NBC has a potent pairing for its 2017 holiday musical: singer-actress Jennifer Lopez starring in Bye Bye Birdie Live!
Lopez will play Rosie and serve as an executive producer on Birdie, which is based on the Tony Award-winning musical, NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt announced Thursday.
Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the award-winning team behind previous live NBC adaptations of The Sound of Music, Peter Pan and The Wiz, will be executive producers, along with Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas and Benny Medina. Broadway great Harvey Fierstein, who is starring in NBC's December 7 production of Hairspray Live!, will write the teleplay adaptation.
“To have a superstar like Jennifer Lopez starring in this classic show, which every high school in America has done, will ensure that our holiday musicals continue to be must-see events for the whole family,” Greenblatt said in a statement. “It was her idea to take on this classic singing and dancing role made famous by the legendary Chita Rivera, and we are so happy to oblige! This show has delighted audiences for generations with classic songs that include Put on a Happy Face and A Lot of Livin’ to Do, and this will be an extravagant production built around this big star.”
Lopez also issued a statement: “Broadway musicals and films fueled my childhood and Bye Bye Birdie was one of my favorites. I’m proud to be a part of the NBC family with Shades of Blue and I thought it would be a blast to take on one of their big live musicals.”
Birdie is based on the 1960 Broadway musical that starred Dick Van Dyke as Albert Peterson and Chita Rivera as Rosie. Van Dyke won a Tony and Rivera earned a Tony nomination for their roles. Van Dyke later starred with Janet Leigh in a 1963 film adaptation that featured rising star Ann-Margret.
Birdie, set in the late 1950s heyday of rock 'n roll, visits Sweet Apple, Ohio, where hip-thrusting music heartthrob Conrad Birdie — think Elvis Presley — is supposed to give a lucky lady One Last Kiss before being going into the Army. The small town can't contain Birdie fever, which shocks indignant parents, and songwriter-agent Albert and his sweetheart, Rosie, find themselves in the middle of the frenzy.
Lopez is in residency at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas with her show, Jennifer Lopez: All I Have, and she will be a judge and executive producer on NBC's upcoming reality series, World of Dance. Shades of Blue returns for its second season in January.
NBC, which has turned beloved musicals into a holiday tradition, also had considered an adaptation of Rent.