Like Hairspray before it, the show (as previously announced) will have a libretto by Tony Award-winners Thomas Meehan and Mark O'Donnell, and is based on a film by John Waters. A spring 2006 opening on Broadway is projected.
In the 1990 movie, which has class-clash as a theme, a good girl representing the rich "Squares" in 1954 Baltimore is attracted to a motorcycle-riding, leather-clad bad-boy (then played by Johnny Depp), a member of the "Drapes" — from the other side of the tracks.
The show's producers are Adam Epstein, Allan Gordon, Elan McAllister (all veterans of Hairspray) and Brian Grazer of Imagine. A first reading of the new material may comes as early as this summer, Epstein said, though Schlesinger said he and Javerbaum (whose pals called him DJ) are just starting their work after penning two songs on spec.
Epstein told Playbill On-Line that when news of Cry-Baby broke in the last year, various songwriters inquired about the project. But Epstein had Schlesinger — known for is pop hooks with such songs as "Stacy's Mom" — in mind. Like the old-fashioned producers of yore, Epstein played matchmaker and paired Schlesinger and Javerbaum.
"They submitted a demo and they found that balance between the sweetness and the subversiveness of the story," Epstein said. "Adam Schlesinger, to me, is somebody who understands that no matter whether you're writing for pop, for film, for theatre or for TV, that being clever and subversive in your storytelling is important," producer Epstein told Playbill On-Line. "He does that so well in Fountains of Wayne..."
Epstein knew Javerbaum's lyrics from other projects, including the satirical and heartfelt Richard Rodgers Award-winning musical, Suburb.
For Grammy and Oscar nominee Schlesinger, Cry-Baby is a chance to tackle a form he hasn't worked in, and write to a specific assignment. He told Playbill On-Line there's certain freedom in the boundaries of the story: "I find it very liberating to be given a certain period and style...it's easier when somebody says, 'This is what we're going to do,' rather than me sitting there staring at a blank page."
Schlesinger is also a lyricist, one of two writers writing for Fountains of Wayne, which earned two 2004 Grammy Award nominations.
"What's exciting about the period is it's the birth of rock and roll — when rock was finding its feet," Schlesinger said. "So the kind of stuff we're referencing is classic formative rock; it can be innocent, suggestive and subversive."
Schlesinger was born in Manhattan and grew up in New Jersey. His grandparents were theatre promoters who would book touring companies of shows into Syracuse, NY.
Schlesinger was Oscar-nominated for Best Song for the title tune of the film, "That Thing You Do," and co-wrote the theme song for the movie, "Josie and the Pussycats." His credits also include contributions to "Crank Yankers," "Saturday Night Live," "There's Something About Mary" and more. (For more information, visit www.fountainsofwayne.com.)
Lyricist Javerbaum won the 2003 Emmy Award for writing for "The Daily Show" and penned lyrics and co-wrote the book to the well-regarded Off-Broadway musical, Suburb, which has also been seen regionally. That show won the 2000 Richard Rodgers Development Award.
No cast, director or choreographer have been announced for Cry-Baby. The focus now is on the writing, Epstein said.
Librettist O'Donnell previously told Variety: "If Hairspray is 'Cinderella,' then Cry-Baby is Romeo & Juliet."
He said elements of the film will have to be rethought for its Broadway bow: "The helicopter rescue and the chicken race with all those cars would be difficult to stage in the theatre."
The "Cry-Baby" film cast featured Amy Locane as Allison, Susan Tyrrell as Ramona Rickettes, Polly Bergen as Mrs. Vernon-Williams, Iggy Pop as Uncle Belvedere Rickettes, former porn star Traci Lords as Wanda Woodward and original "Hairspray" Tracy Turnblad, Ricki Lake, as Pepper Walker.
John Waters previously told Variety: "'Hairspray' was a story about race; 'Cry-Baby' is a story about class. The only thing I will insist on, as I did with Hairspray, is that I be the Grease police. This can't be Grease; it happened way before. The period is pre Elvis, and the music was rockabilly. It is strong and it is sexy."