Allan Knee, the new show's librettist, confirmed that Frankel and Korie are on board and that a draft of the libretto is written. The collaborators are in the early stages of shaping the material into a stage musical. There is no announced production timetable, and no official announcement from the producers.
The project is inspired by the 2004 Oscar-nominated film, "Finding Neverland," itself inspired by Knee's 1990 play, The Man Who Was Peter Pan.
"I'm delighted to be working with these guys on it," Knee told Playbill.com, adding that Frankel and Korie have the right combination of style, sophistication and heart to bring to musical life the bittersweet tale of James M. Barrie's attachment to four young boys whose mother is ill.
"[Frankel and Korie] have the right sensibility and the meetings go well…they are as excited as I am" about the best way to reinvent the material as a musical, Knee said.
Frankel and Korie were 2007 Tony Award Best Score nominees for writing the score to Grey Gardens. They are also at work on a new musical, Happiness, with collaborators Susan Stroman and John Weidman. Knee is librettist of the 2005 Broadway musical Little Women, which toured and is now a licensable regional property, and the popular play Syncopation. His play, The Jazz Age, about Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre, will play Off-Broadway's 59E59 Theaters in the coming weeks.
The Man Who Was Peter Pan was lauded by critics when it played an Off-Off-Broadway showcase run in 1998. The play caught the eye and ear of Miramax and its producer Harvey Weinstein, who bought the rights to turn it into a movie. Knee wrote two drafts of a screenplay for "Finding Neverland," but Miramax opted to used screenwriter David Magee instead.
Those who thought the movie would be a family-friendly picture about the making of Peter Pan were surprised to find themselves watching a three-hankie weeper that embraced the idea that art is a powerful force in a miserable world. And, yes, it's also about the making of Peter Pan, too.
Following the success of the picture (which starred Johnny Depp as Scottish playwright-novelist J.M. Barrie), Weinstein invited Knee to write a draft of a musical libretto with no restrictions about cast size or approach, except that no one — Knee included — wanted a word-for-word version of the earlier play or screenplay.
The play and movie focus on Peter Pan creator James M. Barrie and his fixation on the widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and her four boys, who helped inspire the classic tale of the boy who wouldn't grow up.
Knee said he was encouraged to reimagine the story for the musical theatre. "The Weinstein Company has been very supportive of me," Knee said.
"The soul of the movie is adaptable but it really has to be about reinventing the movie and the play into a new experience," Knee previously told Playbill.com.
In writing the libretto, Knee did more research than he did when he wrote the source play more than a decade ago.
"I've immersed myself in more stories about Barrie, about the period, the letters between Barrie and the boys," Knee said.
The 100th anniversary of the premiere of Peter Pan was in 2004.
As in the 2004 movie, ideas about the fear of growing old and the presence of death will be in Knee's approach to Finding Neverland, the musical. The central plot remains the story of Barrie, the widow and her four adventurous boys — leading to the creation of Peter Pan.
Knee's interest in the subject began years ago when he read the biography "J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys" (recently reissued).
What attracts Knee to the story of Barrie, Peter Pan and his young muses?
"The relationships with the boys, his own difficulty in growing up…his earlier novels about the pain of growing up: I just identified it with it so strongly," Knee explained. "The relationship with his mother in his life, his romanticism — I identify."