Don’t Forget Your Exisiting Audience!

The journey of musicals onto bigger broadcasting platforms has only just begun. For the past three years, NBC has been pioneering their LIVE series with The Sound of Music LIVE, Peter Pan LIVE and The Wiz LIVE and off-Broadway show Daddy Long Legs jumped on the bandwagon at the end of 2015. But in a year that is set to be bigger than any other for musicals on television, how are these shows bringing the production’s original fans back to these classic shows?


The success of these previous musicals on television is only shown by the number of offers within 2016 programming. In addition to NBC returning with their fourth LIVE instalment, Hairspray LIVE, Fox has jumped on board with Grease Live and a new version of cult classic Rocky Horror both starring some of the world’s biggest stars including Jessie J, Carly Rae Jepsen, Laverne Cox and Adam Lambert. These are great pulls for new audiences, but how do you make sure that your tried-and-true original faithful fans don’t see these reinterpretations as a commercial ratings grab and steer well clear?

It’s easy. Invite some of their old friends into the cast.

The Wiz led this charge at the end of last year inviting Broadway’s original Dorothy, Stephanie Mills, into the cast as Aunt Em. And big cast announcements have come out this week for Grease and Rocky Horror along the same lines.

Didi Conn, the original Frenchie in the Grease movie, will come back to the show as the waitress at the Frosty Palace and the movie’s Doody, Barry Pearl will play Vince Fontaine’s manager. And in news that has had all Rocky Horror fans shivering with antici . . . . . pation, Tim Curry who originated Dr. Frank-N-Furter in the cult classic movie will be back for the television version as the Criminologist Narrator. I would also bet you good money that NBC’s Hairspray will include some movie or Broadway veterans as well!

So why, all of a sudden, are these productions turning to their original stars?

While one of the main goals for these productions is to bring new audiences to the theatrical art form, this cannot be achieved without the help of the show’s existing audience. The original audiences have played a big part in keeping these shows’ popularity going for many years and decades and are an incredibly powerful advocate to encourage other people to tune in. But in order to get them spruiking the show to all their friends, there needs to be a strong pull and adding in today’s celebrities isn’t the answer for this demographic.

The answer is to add back in the original ones.

While many Rocky Horror die-hard fans will continue to believe that Tim Curry’s Dr. Frank-N-Furter is the ultimate interpretation of that role, many of them will now tune into the FOX production as he takes on the role of the Criminologist Narrator. Many original Grease fans will now watch the reinterpretation to see the stars they idolised when the movie first came out. It is these original actors who will get the original audiences tuning in.

Moving musicals back into the television sphere is great for new audiences, but you can never forget the audiences who got you where you are today because they are the ones to get the next generation on board!