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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Variety: Disney Theatrical Eyeing Muppets On Stage (EXCLUSIVE)

The long awaited dream of having
The Muppets on Broadway is getting
closer to becoming a reality!

From Josh Ferri of

The Muppets on Broadway?

After putting his unique spin on icons like President Andrew Jackson, Peter Pan, Imelda Marcos and Rocky Balboa, Tony-nominated director Alex Timbers is turning his attention to The Muppets. Timbers directed an exploratory presentation of a live show starring the Muppets for Disney Theatrical, according to Variety.

Disney held a private but elaborate presentation, which included sets, musical numbers and more than 85 Muppets, on May 31 at the New Amsterdam Theatre. The goal of the performance was reportedly to see if the Muppets could realistically sustain their own Broadway show and balance tech and puppetry demands with audience sightlines.

“It was a test of concept,” Disney Theatrical President Thomas Schumacher told Variety. “I’m very intrigued.”

Before bringing the musical Rocky to Broadway in 2014, Timbers’ next project is a musical adaptation of Love Labour's Lost for the Public Theater's current Shakespeare in the Park season. Timbers earned Tony nominations for co-directing Peter and the Starcatcher and writing the book of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, which he also directed. His other directing credits include Here Lies Love, The Pee-wee Herman Show, Gutenberg! The Musical, Boozy and A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Christmas Pageant. The Muppets mark Timbers third collaboration with Disney. In addition to the Peter Pan prequel Peter and the Starcatcher, Timbers has been tapped to direct an updated movie musical of an unnamed Shakespeare classic.

From Gordon Cox, Legit Editor, Variety

Company began preliminary explorations with a presentation in New York

Disney Theatrical Prods. has quietly initiated early explorations of a live stage show featuring the Muppets, commencing late last month with a short but elaborate presentation directed by Alex Timbers.

The brief showcase, staged May 31 at Disney’s New Amsterdam Theater for a group of DTP staffers and a handful of others connected to the potential project, incorporated a handful of sets and more than 85 Muppets in an experiment intended to reveal whether it would even be feasible to present the Muppets in a live theatrical context, juggling puppetry needs with audience sightlines and all the other physical demands of legit theater.

“It was a test of concept,” said Thomas Schumacher, producer and prexy of Disney Theatrical. With the focus on the tech requirements of such an endeavor, a short selection of pre-existing Muppet material was performed. (Yes, Kermit sang “Rainbow Connection.”)

Timbers, the busy director (“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” “The Pee-Wee Herman Show,” “Here Lies Love”) whose upcoming gigs include “The Last Goodbye” in San Diego and “Rocky” on Broadway, told Schumacher he had come up with a concept for a Muppets stage show while they collaborated on Peter Pan prequel “Peter and the Starcatcher,” the 2011 Off Broadway outing that went on to win five Tonys in its 2012 Rialto transfer.

Scheduling of the recent trial, which ran only 15 minutes, was timed to take place during a window of overlapping availability for Timbers, the New Amsterdam (currently dark in advance of the spring 2014 bow of “Aladdin”) and the actual band of puppets, following the filming of Disney’s “The Muppets… Again!,” on tap for a March release.

The Muppets presentation was one part of Disney Theatrical’s broad slate of development activities, with legit incarnations of “Shakespeare in Love” and “Father of the Bride,” plus a redux of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” among the titles that are far further along on the road to the stage.

It’s too early to say whether a project will develop out of the recent Muppets event. But according to attendees, the brief tryout seemed to go well, and a stage version of the Muppets seems a no-brainer given the high profile of the widely beloved Disney property.

For now, though, it’s just a possibility, if a promising one. “I’m very intrigued,” Schumacher said.

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