Spielberg sets sights on conquering Broadway stage with a TV show

Director to film series about the making of a stage production – then take the real thing to Broadway
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The Independent Culture

His vast collection of box office successes include far-fetched films about killer sharks, dinosaurs running amok and the arrival of extraterrestrials.

Now the director Steven Spielberg is to embark on a very different, but no less ambitious, project: creating a television series about the making of a new Broadway musical, and taking the resulting production to the stage.

Spielberg, 62, whose career in film and television has spanned more than four decades, has been developing the concept for several years, according to the entertainment industry magazine Variety.

The series will chronicle the development of an original musical, from inception through to opening night. After the series airs, the intention is to perform the fledgling production to live audiences in New York – with a run in the West End of London also likely.

The television series is expected to examine the process from the creative aspects of songwriting and choreographing to the business deals which eventually help it on to the stage, such as the recruiting of investors.

The plot will revolve around the trials and tribulations of members of the cast and production team, but will be a scripted drama with actors rather than a "reality" show.

The project is undoubtedly an ambitious one, raising questions about whether the musical score will be completed before the TV series is filmed, or whether the two will be juggled at the same time to give an air of chaotic authenticity. It is hoped that the series will run for several seasons, perhaps focusing on the making of other musicals.

Spielberg is to team up with the American cable television company Showtime and DreamWorks TV to produce the as-yet untitled series, the script for which is already in development. He is believed to have selected a crack team of producers and songwriters to bring his idea to fruition.

Negotiations are underway with Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who produced the recent film adaptations of Chicago and Hairspray, the second and third most successful big-screen musicals respectively. The title of highest-grossing movie musical of all time is held by the 1978 classic Grease, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.

Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who co-wrote the score for Hairspray, which tells the story of a teenager who pursues stardom as a dancer on a local TV show, have also reportedly been approached by the director.

The pair penned the music and lyrics for the musical adaptation of Catch Me If You Can, originally a 2002 film directed by Spielberg and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The adaptation had its first public performance in Seattle in July, running for three weeks, and has been tipped for a longer spell on Broadway.

The British theatre critic Mark Shenton said the project's success would depend on the strength of the storylines which came out of the TV drama series, but that Spielberg's star quality and his ability to "buy the best talent" would make a big difference.

"People have always been interested in the 'show behind the show' and the concept is nothing new," he said. "We've had a whole glut of them in the last few years, from The Producers, The Drowsy Chaperone and Spamalot and going all the way back to Kiss Me, Kate.

"There also does seem to be an insatiable appetite amongst theatre-folk for navel-gazing, and that's probably what this is part of."