’s based on reporter-turned-playwright Maurine Dallas Watkins‘ 1926 play by the same name. It’s a fictional retelling of actual crimes committed during Jazz-age Chicago, that Watkins covered as a reporter. We meet Roxie Hart, who is accused and tried for killing her husband. And, a whole bunch of colorful characters like her ethically-challenged lawyer and fellow alleged murderess Velma Kelly. The musical was made into a 2002 feature film starring Renée ZellwegerCatherine Zeta-JonesRichard Gere, Queen Latifah and John C. Reilly. But, it hasn’t been made-for-TV… yet.

5. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child 

In Harry Potter and the Cursed Child we see a now grown up Harry. The story, written by Jack Thorne with the boy wizard creator J.K. Rowling and John Tiffany, takes place nineteen years after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  Harry is an employee at the Ministry of Magic and his son is about to enroll at Hogwarts. The Broadway production kicked off in 2018 and is still running. With the millions of Potterphiles out there, this is destined to be TV magic.

6. Matilda

Roald Dahl‘s 1988 children’s novel Matilda was made into a musical in 2010 by The Royal Shakespeare Company. It had a planned 12-week run, from there the show headed to the West End and ultimately landed on Broadway in 2013. The story revolves around 5-year-old Matilda who struggles with family and school. But, with her being telekinetic… she’s able to stand up for herself. If this story were to be re-produced on TV, it’d be a joy for all ages.

7. Nine

Nine on the other hand, is more of an adult nature and very sexy (not necessarily suggested for the kiddos). The story revolves around a filmmaker on the verge of turning 40. The anticipation of his looming birthday is causing chaos in his work and love life. Nine hit Broadway in 1982 and we saw a revival in 2003. Hmm, if this were to be made for TV, maybe it could air late-night.

8. Billy Elliot

In the case of Billy Elliot, the film came first, with Jamie Bell starring in the title role. Billy discovers he has a love and talent for dance, when tagging along with his little sister to class. His father and older brother are both coal miners. His dad thinks if Billy is to have an extracurricular activity it should be work. The musical premiered on the West End in 2005, with Elton John providing the music. In 2008, Billy Elliot headed to Broadway. If this were to premiere on American TV, we’d all be kicking up our knees (dancing) by the halfway mark.

9. Les Misérables 

Les Misérables is based on French writer Victor Hugo‘s 1862 novel. The story is set in 19th century France and revolves around Jean Valjean who is sentenced to 18 years when caught stealing a loaf of bread. Upon his release he agrees to look after a factory worker’s daughter, Cosette, who is being mistreated by her current guardians. While no longer imprisoned, he is still not free. A jaded police inspector is still on his tail. The musical production first hit the stage in 1980 in Paris, France. It then headed to London in 1985, where it is still performed in the West end. Les Mis made its debut on Broadway in 1987. It’s a story of hard times, but ultimately ends on a good note, which will easily translate to TV.

10. Cats

And, finally, Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s Cats. Cats made its debut in the West End in 1981 and on Broadway in 1982. The story revolves around a tribe of cats known as the Jellicles. Funnily enough, the cats realize they are being watched by humans, and address the audience during the performance. Their story starts off on a special day, when one cat will be chosen to be reborn. The stunning visuals and heartfelt songs of Cats really need to be boomed out from TVs everywhere. While we wait on that, we can look for the 2019 film version, starring Idris Elba, Rebel Wilson, Dame Judi Dench, Jennifer Hudson and Sir Ian McKellen.

Which musical gets your vote!? 

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Filed Under: Made for TV, Musicals
By Brigid Brown