TV musicals

Up here in their heads, a musical gem emerges

Early in the pandemic, a phone call linked three strong forces in musical storytelling.
“Tommy (Kail) gave us a call,” recalled Kristen Anderson-Lopez, “and said, ‘Hey, we’re not sure when we’re going to get back into the theater. Do you guys have anything you want to do for TV?’”
They did; her husband, Robert Lopez, started nurturing the idea 17 years ago. Now “Up Here”(shown here) arrives Friday (March 24) on Hulu, with all eight half-hours available at once
”Imagine this as eight mini-musicals that would add up to one season-long musical,” said Steven Levenson, who co-wrote the scripts and previously did “Tick, Tick … Boom” and “Fosse/Verdon.” Read more…

ABC re-visits some vibrant musical history

(Commentary/overview on the “Cinderella” musical which ABC will focus on Tuesday, Aug. 23)
By Mike Hughes
In the grand universe of Rodgers-and-Hammerstein musicals, “Cinderella” might be a minor player.
It’s no “Sound of Music” – or “Oklahoma” or “South Pacific” or …
But in the TV world, it’s been big. Now it’s back, taking up all of ABC’s prime time on Tuesday (Aug. 23), with a 25th-anniversary retrospective hour at 8 p.m. and the 1997 production at 9.
What viewers will see is mostly a pleasure. It has splendid sets, zestful Rob Marshall choreography and a cast that’s best in supporting roles – especially Whitney Houston as fairy godmother. Other elements – the songs, the younger actors (including Brandy Norwood, shown here with Houston) in the title role) are pleasant enough.
Read more…

“King and I”: a stern, serious musical for all eras

Right now, PBS is helpfully reminding us of a key fact: Musicals can be very different. Very.
Last Friday (Nov. 1), the network had the relentlessly shallow “42nd Street.” It had sharp songs, zesty dancers … and a plot so thin that some (but not all) actors gave campy performances.
And this Friday (9 p.m. Nov. 8)? “The King and I” (shown here) is pretty much the opposite. It has some flaws, but dead-serious intentions.
Both are part of TV’s current musicals surge, outlined in stories at the left. Now for a few “King” comments: Read more…

A musical surge begins

Every now and then, TV remembers one of its highest callings – to give us full-scale musicals.
Then it forgets again, sometimes for years. But now comes a spurt; there are three musicals in eight days, covering a rich range
On Friday (Nov. 1), PBS has the relentlessly giddy “42nd Street.” The songs are peppy, the dancing is zesty and the story … well, no one tried to improve on the 1933 movie this is based on.
A week later, it has the exact opposite with “The King and I” (shown here). Once you get past the lush music and costumes, you have the serious story of a 19th-century despot. Read more…