'Water for Elephants' Musical Eyes Broadway

"Water for Elephants"
David James/Twentieth Century Fox

For the Depression-era romantic drama, the twice-nominated Jacqueline West created crystal-encrusted performance wear and elegant bias-cut silk evening gowns for Reese Witherspoon's horse acrobat character. West took cues from actresses like Carole Lombard and Jean Harlow.

Sara Gruen's best-selling novel was previously adapted into a 2011 film starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson and Christoph Waltz.

What would Water for Elephants sound like as a musical?

Producers Peter Schneider and Elisabetta di Mambro, in association with Broadway Across America and Mehr! Entertainment, announced Monday that they've acquired the worldwide rights to adapt Sara Gruen's best-selling 2006 novel as a musical.

The Depression-era novel, which has been published in 43 countries and has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide, follows aspiring veterinarian Jacob Jankowski as he joins the staff of Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, working with the circus' new elephant. He bonds with the show's equestrian star, who is married to its charismatic but troubled animal superintendent.  

The love-triangle title was previously adapted into a 2011 film starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson and Christoph Waltz. Directed by Francis Lawrence, the Fox release grosses $117 million worldwide.

"I have loved Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants since it was first published and was captivated by its theatricality,” said Schneider, the former Disney film executed who also produced The Lion King onstage, in a statement. “It is so dramatic — a woman who is trapped in a relationship for all the wrong reasons meets and falls in love with a man for all the right reasons. Throw in an elephant as a matchmaker and you have the potential for a show of great imagination and emotional depth."

"The novel evokes an exotic, colorful and gorgeous world and yet its very human emotions are instantly recognizable and universal," added di Mambro. "We are just starting the creative process, beginning to talk with composers, writers, and directors who can help transform this vibrant world onto the musical stage. Aware of the exciting challenge ahead of us, we are grateful that Sara Gruen has given us the rights to bring her beloved story and characters to life as a global musical."

Eyeing a Broadway run, the production's creative team will be announced at a later date.

"I am beyond thrilled to be involved in a creative process that is entirely new to me, especially with such wonderfully talented people at the helm to reimagine my work for the stage,” said Gruen. “When I wrote the book, I hoped people would think about the way we treat those who are dependent on us — animals, the elderly, the debilitated, as well as the power of love in all its forms, and it's going to be amazing to see this message delivered in such an exciting medium."