Wendy Wasserstein's book for children, Pamela's First Musical, has become one of the more popular gift items for parents who want to introduce their kids to the theatre. Now parents and children will have a chance to see the book brought to to life on the small screen.
Wasserstein is currently working with composer Cy Coleman (The Life, City of Angels, On The Twentieth Century) and lyricist David Zippel (City of Angels) on making Pamela into a television musical. Choreographer Susan Stroman (Steel Pier) is also working on the project, which will reach ABC as a Sunday movie of the week for children. No time frame is yet given.
Wasserstein told Playbill On-Line (Mar. 19) that Coleman's score includes such songs as "Pamela, Welcome To Sardis" and "Someone Had A Dream," which tells what it's like to be a creative person.
In other Wasserstein news, back in December 1995, Playbill On-Line reported that CBS TV was negotiating to develop Wendy Wasserstein's play, The Sisters Rosensweig, as the basis for a new weekly sitcom on the network, CBS, and that Madeline Kahn has been asked to repeat her Tony-winning role as Gorgeous. The CBS deal didn't work out but the sitcom is going forward, with Jon Plowman, of AbFab fame, producing the show for the BBC in London. Maureen Lipman playing Dr. Gorgeous, as she did at the Greenwich Theatre and Old Vic in 1994. The play is set in London.
Wasserstein told Playbill On-Line (Mar. 19) she'll probably head to London (where the play is set) over the summer to write the show.
In late 1995, CBS Entertainment President Les Moonves told Playbill On Line he was working with Britain's BBC to develop a weekly TV comedy from Wasserstein's1992 play about three American Jewish sisters who undergo an identity crisis when they gather in London after their mother dies.
"When I saw the play I thought, geez, these are characters you wouldn't mind seeing for 100 episodes," said Moonves, who worked as a Broadway company manager early in his career. Moonves said the BBC had optioned the play, so he tried to negotiate how the logistics of a co-production or a piggyback deal would work. Wasserstein is Moonves' second cousin.
Asked by Variety why she chose London over L.A., Wasserstein said "I've always wanted to work here. Les wanted to do it, and I said, actually, because I'm Miss Four-Figure-Deal, I'd rather do it for the BBC first and then sell it to CBS, or maybe I'd rewrite it as an American version...maybe in Boston or wherever. I don't know that you'd want to do it in London."
Producer Plowman told Variety that the BBC offers "a slightly less pressured way [of working]. We don't need 26 episodes immediately with 300 other writers. I want Wendy to write it."
The Sisters Rosensweig is looming large in Wasserstein's life right now; she's finished working on the screenplay, to be directed by Daniel Sullivan, who helmed the show on Broadway. Ron Kastner will produce the Rosensweig film, as he did for The Substance Of Fire.
Another film with a Wasserstein script is due out in the next few weeks. Directed by Nicholas Hytner (Carousel,) The Object of My Affection is based on Stephen McCauley's novel. Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston, Alan Alda (Art), Nigel Hawthorne, Alison Janney (A View From The Bridge) star in the film.
Wasserstein is working on a new full-length play, but that's in the nascent stages. She's also penning a one-act for an ABC-TV special "Millennium Project" running an entire week in November 1999. Wasserstein, Neil Simon, Arthur Miller, David Mamet and August Wilson have all been tapped to write new plays. Wasserstein's is titled Shopping On Mars.
The project was inaugurated by Hallmark Entertainment, which is executive producing the works. Hallmark Entertainment chairman Robert Halmi told the New York Times the idea for the project came from thinking about "how all the major media was preparing for the millennium, from books to poetry to painting. I thought the best way to get a presence was to get the very best playwrights in America to write what they think the year 2,000 means." Halmi said he told the playwrights, "We're not going to tell you what to do; we're not going to edit you."
For its part, ABC and producer David Picker are expecting the project to attract major actors, directors and producers. Also said to be participating in the project are John Guare, Larry Gelbart, Terrence McNally, Elaine May and Steve Martin.
-- By David Lefkowitz