More hit musicals for TV

A scene from the 1973 Norman Jewison film version of Jesus Christ Superstar. A made-for-TV live production of the musical is planned for Easter Sunday next year

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BY BILLY SUTER

FOLLOWING the success of live TV productions of the musicals The Sound of Music, The Wiz, Peter Pan, Hairspray and Grease, plans are now afoot to present live productions of Jesus Christ Superstar and Rent on US television.

Also, it has been reported that a three-hour production of the musical A Christmas Story, based on the 1983 film, is also on the cards. It is headed for the Fox network in December.

A Christmas Story received three New York’s Tony Award nominations in 2013 – for best musical, best score and best book. It tells of a mischievous boy who dreams of getting a BB-gun for Christmas. In the weeks before the big holiday, Ralphie, his friends and his family get into all kinds of situations.

The show features a score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who won as Oscar this year for  the song City of Stars, from La La Land. They also received a Tony nomination this year for their score of the show, Dear Evan Hansen.

It has been reported that the NBC network will broadcast Jesus Christ Superstar, a rock opera with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, on Easter Sunday next year. It follows the network’s The Sound of Music, Peter Pan, The Wiz and, most recently, Hairspray.

The chairman of NBC, Robert Greenblat, told Playbill that casting had begun, “but we want to fill out this classic show with as many recording artists as possible to give proper voice to what is the original rock opera score”.

The Fox network, which presented Grease, is scheduled to present a live version of Rent, a musical inspired by Puccini’s opera La Bohème. It follows a group of struggling artists in New York in the mid 1990s, against the backdrop of the Aids crisis. No casting or dates have yet been mentioned for Rent.

Meanwhile, news from London is that David Ives’s riveting drama, Venus in Fur, a hit on both Broadway and South Africa (where the play was produced at Durban’s KickstArt theatre company) is finally to make it to the West End.

Natalie Dormer, star of TV’s Game of Thrones, will star alongside David Oakes (Shakespeare in Love, The Borgias) in the two-hander.

Directed by Patrick Marber, the play is scheduled to run at the Theatre Royal Haymarket from October 6 to December 9.

The convoluted drama, turned into a 2013 French film by Roma Polanski, focuses on Thomas, a writer-director of a new play, an adaptation of a 1870 novel by an Austrian author.

Alone in a Parisian theatre after a day of auditioning actresses for the lead character, Wanda von Dunayev, Thomas laments on the phone of the poor performances to come through. As he is preparing to leave the theatre, an actress named Vanda arrives dishevelled.

In a whirlwind of energy and unrestrained aggression, Vanda persuades the director to let her read for the part. To Thomas’s amazement, Vanda shows great understanding of the character and knows every line by heart.

As the audition progresses, the intensity is redoubled and the attraction of Thomas turns into obsession.


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