NBC sets reality competish for tuner roles

NBC has greenlit the Broadway-themed reality competish “You’re the One That We Want,” a talent search to cast a revival of “Grease” set to open next June.

Skein, set to air midseason, will have viewers choose the actors who will play good girl Sandy Dumbrowski and rebel Danny Zuko. Winning thesps will star in a Rialto production helmed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, who pulled the same double-duty on the Roundabout Theater’s hit revival of “The Pajama Game.”

BBC Worldwide Prods., the company behind ABC reality success “Dancing With the Stars,” will produce. In the U.K., BBC has aired similar legit-themed competitions, including the current “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?” following the selection of an actress to play the lead in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s upcoming West End revival of “The Sound of Music.”

Producers of the stage production include Paul Nicholas, David Ian (a producer of “Maria” on BBC) and Nederlander Presentations. Nicholas and Ian produced a hit 1993 revival of “Grease” on the West End in the Dominion, a Nederlander theater.

Ian, Marshall and Jim Jacobs, one of the original creators of “Grease,” will serve as judges on the TV show. Ian and the BBC’s Paul Telegdy will exec produce the TV show.

“This is not some tacky show, this is the real thing,” said Wayne Garvie, director of content and production for BBC Worldwide. “This is a credible attempt to find two young Americans who will have a proper role on Broadway, in two of the great musical theatre roles.”

NBC’s Craig Plestis, senior VP of alternative programming and development, said the Peacock had been kicking around a way to tackle a Broadway-themed reality show, and that “Grease” kept popping up as a logical choice. By coincidence, BBC Worldwide approached the net with Ian and Jacobs already in place.

“Everybody knows the music, the stories, the iconic characters,” Plestis said. “There was truly no way not to do it, especially with all three principals behind it. The star power is there and the credibility factor is there. This is a show with a bona fide prize, playing Danny or Sandy on Broadway.”

Garvie said NBC and BBC Worldwide were still hammering out the show’s specifics, including how much weight will be given to viewer votes vs. the judges’ decisions; it’s also too early to determine whether the show will air once or twice a week (or if an elimination seg, now a talent competish staple, is necessary).

Plestis and Garvie said it was also too soon to determine whether “You’re the One That We Want” could turn into a franchise, with future editions focused on other musicals.

“It’s always a possibility,” Plestis said. “But my focus right now is ‘Grease.’ “

Skein looks poised to give the stage production a long-term, national publicity boost unprecedented for a Gotham legit offering.

“Everyone will be watching to see if it’s a viable tool for the right show at the right time,” said Nederlander exec VP Nick Scandalios.

Latest U.S. stage revival of “Grease” — the third on Broadway — will be the first on the Rialto to include tunes that did not appear in the original stage version but were heard in the 1978 movie (including “You’re the One That I Want” and “Hopelessly Devoted to You”). Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta starred in the wildly popular pic.

“Grease” first bowed on Broadway in 1972 and ran for eight years. A 1994 revival ran for four.

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