A Flesh-and-Blood "Family Guy"
By Josh Grossberg
Before he takes over the world, Stewie Griffin is setting his sights on the boards.
The Machiavellian animated tot and the rest of his Family Guy clan could soon be appearing live in a venue near you.
Show mastermind Seth MacFarlane is teaming with 20th Century Fox Television and Just for the Laughs, the folks behind the Montreal Comedy Festival, to produce a theatrical stage production of the animated comedy titled Family Guy Live!
The show, billed as a two-hour, multimedia extravaganza, will feature the flesh-and-blood cast behind the 'toon Griffin family: MacFarlane (who voices several characters, including portly patriarch Peter, gin-swilling pooch Brian and would-be megalomaniac Stewie), Alex Borstein (wife Lois), Seth Green (news) (son Chris), Mila Kunis (daughter Meg) and Mike Henry (pal Cleveland, among others).
The actors will read from a classic episode, take part in a Q&A and perform a musical number from the upcoming Family Guy Lie in Vegas comedy album. They will also preview the first new Family Guy episode in three years. (By now you know the story: Thanks to huge DVD sales, Fox resurrected the Emmy-winning 'toon and will launch new shows beginning May 1.)
"It's such a rich property, every episode involves comedy and music and the content presented an opportunity to do it as a stage show in a way in which other shows would not be as interesting to watch," says Fox spokesman Chris Alexander.
Family Guy Live! is scheduled to premiere with two performances at Los Angeles' Wiltern Theater on Apr. 15 followed by four shows at New York City's Town Hall on Apr. 29 and 30. Tickets go on sale Friday.
The show has its roots in last July's Montreal Comedy Festival, where at the urging of fest organizers, the actors convened for a staged reading and Q&A session.
"It all started way back when with a discussion with Just for Laughs about what Fox could showcase at their comedy fest last summer," says Alexander. "Family Guy came up because we were on the verge of announcing it was going to return to production and we knew it had this incredibly ravenous fan base with people buying the DVD and watching in large numbers on the Cartoon Network."
With his roots in theater and stand-up, MacFarlane was keen on the idea of a live performance, and the experiment was a huge success.
"It went over much more successfully than anyone ever thought it would, which is sort of the story of this show in a way," he told Daily Variety. "It turned into much more than a [stage] reading."
Joining MacFarlane and the cast will be writers Ricky Blitt and Steve Callaghan.
Because of the show's arduous production schedule, Alexander says Family Guy Live! can only be performed during the show's hiatus, limiting its potential to tour nationwide.
Plus, the increasingly busy MacFarlane is still doing voice-over work for his other Fox 'toon, American Dad, and is preparing to make his big-screen directorial debut on the Spyglass comedy Family Union, about a guy who goes home to visit his twisted family every five years.
"The chance always exists" to do more Family Guy Live! shows, says Alexander. "For now we're taking it slow and seeing how it does. But if it makes sense financially and the actors are willing, we'll keep it up."