In a recent interview with Adweek.com, NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt spoke about the network's recent successes with three holiday specials: Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors, Adele Live in New York City and The Wiz Live!
Greenblatt, who has been chairman since 2011, also commented on the January 31 Fox broadcast of Grease: Live, which, unlike the three NBC musicals (The Sound of Music, Peter Pan, The Wiz), featured a live audience.
"I thought Grease was fantastic, and the live audience was great in a lot of ways, but it's not just as simple as having a live audience or not," Greenblatt said. "We've done shows in the past where it would have been ludicrous to have extras in scenes laughing and applauding, like in Nazi-occupied Austria, Neverland or even in Oz. Should we have had munchkins or flying monkeys in the background going crazy after musical numbers? And if the audience isn't visibly worked into the scenes, then they're sitting in a big room somewhere and you just hear disembodied laughing and applause, which is when viewers at home would think we just added a fake laugh track. If we can work an audience easily into a show, as I think we can in a lot of places in Hairspray, we will."
The producer also commented about NBC's fourth live musical, the upcoming Hairspray Live, set for a December 7 broadcast. About choosing the Tony-winning musical for broadcast, Greenblatt said, "It's hard to find titles that are really broad and popular in the musical world, that are available. I'd love to do Wicked, which is a show that this company owns, but it's a huge asset, it's still in its infancy and it's going to be a movie, so that's not available. When you look at the ones that you can get your hands on, many of them are old-fashioned, and they're shows that I might know really well and like personally, but I don't know that the rest of the world does."