6:30pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Hair' Scrapped as NBC's Next Live Musical
NBC is pulling its Hair.
The network has opted to scrap its previously announced planned live musical rendition of Hair. The production was due to air on Sunday, May 19. The news comes as NBC was in the midst of making offers to talent. (Hailee Steinfeld was among those being courted, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.)
"Live musicals are a part of this network's DNA and we are committed to continuing that tradition with the right show at the right time. Since these shows are such enormous undertakings, we need titles that have a wide appeal and we’re in the process of acquiring the rights to a couple of new shows that we’re really excited about," NBC Entertainment co-chairmen Paul Telegdy and George Cheeks said Monday in a joint statement.
Sources note that the conversation about the future of Hair started with its planned premiere date — Sunday, May 19. That's the same night as the season finale of ABC's American Idol and the highly anticipated series finale of the HBO juggernaut Game of Thrones. NBC is said to have pondered rescheduling Hair but instead started a larger conversation about whether it was the right musical for the network. Ultimately, Hair — the 50-year-old Broadway hit of the hippie generation — was scrapped as NBC looks for a title that has greater appeal for family co-viewing. Hair explored topics including the Vietnam War, drugs, race, gender and sexual identity and included brief nudity in most of its previous stagings.
"We haven't crossed that bridge yet, but I can probably guarantee that there's not going to be much nudity," former NBC Entertainment president Bob Greenblatt told The Hollywood Reporter in January of the production he was executive producing alongside Neil Meron. "If you've ever seen the show, there's not that much nudity. It's less than a minute, in the dark, which was controversial 50 years ago — but it's almost unnecessary. You're not going to see nudity … well, maybe a little."
Hair becomes the latest live musical to be scrapped at NBC. The project, which was to have been exec produced by Neil Meron and Craig Zadan (before the latter's passing), was announced as the network's replacement for Jennifer Lopez starrer Bye, Bye Birdie. The latter remains an option should the timing, casting and costs work out. (Birdie was delayed multiple times because of Lopez's schedule.) NBC's long-gestating live production of A Few Good Men remains on the back burner, though it is not on the schedule for anytime in the near future.
Greenblatt ushered in the live musical era at NBC. Others, including Fox and ABC, attempted to follow to varying degrees of success. ABC planned a live take on A Little Mermaid but ultimately scrapped it. Fox won an Emmy for Grease Live and most recently had to air its dress rehearsal performance of Rent after one of its leads broke his ankle near the end of the three-hour run-through.
NBC's previous live musicals have included The Sound of Music, Peter Pan, The Wiz and Hairspray. Live productions — like the musicals — have become increasingly valuable to networks as a form of event programming that bucks the DVR trend. Many draw impressive live audiences and help networks sell advertising inventory at a premium.