Like, Wow: Luftig Planning "Legally Blonde" as a Broadway Musical

News   Like, Wow: Luftig Planning "Legally Blonde" as a Broadway Musical Hal Luftig, one of the producers of Thoroughly Modern Millie, will produce a Broadway stage musical of the hit MGM film, "Legally Blonde," the New York Observer reported.

Reese Witherspoon and Luke Wilson in the 2001 MGM film,
Reese Witherspoon and Luke Wilson in the 2001 MGM film, "Legally Blonde." Photo by Tracy Bennett -

The film starring Reese Witherspoon as a cosmetics perfect California sorority girl who follows her jerky boyfriend to Harvard Law School was a surprise box office smash in 2001, and spawned a less-well-received sequel this summer.

The first film was based on a book by Amanda Brown, and Luftig has optioned the story and characters. The Observer reported Luftig will produce the musical in conjunction with Fox Theatricals and Dori Berinstein of the Oxygen Network.

The project is one of many associated with MGM/UA's Onstage division, which encourages producers and writers to exploit MGM film titles for the musical theatre. "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" (1988) is one of the recent titles that came to light, being shepherded by producers Marty Bell and David Brown, and a creative team that includes book writer Terrence McNally, songwriter David Yazbek, director Jack O'Brien and choreographer Jerry Mitchell.

The paper said Luftig hopes to have a first reading of the musical version of Legally Blonde "within a year, and have it really on its feet a year after that."

* Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc., the film and entertainment giant that has a 4,100-title movie catalog, including "Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang," "The Pink Panther," "Legally Blonde," "Get Shorty" and scores of famed pictures, is seeking to shop its titles to theatrical producers in the hope that hits from the silver screen might turn into stage gold.

In January 2002, MGM announced its new initiative, MGM On Stage, as part of the creation of the new division, MGM Entertainment Business Group, to be headed by longtime MGM executive Darcie Denkert. She will "focus exclusively on developing initiatives across divisional lines to further leverage and promote MGM's massive film and television library," according to the announcement. The news is likely prompting producers and musical theatre writers around the world to rush to get a list of MGM properties that might become the next Producers.

MGM is not seeking to become a producer or to finance the shows, meaning the company's financial risk is low, but will "capitalize on licensing and development opportunities for MGM properties as stage productions."

The catalog does not include many of the films of MGM's so called golden age: The rights to "The Wizard of Oz," "The Bandwagon," "Singin' in the Rain" and other classics made by MGM up to 1985 were bought by Ted Turner and fell into new hands in various company sales and changeovers. The current MGM catalog includes post 1948 films from United Artists, Orion, Goldwyn and Polygram and post-1985 films made under the MGM banner.

A spokesperson for MGM told Playbill On-Line in 2002 the company is already in discussions with interested parties on musical versions of "New York, New York," "The Fabulous Baker Boys," "Bull Durham," "Legally Blonde," "Mr. Holland's Opus," "The Idolmaker," "Rocky" (with Sylvester Stallone supervising), "The Pink Panther" (linked to Blake Edwards), "Where's Pappa?," "Marty" (which was produced regionally and is aimed at Broadway) "The Night They Raided Minsky's" (in development for several years now) and more. Some of these projects are in various stages of development. Playbill On-Line had previously reported about Marty and The Night They Raided Minsky's, both Charles Strouse projects, as well as Moonstruck. Sweet Smell of Success, the musical, was also inspired by a title from the MGM vault.

Chris McGurk, MGM vice chairman and chief operating officer, said in a statement, "Establishing MGM On Stage places us in a unique position by providing us with yet another vital platform by which we can fully leverage MGM's vast collection of titles with the minimum amount of risk. By penetrating this important market, MGM can expect to benefit substantially from added licensing and merchandising revenues, while always maintaining a specific level of involvement in the creative process."

Denkert began her career as a theatrical lawyer involved in Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, and subsequently has worked for MGM and United Artists for a combined total of 25 years. She joined the legal department of United Artists in 1977 and was promoted to the position of director of business affairs in 1981. She later rose within MGM's ranks to serve as vice president, senior vice president, and subsequently executive vice president, before advancing to senior executive vice president in 1997. She has held senior-level business affairs positions with Embassy Pictures and ICM.

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