Bat-Song!

     
 

By MICHAEL RIEDEL

Michael Keaton brought Batman to life in director Tim Burton's dark 1989 action movie.

August 30, 2002 -- HOLY Broadway!"Batman: The Musical" has finally landed a director - Tim Burton.Warner Brothers, which is producing the multimillion-dollar musical, has been courting Burton, who directed the 1989 "Batman" movie as well as the 1992 sequel "Batman Returns," for over a year.
The studio sealed the deal last week, theater sources say, after Burton had several long and productive meetings with bookwriter David Ives and composer Jim Steinman.

Reached yesterday, Steinman said: "We're thrilled he's going to do it. David and I floundered around for a year trying to figure out how to musicalize Batman. Then we looked at Tim's original movie and thought, that's it."

Steinman said Burton "has already got a list of 20 designers from all over the world he wants to talk to about the production."

Burton - who also directed "Planet of the Apes" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" - has never staged a musical before, though he's said to enjoy the theater and has mused to friends that he'd like to start a puppet theater one day.

According to one theater source, he wants to direct "Batman: The Musical" because he is not pleased with the goofy, campy turn the franchise took with "Batman Forever" and "Batman and Robin," both of which were directed by Joel Schumacher.

Burton's movies were haunting and much darker than the theme-park rides Schumacher cranked out.

"He wants to re-establish his original vision," said the source. "His major impulse is to redeem the soul of the 'Batman' series."

Burton will begin working on the musical full-time next year. The plan is to open out of town in 2004 and arrive on Broadway in 2005.

The budget is still being worked out, but veteran producers figure a "Batman" musical would cost at least $15 million.

In addition to Batman and Robin, the musical will feature the characters The Joker and Cat Woman.

Steinman, whose "Dance of the Vampires" opens this fall on Broadway, described his "Batman" score as a mixture of "Brecht, Weill, Rodgers & Hammerstein and rock 'n' roll."

The overall design concept, as of right now, he said, is "Gotham City as Berlin in the 1930s."

Warner Brothers is in the process of setting up a theatrical division similar to the one Disney has put together.

The studio, says a source, has carefully tracked the success of Disney's "The Lion King" and "Beauty and the Beast," and now wants to get in on the game.

"They have movies that are just as popular, and they are looking for new ways to exploit them," the source said.

TOM Viertel, one of the producers of "Hairspray," called to clarify something I reported earlier this week about the dispute over a compensation package for the show's original director, Rob Marshall.

Marshall, says Viertel, contributed to the "development of the script but did not actually revise the script himself. He's made no claim to being an author."

That may sound like hairspray splitting but since there is a potential lawsuit here, Viertel wants to be precise about Marshall's work on the show.

Marshall staged three early readings, then left the project to direct the movie version of "Chicago."

He was not paid for the readings and now reportedly wants a fat slice of the show's profits.

I'm hard-pressed, though, to see much merit in his claim.

He left the show for what at the time probably seemed like a more lucrative project.

The decision was his and he should accept the consequences.

I called Marshall to give him the chance to state his case, but he didn't call me back.
There are consequences for that, too.

 

 

 

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