They’ve sung in the hills of Austria, flown over Neverland, eased on down the road to Oz and woken up in Baltimore. Now, NBC is ready to transport viewers to Sweet Apple, Ohio, for its next live musical.
In a conversation moderated by PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly Editorial Director Jess Cagle at the Paley Center for Media in Los Angeles Thursday, NBC Chairman Robert Greenblatt revealed his network’s next live musical will be Bye Bye Birdie Live! starring Jennifer Lopez.
“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 — who has been the driving force behind NBC’s signature live productions — says in a statement released to PEOPLE.
Greenblatt also revealed it was actually Lopez who suggested she step into the dancing shoes originally filled by Chita Rivera, who starred as Rosie alongside Dick Van Dyke in the original 1960 Broadway production of Bye Bye Birdie. Janet Leigh took over the role in the 1963 film version, which also starred Van Dyke.
“Broadway musicals and films fueled my childhood and Bye Bye Birdie was one of my favorites,” says Lopez who will executive produce the production with Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Benny Medina, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. “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.”
Inspired by the headlines generated when Elvis Presley was drafted into the army in 1957, Bye Bye Birdie follows agent and songwriter Albert Peterson (Van Dyke) and his longtime girlfriend Rosie Alvarez as they create a publicity stunt to promote rock ‘n roll singer Conrad Birdie’s last song before heading off to war. The trio of New Yorkers head off to Sweet Apple, Ohio, so Conrad can bestow “one last kiss” on local Conrad Birdie fan Kim MacAffee (played by Ann-Margret in the 1963 film, above) live on television after singing his new song, appropriately titled “One Last Kiss.” Chaos ensues as the small town teens swoon over Conrad and the parents cry outrage over his swiveling hips while Albert and Rosie struggle to keep their plan — and relationship — running smoothly.
The musical was last revived on Broadway in 2009 starring John Stamos and Gina Gershon and was last adapted for the small screen in the form of a 1995 ABC TV movie starring Jason Alexander and Vanessa Williams. It will be adapted for this live production by Hairspray Live! scribe Harvey Fierstein.
NBC kicked off the tradition of yearly live musicals in December 2013 with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music. Starring Carrie Underwood and Stephen Moyer, the production brought in 22 million viewers.
On Dec. 7, NBC will air Hairspray Live!, which takes the 2002 Tony-winning musical based on John Waters’ 1988 film and brings it to the small screen. It stars Fierstein, Jennifer Hudson, Ariana Grande, Kristin Chenoweth, Martin Short, Derek Hough, Dove Cameron, Garrett Clayton, Sean Hayes, Rosie O’Donnell, Andrea Martin and newcomer Maddie Baillio.