Just like Disney live action remakes and Star Wars movies, people should get used to NBC’s live musicals until the lights of Broadway dim into oblivion. The next up on the docket is Bye Bye Birdie, starring Jenny from the Block herself, the ageless Jennifer Lopez. On top of enlisting the triple threat, NBC has also decided that the film’s sensibilities could also use a bit of an update.
Based on a musical that first hit Broadway in 1960 (and became a popular film in 1963 starring Dick Van Dyke and Janet Leigh), Bye Bye Birdie is getting a few changes to make the production “less sexist” according to The Hollywood Reporter. Broadway legend Harvey Fierstein, who is adapting the musical for NBC, is tweaking the plot from a songwriting agent and his secretary with whom he is having an affair. Instead, they’re both high school teachers who discover the previously untapped potential of the titular Conrad Birdie.
“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’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 explains that he spoke to the sister of Michael Stewart, the man who wrote the book the musical is based on, to get her blessing regarding these changes to her brother’s original vision.
These changes were also made to accommodate the wishes of Lopez herself, who wanted the story to focus on Rosie grappling with life as a middled aged Puerto Rican woman in love with a commitmentphobe because, according to Fierstein, “you know, Jennifer Lopez knows what she wants out of performing.” The diva has definitely earned that right. Still, from the sounds of things, these changes will definitely be for the better and will drag the musical into the 21st century.
(Via The Hollywood Reporter)