For its second live musical (following The Sound of Music), NBC unveiled a low-energy Peter Pan production, led by an exceedingly stiff Allison Williams. Despite the optimistic message at the heart of this musical, the Peacock Net’s adaptation was clunky from the first scene, squashing all charm from a potentially joyous show.
8. A Christmas Story Live!
This one started at a disadvantage — raise your hand if you’d even heard of this musical before it aired — and never managed to redeem itself, despite valiant efforts by Ana Gasteyer, Jane Krakowski and Maya Rudolph.
7. The Sound of Music Live!
The musical talent was as bountiful as edelweiss in springtime, the acting chops… well, there’s probably a reason Carrie Underwood hasn’t done anything scripted since, eh? To be honest, we went a little easier on Fraulein Maria & Co. in this ranking because NBC’s version of the Rodgers & Hammerstein show was the first live musical in recent memory, so points for pioneering! (Also, Laura Benanti’s Baroness Elsa side-eye is a thing of beauty.)
6. The Passion: New Orleans
In 2016, Fox celebrated Easter by way of The Passion, a sprawling, quasi-live concert event that put a contemporary spin on the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Though some of the song choices felt a bit contrived (Chris Daughtry’s Judas singing “Bring Me to Life,” for example), The Passion was well-executed and quite moving, anchored by powerful performances from Jencarlos Canela, Trisha Yearwood and Seal.
Unfortunately, only the last 15 minutes of Rent were actually live after cast member Brennin Hunt suffered a last-minute foot injury, prompting Fox to air the show’s pre-recorded dress rehearsal instead. But despite the snafu — and some admittedly wonky sound mixing — the adaptation we saw featured tremendous performances (we don’t deserve you, Brandon Victor Dixon!), innovative staging and a moving finale that appealed to the theater geek in all of us.
4. Hairspray Live!
Remember that time Ariana Grande was in one of these? A delightful romp from start to finish, this candy coated production boasted some incredible talents, from veterans like Harvey Fierstein and Kristin Chenoweth to fresher talent like Dove Cameron and Maddie Ballio. Whatever was left of the house was then brought down by Jennifer Hudson.
3. The Wiz Live!
Justice for The Wiz! When reflecting upon TV’s recent string of live musicals, this criminally underrated gem is too often overlooked. Not only was it a glorious display of diverse talent, but NBC also discovered an absolute star in Shanice Williams.
2. Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert
A vocal powerhouse of a cast (John Legend, Sara Bareilles, Brandon Victor Dixon) coupled with a show that lends itself to a concert presentation (you wanted a live audience’s energy, and you got it!) made NBC’s staging of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice classic an electric event.
1. Grease: Live
With its first-ever live musical production, Fox proved that it was born to hand jive, baby. We’re still amazed that the network pulled off such an intricate, tightly paced production, complete with an actual carnival (!) to close the show. Add in a top-notch cast, including standout performances from Vanessa Hudgens as Rizzo and Jordan Fisher as Doody, and Grease remains the one that we want… to rewatch over and over again.