Back in late 1998, it was reported that country artist Mary Chapin Carpenter was set to pen the music to a new stage musical version of the legendary Western, "Shane." Rocco Landesman, of Jujamcyn Theatres, was to co-produce the tuner with Dodger Endemol Productions.
Now it looks like the players have changed, with Carpenter out and Mike Reid and Sarah Schlesinger -- the team behind The Ballad of Little Jo -- in.
Reid told Playbill On-Line that he and Schlesinger had been invited to work on the project, adding that an agreement was yet to be worked out. Larry Cohen has been put forth as a book writer.
Reid and Schlensinger's Little Jo is scheduled to open the 2000- 2001 season at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company, with Tina Landau directing. The show, which is based on a real story, concerns a young woman living in the last century. Born to money in the East, her father banishes her to the West after she has a child out of wedlock. But on a train bound for San Francisco, Jo is robbed and thrown off in Idaho. There, through a series of odd occurrences, she comes to disguise herself as a man. Finally, she decides to live her entire life that way, going by the name Joe Manahan.
Reid has spent the past 20 years as a Nashville songwriter, penning tunes for the likes of Bonnie Raitt. Another musical by Reid and Schlesinger, In This House, was given a reading at the McCarter Theatre. "Shane" is the archetypal story of a stranger who comes to a frontier town and sets things right. The original film -- which starred Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, Jack Palance, and Brandon de Wilde -- inspired countless imitators, from "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" to "Pale Rider" to virtually any action picture in which a single, enigmatic loner hero saves the day.
Reid said he had met with Landesman some time ago, after the producer listened to a tape of Little Jo. At the time, Reid was disappointed to hear Carpenter was to write the score to Shane. "I felt in my body that I understood the show," he said. "I love American stories. What's interesting to me is how people reconcile their dreams with the reality of their lives." Reid said he thought the title characters in both Little Jo and Shane addressed that issue.
--By Robert Simonson