The T-Birds and the Pink Ladies of “Grease” are coming back to Broadway, where producers are turning to a reality television show to cast the lead roles.
NBC said Tuesday it will broadcast a talent show titled “You’re the One That We Want” — a play on a hit song from the show — in which viewers can vote for singers to play the roles of the naive new girl in town, Sandy Dumbrowski, and Danny Zuko, the tough gang leader with a soft center.
The show, produced by Britain’s BBC Worldwide Productions, follows the model of the BBC’s “How Do I Solve A Problem Like Maria?” in which Julie Andrews wannabes compete to star in a new production of “The Sound of Music” to open late this year.
“Grease” was first seen in Chicago in 1971 and opened on Broadway in 1972. The 1978 film, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John, was one of the highest-grossing movie musicals and spawned No. 1 hit songs “You’re the One That I Want” and “Summer Nights.”
“Americans have grown up with these catchy tunes and appealing characters, and we think they’ll love the chance to select the next dynamic duo to play Sandy and Danny,” Craig Plestis of NBC said in a statement about the project that aims to use the hot trend of reality TV to build buzz for the more traditional Broadway setting.
Set in a 1950s high school, “Grease” tells the story of a romance between Sandy, who is befriended by the rebellious Pink Ladies, and Danny, the black-leather clad head of the T-Birds.
Nominated for seven Tony Awards on its initial run, “Grease” returned to Broadway in 1994, and a London revival in 1993 ran for six years on the West End.
The producers said the TV show would premiere mid-season, without giving a specific date, and the Broadway musical would open in June 2007.
It will not be the first time a reality TV graduate has trod the boards of Broadway. Josh Strickland, who plays the title role in “Tarzan,” was a contestant on the talent show ”American Idol.”
The musical will be directed by Kathleen Marshall, who directed last season’s revival of “The Pajama Game” starring Harry Connick Jr. It won the 2006 Tony Award for best revival of a musical and Marshall won the Tony for best choreography.