'Hairspray' Set as NBC's Next Live Musical

This will be the fourth live production for Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, following on the critical success of 'The Wiz.'
Efron and Blonsky in the 2007 feature 'Hairspray'  

NBC has set its fourth live musical: Hairspray.

The network used its platform Wednesday at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour to announce its follow-up to critical success The Wiz and its predecessors, Peter Pan and The Sound of Music. 

NBC's go-to duo Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (who have done all three of its live musical productions) will again serve as executive producers for the project that will air as a holiday special in December.

"That title seems really fun and I think it will be really great live," network chief Bob Greenblatt said, noting the deals aren't closed but a formal announcement should be coming soon. Speaking with reporters after his morning session, the exec said the musical's focus on race relations and diversity was a big factor in its selection. Greenblatt noted he would be open to having John Travolta reprise his role from Zadan and Meron's 2007 rendition.

The news comes on the heels of last month's critical (and ratings) success of The Wiz, which attracted an all-star cast including Queen Latifah, Ne-Yo, Mary J. Blige, Uzo Aduba and Common, among others. The Wiz, which came as broadcast networks have been making a major diversity push and combined that with the live element, topped Peter Pan but fell short of the out-of-the-gate success of the net's first effort, The Sound of Music.

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter after The Wiz, Zadan and Meron noted that Music Man was contingent on finding the right star, while A Few Good Men was being held up with rights issues. The producers also stressed that unlike Fox's upcoming Grease Live, they have no plans to stage a production with a live studio audience.

"Since we changed the playing field for ourselves this year in the way we did everything — and the whole technique of doing the show is different — we set out on a path that has changed the way we do them," said Zadan. "That's going to inform what the next show is going to be. We don't want to go back to the way we did Peter Pan or The Sound of Music — we want to keep moving forward."

Live programming continues to be in high demand as broadcast networks look for ways in which to draw both live viewership in an increasingly competitive DVR landscape as well as star power in a bid to cut through the clutter. 

Meron and Zadan previously produced the 2007 feature film adaptation of the musical. The movie, which featured John Travolta, Christopher Walken (who also starred in Peter Pan), Zac Efron and then-newcomer Nikki Blonsky, grossed $120 million stateside. 

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