EXCLUSIVE: In a competitive situation, Peacock has landed for development, The Show Must Go On, an hourlong murder mystery anthology, which would mark the first time Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera musical is used as part of a TV series. The high-profile project comes from the Zoey’s Extraordinary Playbook creator Austin Winsberg, former top TV executive and award-winning producer Robert Greenblatt, EGOT Lloyd Webber, as well as Zoey’s producer The Tannenbaum Company, pilot director Richard Shepard and studio Lionsgate Television.
Written by Winsberg, The Show Must Go On is a darkly comedic murder mystery anthology series. Each season would take place in the days leading up to a big, live, televised event and would tackle a new murder with a refreshed cast.
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Season 1 is set behind the scenes during the making of a fictitious version of Lloyd Webber’s worldwide mega-hit: The Phantom of The Opera Live! As if putting on a giant, live, beloved musical isn’t enough of a challenge, imagine how hard it will be with endless production problems, warring stars, mounting network pressures, and, oh yeah, the gruesome and untimely death of one of the leads. With a murderer on the loose, and a Phantom to contend with, the whole cast and crew will have to come together to put on the greatest show of their lives… that is – if they can live long enough to make it to the final curtain…
Winsberg will executive produce along with Lloyd Webber, Greenblatt via his The Green Room banner, Eric and Kim Tannenbaum of The Tannenbaum Co, and Shepard, who is also set to direct.
While Phantom of the Opera will not be performed in its entirety as the season will follow the musical coming together in the background, many of its famous scenes and hits beloved by theater fans the world over, including “The Music of the Night”, will be featured on the show, sources tell Deadline. And we hear that Lloyd Webber may even be part of the cast.
The Phantom of the Opera has been seen by more than 135 million people, in over 181 cities, worldwide and has earned more than 70 major theatre awards. It holds the record for the longest-running show on Broadway and the second longest-running West End musical.
This marks a return to NBCU for Greenblatt as well as the Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist team. During his stint as Chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Television from 2011-18, Greenblatt, a Tony winner and long-time theater producer and investor, brought live musicals to the network with The Sound of Music Live!, The Wiz Live!, Hairspray Live!, Peter Pan Live!, the Emmy-winning Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert!, which Lloyd Weber executive produced. As a producer, Greenblatt did Annie Live! on the network last season.
The idea for The Show Must Go On came from Winsberg who has been working together with the Tannenbaums under their deals at Lionsgate TV, which has yielded two series to date, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, which had a two-season run on NBC (with a holiday movie finale on Roku) and Acapulco on Apple TV+.
The Tannenbaum Co. brought the idea to Greenblatt after he joined the Lionsgate fold last year when he launched his The Green Room production company with a first-look deal at the indie studio.
Greenblatt has history with Winsberg who wrote NBC’s The Sound Of Music Live! adaptation starring Carrie Underwood, which had the highest viewership of all the live musicals on the broadcast networks. Greenblatt also saw and loved the Broadway show First Date with Zachary Levi, whose book Winsberg wrote, and was a big fan of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.
“Austin and I have a connection with musicals. When he pitched me the idea to do a murder mystery against a live musical backdrop, I thought it was perfect for me,” Greenblatt said.” So I reached out to Andrew Lloyd Webber to see if he would let us use Phantom of the Opera, which has never been done before. I pitched him the idea and he loved it and on got on board.”
As to why he chose Phantom of the Opera, “I just thought it was the perfect show to have a murder happen because the show itself is macabre, and the Phantom is doing all these things in the basement of the theater,” Greenblatt said.
Comedic murder mystery series have been a hit on streaming lately, with popular shows such as Apple TV+’s The Afterparty and Hulu’s Only Murders In the Building. After pitching The Show Must Go On to several platforms and getting interest from multiple buyers, the producers decided to go with Peacock which doesn’t currently have a show in the genre and also is overseen by the same creative team, led by Susan Rovner, which worked on Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist and wanted to get back in business with Winsberg and the rest of the team.
Lloyd Webber has composed the scores of some of the world’s most famous musicals from 1969’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat to 2021’s Cinderella. Before the COVID pandemic hit, Lloyd Webber had shows continually running in the West End for 48 years and on Broadway for 41. He is one of the select group of artists with EGOT status, having received Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards. He is repped by Kitty Abel Smith of The Really Useful Group and LW Theatres.
Before returning to producing, Greenblatt served as Chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment and Direct-To-Consumer, overseeing HBO, Turner, and the launch of HBO Max. He championed the development of Julian Fellowes’ The Gilded Age, which premiered on HBO in 2022, and serves as executive producer.
Emmy-nominated writer and producer Winsberg created/executive produced/showran the Emmy award-winning musical dramedy series Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist on NBC and the Emmy-nominated recent holiday movie Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas.
Additionally, he is the co-creator/executive producer of Apple TV+’s hit bilingual comedy series Acapulco, and recently produced and co-wrote the Disney+ movie Secret Society of Second Born Royals. He is repped by CAA and Goodman, Genow, Schenkman, Smelkinson & Christopher.
DGA and Emmy Award-winning director Shepard has directed 10 television pilots that have been picked up to series, including Ugly Betty, Criminal Minds, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. He also directed the pilot episode of Acapulco, which was nominated for a Critics Choice Award, and recently directed two episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale. He is repped by CAA, 3Arts, and attorneys Karl Austen and Kimberly Jaime.
The Tannenbaum Company, headed by executive producers Eric & Kim Tannenbaum, and Jason Wang, currently has on the air Acapulco and ABC’s Home Economics. In addition to Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, recent credits include TBS’s The Last OG starring Tracy Morgan. The company is repped by CAA and Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka.
Nellie Andreeva contributed to this story.
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