The producers of the Broadway tuner have pacted to air “Legally Blonde” uncut on MTV, making it the first fully staged Rialto production to appear on TV while still on the boards in Gotham.
Deal reps another step in legiters’ exploration of the potential mutual benefits of cooperation between TV and the stage.
For MTV, the show is an attempt to land the young, musical-friendly auds that Disney Channel has so successfully mined with its “High School Musical” franchise.
MTV could air the show up to six times in six weeks, with the net obligated for at least three runs. First airing is set for Sept. 29 at 1 p.m.
Along the Rialto, traditional thinking has always been that if auds can see a legit show free on the tube, they won’t shell out for tickets to the real thing.
“Blonde,” however, aims to tap a young and largely female demo that has proved to have an endless appetite for entertainment they love, including Rialto offerings “Rent,” “Wicked” and “Spring Awakening.”
Those auds have also fueled the ratings success of multiple airings of “HSM” and its recent sequel. And as a property, “Blonde” already has the benefit of the popular 2001 MGM comedy on which the musical is based; MGM Onstage is one of the producers of the Rialto incarnation.
“It’s a great idea for this particular Broadway show, because our audiences are the same,” said Hal Luftig, one of the producers of “Blonde” on Broadway. “All the talk about eating into our ticket sales, it’s not going to happen. These kids can’t see these shows enough.”
The teen demo — and particularly the girls drawn to the “Blonde” stage tuner — is one that MTV programming chief Tony DiSanto wants to pursue more aggressively.
DiSanto is the exec who decided to do a spinoff of “Laguna Beach” and has also helped turn the third season of teen-friendly “The Hills” into a much-needed breakout, with an average of more than 4 million viewers tuning in during the show’s first month.
DiSanto’s “Blonde” experiment is relatively low-risk in one respect: Net’s decision to air “Blonde” on a Saturday afternoon means that it won’t be using valuable primetime real estate.
Two performances of “Blonde” will be taped with five cameras at Gotham’s Palace Theater on Sept. 17 — one with an audience and one without. The final filmed product will be edited to include the full legit production as well as backstage material.
TV airings of legit productions are usually the bailiwick of PBS, which traditionally broadcasts a filmed version once the live original has shuttered. Recent years, however, have seen Broadway and the boob tube increase their experiments with synergy.
In 2005 “The Color Purple” got a national marketing push on co-producer Oprah Winfrey’s talkshow, while earlier this year, the same musical got a boost at the B.O. after “American Idol” alum Fantasia Barrino announced her stint in the show on the Fox reality competition.
Last spring the Rialto revival of “Grease” selected its two lead thesps via NBC skein “Grease: You’re the One That I Want.” When the show opened last month, reviews were less than glowing, but it hasn’t seemed to matter to auds. The revival played to packed houses in the second half of August and is still going strong.
Box office for “Blonde,” which opened April 29, has been generally strong, although not in the league of smashes such as “Wicked” or “The Lion King.” Last week sales dropped a hefty $323,718 to $576,675 in a frame when every production on the Rialto got hit by the traditional post-Labor Day slump.
DiSanto wants to try another experiment — more scripted programming. Net’s last major scripted event was an adaptation of “Wuthering Heights” in 2003. Now it is prepping scripted high school drama “Kaya.”