The producing duo, whose last endeavor for NBC was the musical series "Smash," previously brought Gypsy, Annie and Cinderella to television audiences, which later led to big-screen projects such as Chicago and Hairspray. "This project really dates back to those movie musicals we first did for television," Zadan said. "Neil and I were saying that maybe we should go back and do more movie musicals for TV and then we thought, 'Well, we've already done that. What could be different or what could be new?'"
They found the answer by reflecting on their childhood. Meron and Zadan looked to the live national broadcasts of Peter Pan starring Mary Martin, as well as Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella with Julie Andrews, both of which were seminal moments in 1950s television entertainment.
"We wondered, 'Would it be possible to mount a live musical broadcast today?'" Meron and Zadan – and they hope millions of American viewers – are about to find out.
In an era of DVR and television on-demand, NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt, according to Meron and Zadan, was seeking a unique television event that had the potential to be a ratings boon. Live events are still a reliable bet for large ratings numbers. "He approached us and said, 'If you ever come up with an idea for something that could be a big event, call me.' We said, 'We don't actually have to call you. The truth is we've been talking about The Sound of Music done live for a while, and figuring out if it was the right time and the right place and the right circumstances,'" Zadan said. Greenblatt committed to the project on the spot.
The 1965 film of "The Sound of Music," which starred Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, has become a staple of the American holiday season thanks in part to an unprecedented 20-year deal with NBC to broadcast the musical annually. While the broadcast calendar slot has shifted over the years, "The Sound of Music" and the adopted Christmas song "Favorite Things" have become part of holiday nostalgia.
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