Hugh Jackman Does 'Houdini' Escape Act

5:10 PM PST 12/23/2013 by David Rooney
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Hugh Jackman

The star is bowing out of the developing Broadway musical, following writer Aaron Sorkin's exit earlier this year as the project's second high-profile defection.

NEW YORK -- Broadway's most bankable musical theater star, Hugh Jackman, will not be returning to the boards next season, at least not as the title character in Houdini.

Producers on Monday confirmed Jackman's exit from the long-gestating musical, to which he has been officially attached since the start of 2012 and informally since news of the show first began emerging a few years earlier.

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"I have greatly enjoyed the collaborative process on Houdini," said Jackman in a statement. "Ultimately, though, I wasn't able to commit to the time this role will require. I have tremendous respect and admiration for the creative team and I wish everyone the best. I know they're well on their way to making something extraordinary."

"Hugh has been terrific to have on this part of the journey," added lead producer Scott Sanders. "We will continue to move forward with our remarkable creative team, as they craft this ambitious new musical."

Jackman's exit follows the withdrawal in January of Aaron Sorkin, who had been attached to write the book for the show but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. David Ives (Venus in Fur) stepped in to replace Sorkin.

Jack O'Brien (Hairspray) remains attached to direct Houdini, which has a score by Stephen Schwartz, currently represented on Broadway with the blockbuster Wicked and the hit revival Pippin. Danny Elfman had initially been involved as composer before Schwartz came on board.

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Jackman has a stellar track record as a major box office draw on Broadway -- in the Peter Allen bio-musical The Boy From Oz; the cop drama A Steady Rain, in which he starred opposite Daniel Craig; and in his song-and-dance show Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway. His exit unquestionably is a significant commercial blow to Houdini.

No further information has been released regarding a timeline or possible new star for the developing show.

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