January 19, 2014 9:25am PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Peter Pan' Set as NBC's Live 'Sound of Music' Follow-Up
After drawing an impressive 18.6 million to its live production of The Sound of Music Live!, NBC has announced its follow-up: Peter Pan.
Using his platform Sunday at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour, NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt said NBC would broadcast a live performance of Peter Pan set for Dec. 4. Casting for the project, which is being fast-tracked, is underway. Greenblatt told The Hollywood Reporter that there likely isn't a role in it for Sound of Music star Carrie Underwood, whose performance was largely panned by critics. The executive noted that the central role of Peter -- traditionally played by a woman -- would likely go to a male actor.
Based on James M. Barrie's revered book and musical, NBC's new take comes after the network in 1955 staged a live broadcast of the Broadway production of Peter Pan that opened in 1954. The show, starring Tony winners Mary Martin and Cyril Richard drew 65 million viewers -- the highest rating for a single night program at the time. NBC later broadcast the show live again in 1956 and 1960. It was also the first broadcast of a musical in color.
The news comes after Greenblatt, also a Broadway producer, announced in December that he was looking for another "well-known" title that could draw both kids and adults and could be produced live. The network will reteam with Sound of Music producers and Broadway veterans Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (who also exec produced NBC's Broadway drama Smash.)
"We've narrowed it down to about three titles," the executive told The Hollywood Reporter in December, declining to provide further details at the time. "They all have complicated rights issues and I don't know if we're going to be able to get them. In the next couple of weeks -- we want to do this quickly -- we'll zero in on something because we have to produce it. We now have less than a year. When we did Sound of Music, we literally spent 18 months on it and had a lot to learn. We also learned a lot and I think we don't have as big of a learning curve for next time."
Following repeat broadcasts Sound of Music, Greenblatt said in addition to advertising revenue, NBC teamed with Walmart and had other ancillary revenue streams including CDs, a DVD that the company owns and international rights to the film -- which cost an estimated $9 million to produce.
"We own it so we can repeat it every year for the next 10 years," Greenblatt said in December. "Even if it does just a small fraction of what it did, it's free to repeat it. That's all upside and if you chart it all out, in 10 years, there's millions of dollars there."
Greenblatt was optimistic that the network could produce a second live production "more efficiently" than Sound of Music, which took 18 months to get on the air.
“We’re very pleased to be underway on Peter Pan as our next live holiday musical for the whole family,” Greenblatt said Sunday. “We were all delighted to see how The Sound of Music Live! struck such a chord in December and brought nearly 19 million people to the live telecast plus another several million viewers over the weekend. In the hopes that lightning strikes twice, we think we’ve landed on another great Broadway musical -- which ironically also starred Mary Martin -- that is a timeless classic for all audiences, young and old, who just never want to grow up.”
The decision to repeat the live musical performance comes as broadcast networks are looking to draw eyeballs (and awards-season cachet) in an increasingly competitive landscape and DVR era.