By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com November 3, 2010 at 2:00AM
You wouldn't necessarily know it from his frequently gruff screen persona, but Hugh Jackman has a long background in stage musicals -- he was plucked from his role in "Oklahoma" at the National Theatre in London to play Wolverine a decade ago, and has generally leaned towards the action end of the spectrum on the big-screen, despite the development of the likes of a musical based around P.T. Barnum, an adaptation of "Carousel," and his attachment to the sadly dead Steven Soderbergh-directed 3D "Cleo," in which Jackman would have starred alongside Catherine Zeta-Jones and Ray Winstone, to a score by Guided By Voices -- a project we'd sit through another half-dozen lacklustre Wolverine pictures to see resurrected.
Jackman's kept his toe in the water, however, with a lengthy run on Broadway in the musical "The Boy From Oz," picking up a Tony for his troubles. He's also hosted the Tonys three times, and showcased his musical talents at the 2009 Oscars, his charming opening number proving one of the few highlights of recent years' ceremonies.
He returned to Broadway last year alongside Daniel Craig in the play "A Steady Rain," but for a couple of years now, he's been developing his next legitimate theater-starring role, playing the titular legendary magician in "Houdini" in a production that's been slated to be directed by musical veteran Jack O'Brien ("The Full Monty," "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels"). Word's been quiet on the project for a few years, but now news has arrived of some of the other creative team who are currently penning the project, and it's a hugely impressive line-up.
Aaron Sorkin, who's essentially a lock for a Screenplay Oscar this year for "The Social Network," will pen the book; it's his first musical, although he was writing a film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's "Follies" for Sam Mendes at one stage, and was reported to be writing a stage version of The Flaming Lips' concept album "Yoshimi Versus The Pink Robots" back in 2007, the same year his last Broadway effort, the play "The Farnsworth Invention," debuted.
Meanwhile, the music's being written by two veterans: Glenn Slater, the writer of the lyrics for the stage adaptations of "The Little Mermaid" and "Sister Act," and frequent Tim Burton collaborator Danny Elfman, who'll write the songs and score. The latter's making his Broadway debut, although he obviously has written songs for a number of Burton's films, including "The Corpse Bride," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and, most notably, "The Nightmare Before Christmas."
Elfman told EW that "I've written music on and off for two years already. It's such a different process. For me, it's taking forever. But other people say, 'Oh, no, you've only been on that a couple of years, that's nothing!" According to him, Sorkin's set to turn in a first draft of the script in January, with a reading following shortly afterwards, and it's hoped that the show will premiere in early 2012.
While we haven't been a fan of much of Elfman's recent output, he's clearly taking his time with this one, and teaming with Sorkin, Jackman and Slater is a fairly exciting prospect, even if many of you out there would rather see Jackman stick his claws into things. And who knows, if the show works out, maybe a film version will materialize down the road?