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NBC’s production of Bye Bye Birdie Live is on the move.
The network has pushed the live musical, starring and executive produced by Jennifer Lopez, from December to 2018, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.
The delay is due to Lopez’s hectic schedule, which includes two other NBC projects: season three of her cop drama Shades of Blue and her upcoming dance competition series World of Dance, which she is judging in addition to exec producing.
On top of that, Lopez has her All I Have Las Vegas residency and is also working on a Spanish-language album.
The postponement makes this year the first since 2012 that NBC has been without a live musical production. The network started the December tradition in 2013 with The Sound of Music Live. Subsequent years saw Peter Pan Live, The Wiz Live and most recently Hairspray Live.
NBC, however, now has two live musicals set for 2018, with Jesus Christ Superstar Live already announced for Easter Sunday.
The delay also comes just as Fox and ABC are beginning to push more aggressively into the live musical production space. Following the critical and commercial success of Fox’s Grease Live in 2016, the network is readying a live production for A Christmas Story: The Musical for December, as well as a live version of Rent for 2018.
ABC, meanwhile, has a hybrid live-action and animated take on The Little Mermaid slated for October in which celebrities will sing the Disney pic’s famous tunes live with the animated film playing in the background. In 2018, the network also has a live musical telecast celebrating Rolling Stone magazine’s 50th anniversary.
Based on the original 1960 Tony-winning musical and the 1963 film it inspired, Bye Bye Birdie centers on a hip-thrusting, Elvis-like music heartthrob named Conrad Birdie, who is scheduled to give a lucky Sweet Apple lady “One Last Kiss” before being drafted into the Army. However, his rock ‘n’ roll ways send his small town reeling, giving the teens Birdie fever, shocking the parents with moral indignation and placing songwriter-agent Albert along with his savvy sweetheart, Rosie (Lopez), right in the thick of things.
Lopez and Harvey Fierstein, who is adapting the book for NBC, have already spoken about how they plan to update the show and, notably, make it less sexist.
“I want to be true to the time it takes place but at the same time, having Rosie be Albert’s secretary, whom he’s having an affair with, is a little sexist and old-fashioned. I didn’t see any reason for that,” Fierstein told THR in March. “So I changed that. I made them both high school teachers.”
Additionally, the NBC version will highlight Rosie’s struggles as a Puerto Rican woman hitting middle age who is saddled with a commitment-phobic partner.
“There were all these dynamics that were in the original play that didn’t make it into the movie,” Lopez told reporters in January. “So it will be interesting to play that part and be a woman who’s pushing 40 and feels like, ‘Are we ever getting married?'”
However, she also said that the musical would remain true to its roots. “We’re going to keep it period. It’s going to be very authentic,” said Lopez. “We just want to push the envelope of how great these live musicals can be. I’m excited to take it on as a producer and as a role.”
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