The Record-Breaking Movies of 2015-2016: Live-to-Television Musicals

By Danielle Andreani, Trending Writer

“Why this car is systematic, it’s hyrdromatic, it’s ultramatic, why it’s a grease lightning!” Millions of people across the nation sang along and watched Grease: Live when it premiered this past January. Fox capitalized on the growing trend of live to television musicals that has gained traction since The Sound of Music Live! was shown 2013. This new genre of entertainment brings the magic of live theater and musicals to the masses for everyone to enjoy. Although not without hiccups and minor issues, live to television musicals seem to be here to stay.

NBC kicked off this phenomenon with The Sound of Music Live! featuring Grammy Award winner Carrie Underwood as Maria von Trapp. The production brought a sense of nostalgia to those who grew up watching the original movie with Julie Andrews. That is a huge part of the reason why live to television musicals are so successful. Many of the ones produced are based off of productions that play a large role in the hearts of the viewers. Class movies and theater productions are sentimental to those watching, causing viewers to come out in the millions. Although there were many criticisms of NBC’s production, including the lack of variety in the sets and technical issues, The Sound of Music Live! overall can be considered a monumental success with close to 19 million viewers.

Grease: Live is another example of a classic movie that has transpired across generations, being turned into a live to television musical. What makes this program slightly more successful than its predecessors are several things: a live audience, an expansive set, and an all-star cast. With well over 600 live audience members, Grease: Live was able to capture more of the traditional theater atmosphere. The audience not only sat on the sidelines, but interacted with the characters and the plot as well, lending an authentic feeling not usually found in a studio audience. The show also took place across 21 sets on two soundstages at the Warner Bros. studios. This is a huge increase from The Sound of Music Live! set, which really allowed the production to mimic the original movie. Lastly, the cast was made up of household names: Vanessa Hudgens, Carly Rae Jepson, Julianne Hough, Keke Palmer, DNCE, and the list goes on and on. This type of talent helps to draw in viewers and increase interest in the production. Grease: Live had a total of just over 12 million viewers.

This new type of programming contains to gain popularity as networks make more plans for future productions. It was just announced last month that NBC will be putting on a live adaptation of Hairspray towards the end of the year.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, February 23rd print edition.

Contact Danielle at


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