Harvey Fierstein Details Changes Made to NBC's BYE BYE BIRDIE LIVE
In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Harvey Fierstein explains that NBC's upcoming BYE BYE BIRDIE LIVE, starring Jennifer Lopez, will get a fine tuning prior to its December broadcast.
The network's newest live musical will be based on the original 1960 Tony-winning Broadway musical, which inspired the 1963 film. The story follows "songwriter-agent Albert and his sweetheart secretary Rosie, who aim to stage a final publicity stunt for their hip-thrusting musician before he's drafted into the Army." Fierstein, who has just completed his adaptation of the show's book, reveals that in the upcoming live production, Albert and Rosie will no longer be working in the entertainment industry. "I want to be true to the time it takes place but at the same time, having Rosie be Albert's secretary whom he's having an affair with is a little sexist and old-fashioned. I didn't see any reason for that." He adds, "So I changed that. I made them both high school teachers."
He continues, "He's the English teacher who writes a song, and she's the music teacher who says, 'I've got a great kid with a great voice.' He ends up being Conrad Birdie, who's supposed to only take one summer off to promote the record but turns into a star. It's been eight years and Rosie just wants to go back to their real lives. It really makes a lot more sense that way."
Fierstein assures fans of the musical that he has the full support of the family of Michael Stewart, the show's original book writer. "I spoke to his sister and made sure she knew the changes I was going to make and I would hope Michael would be happy with, had he lived into our time," he explains.
Other changes to the original work will involve the musical number, "An English Teacher" which will feature "slightly changed lyrics." In addition, many scenes and songs will be presented in a new order to facilitate the commercial breaks which will air during the broadcast. Case in point, the climatic 'Ed Sullivan Show' performance by Conrad Birdie will now take place at the end of the show, rather than appearing at the end of the stage show's Act One.
Fierstein has also fulfilled Jennifer Lopez's wish to present Rosie's struggles as a Puerto Rican woman about to hit middle age and in a relationship with a man afraid of commitment.
What do you think of the updates?
Watch the first official teaser for NBC's BYE BYE BIRDIE LIVE below:
About NBC's BYE BYE BIRDIE LIVE: Continuing its role as the broadcast leader in bringing event programming to a national audience, it was announced today that NBC is joining forces with Jennifer Lopez for "Bye Bye Birdie Live!," a 2017 holiday production of the celebrated Broadway musical. Lopez will star in the iconic role of "Rosie" and executive produce with her producing partners Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas and Benny Medina alongside award-winning film, TV, and live musical executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron.
Harvey Fierstein, who has won Tony Awards for both acting ("Torch Song Trilogy," "Hairspray") and writing ("La Cage Aux Folles," "Torch Song Trilogy"), will pen the teleplay adaptation for "Bye Bye Birdie Live!" Fierstein wrote the teleplay for NBC's Dec. 7 presentation of "Hairspray Live!," in which he will also co-star.
NBC's "Bye Bye Birdie Live!" will be based on the 1960 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical that starred Dick Van Dyke as Albert Peterson (earning Van Dyke a Tony) and Chita Rivera as Rosie (earning Rivera a Tony nomination). The book was by Michael Stewart, lyrics by Lee Adams and music by Charles Strouse.
"Bye Bye Birdie" was also a 1963 Golden Globe-nominated feature film that starred Van Dyke and Janet Leigh. Featured in the movie was Ann-Margret as Kim MacAfee, a role that would propel her to stardom.
Set at the height of rock 'n' roll, "Bye Bye Birdie" takes us to Sweet Apple, Ohio, where hip-thrusting music heartthrob Conrad Birdie is scheduled to give a lucky Sweet Apple lady "One Last Kiss" before being drafted into the Army. Conrad's rock 'n' roll ways send the small town reeling, giving the teens Birdie fever, shocking the parents with moral indignation, and placing songwriter/agent Albert Peterson along with his savvy sweetheart, Rosie, right in the thick of things. The story was inspired by the incredible popularity of Elvis Presley and his induction into the Army in 1957.
Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC