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Disney is spelling “m-u-s-i-c-a-l,” closing a deal to pick up the rights to hit Broadway show The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, with the intent of mounting a live-action adaptation.
Dan Lin and Jonathan Eirich, who produced the billion-dollar-grossing live-action Aladdin remake for the studio, are producing Spelling Bee via their Rideback banner. The company’s Ryan Halprin, who appeared in a college production of the show and helped chase the rights, will executive produce.
The musical comedy follows several competitors with diverse backstories who are competing in a bee. The show hit Broadway in 2005 and earned six Tony nominations, winning two — best book and best actor.
The Broadway show had music and lyrics by William Finn, while the book was by Rachel Sheinkin with Rebecca Feldman getting the conceived by credit. The original show was directed by James Lapine.
Interestingly, the show is based on an improv play titled C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E that was conceived by Feldman and workshopped and developed over a couple of years. Feldman, Jay Reiss, Sarah Saltzberg and Dan Fogler are the credited creators of that show and found success as it moved to Broadway (Fogler won the Tony for best actor).
Spelling Bee is on the list of top 100 longest-running Broadway shows and has been staged in local productions around the country. Hollywood producers have courted the creators for years, but this marks the first time it has been officially set up at a studio.
A search for filmmakers to adapt the material is just getting underway.
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