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Improbable Broadway Musicals: The Quiz!

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The announcement this week that the Jim Henson Company is preparing a musical of the beloved-by-dozens 1977 TV special Emmett Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, to be directed by South Pacific choreographer Christopher Gattelli, seemed like a joke at first. Is the chance to see the Riverbottom Nightmare Band in person really a money-making proposition on Broadway? The new-musical development monster is so ravenous—and so few shows make it all the way to Broadway—that it sometimes seems as though there’s no property left to adapt. Can you tell which of the musicals described below are really in development, and which are (as far as we know) products of our Busby Berkeley dreams?

THE SHOW
Bruce Lee: Journey to the West

THE SONG AND DANCE
With book by David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly), and music and lyrics by David Yazbeck (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), Journey to the West combines martial arts, contemporary Shanghai dance, and Chinese opera to tell the story of Bruce Lee’s troubled rise to fame.


THE SHOW
Václav: A Musical of Czechoslovakia


THE SONG AND DANCE
The richly theatrical story of the Czech playwright and poet turned president, this musical about Václav Havel would be a tough sell but for one factor: Tom Stoppard—who dedicated his play Rock 'n' Roll to Havel, his friend of 40 years—is attached to write the book.


THE SHOW
Catch Me If You Can

THE SONG AND DANCE
The Spielberg movie becomes a musical, written by the all-star team of Terrence McNally, Scott Wittman, and Marc Shaiman. The show’s first reading, starring Nathan Lane, Tom Wopat, and Christine Ebersole, included the songs “Fifty Checks” and “Fly, Fly Away.”


THE SHOW
Batman


THE SONG AND DANCE
John Doyle, the director responsible for the innovative, eye-opening revivals of Sweeney Todd and Company, turns his eye to the Dark Knight of Gotham, with Coldplay’s Chris Martin writing the music. Costumes by John Galliano promise to be as outrageous as the musical will be dour.


THE SHOW
Clemente


THE SONG AND DANCE
Based on David Maraniss’s best-selling biography of pioneering Latino baseball hero and humanitarian Roberto Clemente, it’s the next project from In the Heights’ Lin-Manuel Miranda. Daniel Sunjata (Take Me Out) played the lead in workshops and is widely thought to be the likely star.


THE SHOW
Untitled Mandela Project

THE SONG AND DANCE
Based on the memories of Nelson and Winnie Mandela’s daughter Zindzi, this recently announced musical is in the early stages of development but is expected to incorporate South African freedom songs into its score. Will we see a Ladysmith Black Mambazo–style choir onstage?


THE SHOW
Spider-Man

THE SONG AND DANCE
A recent workshop of this Julie Taymor project had Across the Universe’s Jim Sturgess and Evan Rachel Wood starring as Peter Parker and MJ; the score is by Bono and the Edge.


THE SHOW
Houdini


THE SONG AND DANCE
Jack O’Brien will direct this bio-musical about the famed escape artist, with Danny Elfman and David Yazbeck on board, and New York’s Kurt Andersen writing the book. You can practically see the marquee quote: breakout show of the year!


THE SHOW
The Neverending Story

THE SONG AND DANCE
Young Bastian’s journey in the land of Fantasia—adapted from the 1984 fantasy film—will be brought vividly to life by director Julie Taymor, whose larger-than-life puppets will portray such iconic characters as Rockbiter, Falkor, and the G’mork.


THE SHOW
The Princess Bride


THE SONG AND DANCE
The mawwiage between novelist and original screenwriter William Goldman and composer Adam Guettel (The Light in the Piazza) has fallen apart over money. Still, with a Lincoln Center workshop under its belt and guaranteed box office, it’s possible that this musical’s only mostly dead.

Answers: Václav, Batman, Clemente, and The Neverending Story are the fakes.


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