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Best Live Musicals

Published on: Jun 30, 2022
Last Updated on: Nov 6, 2022
By: Kathryn Willingham
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Live TV Musicals have become more and more popular over the last decade. As opposed to movie adaptations or pro-shots (musicals that are professionally filmed live on stage but edited and released later – think Hamilton on Disney+ or Come From Away on AppleTV+), a live tv musical is filmed and broadcast live especially for television. It’s less about recreating the feeling of in person, live theater and more about creating something entirely distinct and new. 

Here are the musical productions that have been on broadcast tv over the last ten years and where to watch them now:

The Sound of Music Live!

Network: NBC in 2013

Where to Watch Now: Peacock

Starring Carrie Underwood as Maria, Stephen Moyer as Captain Von Trapp, Audra McDonald as Mother Abbess, Laura Benanti as Fraulein Schweiger, and Christian Borle as Max Detweiler, this musical was directed by Rob Ashford and Beth McCarthy-Miller. This Tony Award winning musical was broadcast live from a sound stage in New York and was NBC’s first live musical special in almost 50 years.  The Los Angeles Times said, “If I could sing these songs as well as Underwood, I would sing them until the world was sick of me.”

Peter Pan Live!

Network: NBC in 2014

Where to Watch Now: Vudu

Starring Allison Williams as Peter Pan, Christopher Walken as Captain Hook, Christian Borle as Mr. Smee/George Darling, Kelli O’Hara as Mrs. Darling, and Minnie Driver as Adult Wendy/Narrator, this musical was directed by Rob Ashford and Glenn Weiss. This larger-than-life musical theatre show featured a cast and crew of almost 400, including a CGI Tinkerbell.  The New York Times called it “a loving, lavish tribute to a beloved musical.”

The Wiz Live!

Network: NBC in 2015

Where to Watch Now: Vudu

Starring Shanice Williams as Dorothy, Common as the Bouncer/Gatekeeper to the Emerald City, Amber Riley as the Good Witch of the North, Uzo Aduba as Glinda, David Alan Grier as the Cowardly Lion, Mary J. Blige as the Wicked Witch of the West, and Queen Latifah as the Wiz, this reinterpretation of The Wizard of Oz was written by Harvey Fierstein and directed by Kenny Leon and Matthew Diamond. The Hollywood Reporter called it “a colorful triumph.”

The Passion: New Orleans

Network: Fox in 2016 

Where to Watch Now: Tubi

With Tyler Perry narrating the special, the show starred Jencarlos as Jesus Christ, Trisha Yearwood as Mary Magdalene, Chris Daughtry as Judas, and Seal as Pontius Pilate. The show aired from various locations in New Orleans and told the story of the last hours of Jesus Christ’s life, with the cast singing popular music specially arranged for the program. The Guardian said, “the production was magnificent and the talent undeniable.”

Hairspray Live!

Network: NBC in 2016

Where to Watch Now: Vudu

This live tv broadcast was star-studded with Ariana Grande as Penny Pingleton, Harvey Fierstein as Edna Turnblad, Kristin Chenoweth as Velma Von Tussle, Dove Cameron as Amber Von Tussle, Jennifer Hudson as Motormouth Maybelle, Martin Short as Wilbur Turnblad, Sean Hayes as Mr. Pinky, Rosie O’Donnell as the Gym Teacher, Billy Eichner as Rob Barker, and Shahadi Wright Joseph as Little Inez. Hairspray follows teenager Tracy Turnblad (Maddie Baillio) as she auditions for a spot on “The Corny Collins Show” and wins, becoming an overnight sensation then striving to integrate the formerly all-white tv show. The event was hosted by Darren Criss and directed by Kenny Leon and Alex Rudzinski. Variety called it, “dynamic, colorful, and stacked with stellar performances.”

Grease Live!

Network: Fox in 2016

Where to Watch Now: Vudu

Starring Vanessa Hudgens as Rizzo, Aaron Tveit as Danny, Julianne Hough as Sandy, Carly Rae Jepson as Frenchy, Joe Jonas as Johnny Casino, Keke Palmer as Marty Maraschino, and Jordan Fisher as Doody, this beloved musical was directed by Tommy Kail and Alex Rudzinksi, who won an Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special. Variety called it “as sweet and tasty as a root beer float.”

Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again

Network: Fox in 2016

Where to Watch Now: Amazon, Vudu

Starring Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, Adam Lambert as Eddie, Ben Vereen as Dr. Everett Von Scott, and Tim Curry as the Narrator/Criminologist (Tim Curry starred as Frank-N-Furter in the original film), this remake of the cult classic was directed by Kenny Ortega. This show wasn’t filmed live and was shot mostly in a gothic mansion in Toronto, and The Guardian called it “faithful, fast-paced, and largely entertaining.”

A Christmas Story Live!

Network: Fox in 2017

Where to Watch Now: Amazon, Vudu

Starring Matthew Broderick as Adult Ralphie, Maya Rudolph as Mother, Jane Krawkowski as Miss Shields, Ana Gasteyer as Mrs. Schwartz, Fred Armisen as Mall Elf, Ken Jeong as Restaurant Owner, and Andy Walken as Ralphie Parker, this live musical was directed by Scott Ellis and Alex Rudzinski. Based on the classic film and composed by Pasek & Paul (Dear Evan Hansen, The Greatest Showman, La La Land), A Christmas Story Live! offers a warm adaption of the seasonal classic.

Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert

Network: NBC in 2018

Where to Watch Now: Not Currently Streaming

Starring John Legend as Jesus Christ, Brandon Victor Dixon as Judas, Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdalene, Norm Lewis as Caiaphas, and Alice Cooper as King Herod, this rock opera was directed by David Leveaux and Alex Rudzinski, choreographed by Camille A. Brown, and is loosely based on the gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John about the last week of Jesus Christ’s life. The New York Times called it “a conceptual and artistic triumph” and “genuinely thrilling.”

The Little Mermaid Live!

Network: ABC in 2019

Where to Watch Now: Disney+

Starring Auli’I Cravalho as Ariel, Graham Phillips as Prince Eric, John Stamos as Chef Louis, Queen Latifah as Ursula, Shaggy as Sebastian and Amber Riley as The Emcee (a new character), this musical based on the beloved Disney film was directed by Hamish Hamilton. This special was a hybrid production – the animated film played while live musical performances from the movie and from the Broadway production were performed. The AV Club called it “a love letter to Disney fans.”

Rent: Live

Network: Fox in 2019

Where to Watch Now: Amazon Prime

Starring Vanessa Hudgens as Maureen, Jordan Fisher as Mark Cohen, Brennin Hunt as Roger Davis, Valentina as Angel, Brandon Victor Dixon as Tom Collins, and Kaela Settle as Cy, this musical directed by Michael Greif and Alex Rudzinski also features an appearance from the original Broadway cast including Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal, Anthony Rapp, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Jesse L. Martin and Taye Diggs. This musical actually wasn’t filmed live (mostly) – actor Brennin Hunt, starring as Roger, broke his right foot during the dress rehearsal, forcing a last-minute change. But the show must go on, and what was aired was pre-taped footage from the dress rehearsal, ending with a live performance where the cast was joined by most of the original Broadway cast. The AV Club called it a “heartfelt production.” 

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Musical Live!

Network: NBC in 2020

Where to Watch Now: Not Currently Streaming

Starring Matthew Morrison as the Grinch, Denis O’Hare as Old Max, Amelia Minto as Cindy-Lou Who and Booboo Stewart as Young Max, this Dr. Seuss classic was directed by Max Webster and Julia Knowles. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the special was filmed on the stage of London’s Troubadour Theatre and then released rather than broadcast live. “Watching Denis O’Hare (American Horror Story) attempt to tone down his inherent intensity as an older version of The Grinch’s beloved hench-dog was a trip, and Booboo Stewart (Julie and the Phantoms) was endearing as always playing O’Hare’s younger counterpart.” - TVLine

Annie Live!

Network: NBC in 2021

Where to Watch Now: NBC.com, Peacock

Starring Nicole Scherzinger as Grace Farrell, Harry Connick Jr as Daddy Warbucks, Taraji P. Henson as Miss Hannigan, Tituss Burgess as Rooster, Megan Hilty as Lily St. Regis, and Celina Smith as the titular orphan Annie, this live musical was directed by Lear deBessonet and Alex Rudzinski with choreography by Sergio Trujillo. The New York Times praised the “rousing rendition of one of the show’s best-known songs, ‘Hard Knock Life,’ performed by children doing dynamic gymnastic moves. The number ‘N.Y.C.’ also was a wonder.”

Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration

Network: ABC in 2022

Where to Watch Now: Disney+

Starring H.E.R. as Belle, Josh Groban as the Beast, Joshua Henry as Gaston, Rita Moreno as the narrator, Martin Short as Lumiere, Shania Twain as Mrs. Potts, David Alan Grier as Cogsworth, Rizwan Manju as LeFou, Jon Jon Briones as Maurice, and Leo Abelo Perry as Chip, this live show is full of Broadway and singing talent and combines both animation and live action to create a unique experience. It was directed by Hamish Hamilton and produced by Jon M. Chu and recorded in front of a live audience. The Daily Mail said “H.E.R. enchants viewers with portrayal of bookwork Belle on Beauty And The Beast Live!”

Can’t get enough live theater on tv? Check out:

The Real Dirty Dancing on Fox. This reality show follows celebrities as they learn iconic dance routines from Dirty Dancing – and it’s shot at Mountain Lake Lodge in Virginia where the movie was filmed. 

Tony Award Musical Performances on Youtube. The opening song is often sung by hosts like Neil Patrick Harris, Hugh Jackman or James Corden and celebrates the musicals on Broadway that year – from The Lion King to The Book of Mormon to Hamilton, you’ll get a taste of everything. 

Streaming Broadway Shows: check out our article on streaming Broadway shows to find out about theater-specific digital streaming platforms as well as what Broadway shows are available to watch on the traditional streamers like Netflix, Apple TV+ and Disney+.

Kathryn Willingham

Head of Creative Development at Jean Doumanian Productions

Kathryn Willingham has worked in entertainment for over ten years, and recent credits include: Co-producer of SHRINK currently streaming on Peacock, Associate Producer of the independent film UNA, and Creative Executive on multiple theatrical productions including HANGMEN by Martin McDonagh on Broadway, NASSIM by Nassim Soleimanpour Off-broadway and Associate on productions EVERY BRILLIANT THING by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe and THE EFFECT by Lucy Prebble. She was Producer of Todd Almond’s musical travelogue “Wyoming and Parts of Kansas” and Production Coordinator for Karen O and KK Barrett's “Stop the Virgens.”


Education: B.A. in English, Literature & Creative Writing from Rhodes College
Knowledge: Theaterical Production


Jun 30, 2022

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