Songbird Laura Benanti, who just won raves for her portrayal of Rosabella in the Encores! revival of Frank Loesser’s The Most Happy Fella, and as the fiancee foiled by a problem like Maria in NBC’s hit live telecast of The Sound Of Music, has signed with CAA. Previously she was Tony-nominated as Cinderella in Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into The Woods and had a run in the short-lived series Playboy Club. She’s rumored to be returning to Broadway, probably next season, in another Golden Age musical revival. Benanti is managed by Emily Gerson Saines at Brookside Artist Management.
UPDATED: Following the big ratings success of The Sound Of Music Live! last December, NBC in January set a live production of Peter Pan as its next event musical. With that project in the casting stages, NBC has lined up a third live musical production, The Music Man, for 2015, the network’s chairman Bob Greenblatt announced at the NBC upfront presentation today. No details were given though I hear the network is looking to bring in prolific producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron to shepherd the project. The duo is behind NBC’s hugely successful Sound Of Music special and they are also are attached to Peter Pan. Additionally, Zadan and Meron know The Music Man musical very well as they produced the previous TV adaptation for ABC in 2003 starring Matthew Broderick and Kristin Chenoweth. I hear there is no deal in place and making one would a subject to a number of factors, including scheduling. Zadan and Meron have a lot on their plate. In addition to Peter Pan, they are returning again as Oscar producers. The 1957 Broadway The Music Man musical tells the tale of “Professor” Harold Hill, a conman musical instrument salesman who falls for a local librarian.
The second-eldest daughter of Georg Ludwig von Trapp and Agatha Whitehead von Trapp,, who was part of the musical family that inspired The Sound Of Music died Tuesday in Vermont, per the AP. She was 99. Maria Franziska von Trapp was the last surviving member of the Von Trapp Singers. She was portrayed by Heather Menzies-Urich as the character Louisa in Robert Wise’s 1965 multiple Oscar-winner, adapted from the 1959 Broadway play about her family’s flight from Nazi-held Austria.
Following the successful live staging of The Sound Of Music, NBC has set its followup musical — James M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, which will be broadcast on Dec. 4. The Sound Of Music‘s masterminds Craig Zadan and Neil Meron are back as executive producers. “Get ready for flying children,” NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt said. Asked during the executive session about casting choices, he said, “I want Miley Cyrus for (Peter Pan)” but later said that none of the names brought up, a list that included Justin Bieber and Tayler Swift, are among the stars they are considering. (He was coy about whether they are looking at a male or a female lead.) The original Broadway production of Peter Pan, directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins and featuring songs “I’m Flying,” “I’ve Gotta Crow,” “I Won’t Grow Up,” and “Never Never Land,” opened on Broadway in 1954. The show had a book by J.M. Barrie and a score by Mark “Moose” Charlap & Carolyn Lee, with additional songs by Jule Styne & Betty Comden and Adolph Green. It starred Mary Martin as Peter and Cyril Richard as Captain Hook, both of whom won Tony Awards for their performances. The show closed in 1955 to make way for the live broadcast on NBC, with an audience of 65 million viewers — the highest rating for a single night program at …
NBC announced this afternoon it will repeat its The Sound of Music Live! on Saturday, Dec. 14, 8-11 PM ET/PT. Sorry, It’s A Wonderful Life (The Jimmy Stewart movie has been bumped to Friday at 8 PM.) Craig Zadan and Neil Meron’s live staging of The Sound of Music continues to shower NBC with ratings. Immediately after Thursday’s broadcast of the musical re-staging was watched by an average of nearly 19 million viewers, NBC stations’ late-local news shot up 75% in households in the 56 metered markets (7.0 rating vs. season average 4.0 rating). That kind of payoff is sure to make local station execs happy, given that NBC reported a near-record number of promos run by both its O&O stations and NBC affiliates for a one-night event, not to mention advance coverage they’d given the live event before its broadcast on their local air and on their web sites.
After local newscasts, The Tonight Show With Jay Leno managed to match its metered-market season Thursday high – and did it with a repeat episode. (That’s excluding the previous Thursday, when Leno’s show went through the roof, owing to a Thanksgiving day football overrun.) With Sound of Music’s Live+3 viewing numbers now in, the Carrie Underwood starrer stands at 21.3 million viewers and a 5.5 rating in the demo. The only broadcast primetime entertainment series that tops SOM’s 5.5 rating in “most current” season averages is The Big Bang Theory, with a 6.9 rating. And, to the delight of NBC and advertisers who’d signed on, SOM viewers were upscale and well educated. In homes with $100K-plus incomes, The Sound of Music earned a 6.8 rating in adults 18-49, making it the highest-rated Big 4 entertainment broadcast in those homes since the Academy Awards in February. (In this, SOM is tied with ABC’s Modern Family season premiere on September 25.) In homes where the head of household has four or more years of college education, The Sound of Music scored a 7.0 rating in adults 18-49 — this season’s No. 1-ranked entertainment telecast on ABC, CBS, NBC or Fox in that category.
The three-time Oscar nominee worked with many of Hollywood’s most iconic leading men — including Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, Glenn Ford, Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston, and Frank Sinatra — and such storied directors as William Wyler, Frank Capra, Otto Preminger and Robert Wise. Eleanor Parker died Monday in Palm Springs of pneumonia complications. She was 91. She earned back-to-back Best Actress Academy Award noms for Caged (1951) and Detective Story (1952) and added a third just three years later for Interrupted Melody (1955). Parker starred in dozens of films and TV shows during her 50-year career, but she’s perhaps most widely remembered as the Baroness in the 1965 Best Picture winner The Sound Of Music. On the big screen, she also starred in such films as Scaramouche, The Man With The Golden Arm, The King And Four Queens, A Hole In The Head and Panic Button. By the 1970s, Parker was focusing on TV, and she earned a Best Actress Golden Globe nom for the 1969-70 series Bracken’s World. She went on to appear on such series as Hawaii Five-O, Vega$, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island and Murder, She Wrote.
To the surprise of no one who saw the ratings and the social stats, NBC announced Monday that it’s turning last week’s live-musical/social media-palooza into an annual event. NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt said today he’s already circling a couple of titles for next year but already has begun managing expectations, telling The New York Times, “There may be a little bit of a phenomenon to the first one of these. Who knows what happens Year 2, 3, or 4?”
NBC clocked an impressive 18.6 million viewers Thursday night with its three-hour broadcast of The Sound of Music, which became a social media phenom, with much of the attention paid by tweeters to star Carrie Underwood’s “thin acting resume” as the NYT put it. Underwood reacted to her professional and amateur critics by tweeting that “mean people need Jesus” and that she would pray for them.
That said, many of those critics cut her — and the broadcast, with its numerous technical glitches — a lot of slack, in an effort to show support for the idea of mounting live TV broadcasts, and family-friendly ones to boot. Here’s maybe the best example, from The Daily Beast (NYT thought so too): “It’s the least we can do to drop any cynicism over the project and harsh reaction to the execution of it and appreciate the huge gamble and undertaking it was to reanimate those mountains, and how fun it was to — even without Julie Andrews and even if it was kind of a mess — be twirling on them again.”
Related: ‘Sound Of Music’ Ratings Big For NBC
NBC’s live The Sound of Music starring Carrie Underwood had a few hitches tonight. The orchestra occasionally drowned out the singers in the early going, the sound sputtered a few times, the accents were all over the place, and they really should have re-thought those Von Trapp family-esque Walmart ads. Stephen Moyer and that Nazi bigwig fumbled their will-you-or-will-you-not-join-the-Navy cross-talk act, some guy momentarily pinned The Baroness when he stepped on the train of her beautiful evening gown (“Whoops!” giggled Laura Benanti, handling it like a pro). And, as an actress, American Idol alum Underwood is an enormously talented singer.
On the other hand, had NBC gone with the real Von Trapp family’s choice to play Maria – Anne Hathaway — that little cute little actress playing Gretl would not have come across as the next Ethel Barrymore. Nor would Moyer be up for a Medal of Freedom for his valor during that garden love scene. And maybe Audra McDonald’s “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” would not be remembered as the emotional high point of an otherwise emotionally flat show.
Yeah, live TV is wonderfully messy.
Q&A: Producers Craig Zadan & Neil Meron On “Historic” ‘Sound Of Music’ Special And ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ Mini, ‘Smash’, Miley Cyrus
It is a big week for producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. They have the live staging of The Sound Of Music starring Carrie Underwood and Stephen Moyer on NBC tomorrow night, and four-hour miniseries Bonnie & Clyde starring Emile Hirsch and Holliday Grainger airing Sunday and Monday on History, A&E and Lifetime. While most producers abandoned the longform genre when it went out of fashion over the last five years, Zadan and Meron stuck with it through their longform deal at Sony TV, producing mostly movies for Lifetime, including the highly rated Steel Magnolias reboot with an all-black cast. Their loyalty has paid off and the two now are at the forefront of longform’s resurgence. (Zadan and Meron just sold a high-profile Eliot Ness miniseries to NBC.) Coming up for the duo next year is the launch of their new MTV comedy series Happyland, the return of Lifetime dramedy Drop Dead Diva and the filming of E! pilot Songbyrd. Oh, and they also are returning as producers of the Oscars in March. I caught up with Zadan and Meron to talk about Bonnie & Clyde and The Sound Of Music — find out why they call them “historic”, how Underwood traveled to Austria to prepare for playing Maria in SOM and how close Miley Cyrus came to playing Bonnie in B&C — as well as the Oscars, Smash and a possible Steel Magnolia sequel.
DEADLINE: Were you surprised by the longform genre’s resurgence?
ZADAN: We did expect it would come back. Everything is cyclical and we thought that event television had become so scarce between all the reality shows and all the other things that were going on (and also the fact that there were still great movies on HBO and a few other places), that eventually everybody would catch on to bring it back if there was a big hit that warranted it. I think Hatfields & McCoys was so enormous that no one could ignore it anymore; they had to bring it back at that point.
Here’s the first look at NBC‘s three-hour adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. The Sound Of Music Live! airs live December 5 and stars Carrie Underwood, Stephen Moyer, Audra McDonald, Christian Borle and Laura Benanti. It’s directed by Beth McCarthy-Miller and Rob Ashford and exec produced by Neil Meron and Craig Zadan. Check it out:
Vinnie Jones is the first actor cast in ABC’s single-camera pilot Galavant, a comedy fairytale written by The Neighbors creator Dan Fogelman, with Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken attached to write the music. Produced by ABC Studios, Galavant centers on handsome Prince Galavant and his quest for revenge over the king who stole his one true love. Jones, repped by Innovative Artists, Elevate and Stone, Meyer, will play Gareth, King Galahad’s badass, scary Scottish henchman. He is onscreen in Escape Plan.
NBC’s holiday special The Sound of Music Live! has set the von Trapp children and Rolfe. Cast as Maria’s (Carrie Underwood) charges and Capt. Georg von Trapp’s (Stephen Moyer) kids are Ariane Rinehart (Liesl), Michael Nigro (Fredrich), Ella Watts-Gorman (Louisa), Joe West (Kurt), Sophia Caruso (Brigitta), Grace Rundhaug (Marta) and Peyton Ella as young Gretl. Another newcomer, Michael Campayno will play Rolfe, a messenger boy who is in love with Liesl until he joins the Nazis. Campayno’s uncle, Joseph Campayno, is NBC special’s makeup artist. He is with manager Geoff Soffer and attorney is Michael Mahan.
Tony Award winners Audra McDonald, Laura Benanti and Christian Borle are joining Carrie Underwood and Stephen Moyer in NBC’s live production of The Sound Of Music, a three-hour broadcast set for December 5. McDonald, a five-time Tony winner, will play Mother Abbess; Benanti, who won a Tony for Gypsy, will play Elsa Schrader; and Borle, who starred on NBC’s now-cancelled Smash and won a Tony for Peter And The Starcatcher, is returning to the network to play Max Dettweiler. The three-hour production will be based on the original 1959 Broadway production that starred Mary Martin as Maria and Theodore Bikel as Captain Von Trapp. The Universal TV-produced special is exec produced by Oscar producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan.
True Blood star Stephen Moyer has been cast as the male lead opposite Carrie Underwood in NBC’s December 5 live holiday production of The Sound of Music. The British actor will play decorated World War I hero Capt. Georg von Trapp, a single father of seven children. Living in Austria on the cusp of World War II, the militaristic but warm-hearted von Trapp engages a young governess, Maria (Underwood), who he hires to take care of his children.
Another veteran ABC executive is heading to NBC. I’ve learned that Quinn Taylor, SVP Movies, Miniseries and Acquisitions at ABC Entertainment Group, will be leaving the network after almost 20 years to join rival NBC, which is looking to restart a longform division. I hear his title will be EVP Movies, Miniseries and International Co-Productions.
NBC has The Sound Of Music staging coming up, which would be right up Taylor’s alley as he has overseen a number of TV musicals at ABC, including Meredith Willson’s The Music Man starring Matthew Broderick. ABC is the only broadcast network that kept its longform division, headed by a high-level executive, while TV movies and miniseries dwindled on broadcast TV during the past several years.
Given the longform drought, Taylor had been focused on lower-budget and acquired series recently, overseeing such ABC shows as this summer’s newcomers Motive and Mistresses and returning Rookie Blue. NBC has been also very aggressive in acquired/lower-license fee series, including this summer’s Camp and Crossing Lines as well as recently renewed Hannibal and next season’s Crossbones and Dracula.
In light of the blockbuster success of History’s Hatfields & McCoys and The Bible, miniseries and limited/event series are making a big comeback, something NBC clearly wants to be part of. Fox and FX launched a longform unit last fall and recently greenlighted their first three event/limited series: Fargo on FX and 24: Live Another Day and Wayward …
A three-hour live staging of the The Sound Of Music will premiere on NBC on Thursday, December 5, the network announced during its upfront presentation today. The project is executive produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, with Carrie Underwood cast as the lead Maria. NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt noted that such big family-oriented productions are rarely mounted these days, “but we are doing it anyway.” Based on the original Broadway musical, The Sound Of Music is set in pre-WWII Austria and based on the romantic true story of Maria von Trapp (Underwood), an aspiring nun who leaves the abbey to become a governess for the widower Captain von Trapp’s seven children and finds herself falling in love with her employer and questioning her religious calling. It premiered on Broadway in 1959, where it broke box office records and won the Tony for Best Musical. The Sound Of Music features a libretto by Howard Lindsay & Russel Crouse and a score by Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (lyrics) that includes “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” “Edelweiss,” and “So Long, Farewell.”
Carrie Underwood is following into Julie Andrews’ footsteps. In her first major acting gig, the Grammy winner has been tapped to star as Maria von Trapp in NBC’s live broadcast of The Sound Of Music. It’s based on the original Broadway musical and is executive produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, producers of NBC’s Smash and the 2013 Academy Awards. The three-hour event will air near the holidays in 2013. “Speaking for everyone at NBC, we couldn’t be happier to have the gifted Carrie Underwood take up the mantle of the great Maria von Trapp,” said NBC’s chairman Bob Greenblatt. “She was an iconic woman who will now be played by an iconic artist.” Added Zadan and Meron, “It’s a particular joy to us as producers to see this amazing artist stretch into new territory with this classic musical.”