Antonio Banderas has been courted to play the lead role of the charming Grim Reaper, who doesn't understand why people cling to life. Director Leveaux staged the 2003 Tony Award-winning revival of Nine — by the Tony Award-winning composer-lyricist Yeston — starring Banderas in his Broadway debut (he was Tony-nommed playing Nine's amorous lead).
Yeston and Leveaux both like to keep mum about developing projects, but their collaboration on Death Takes a Holiday, based on the 1928 Alberto Cassella play of the same name, has been known about since late last season. Producers are now circling.
The musical itself has been developing from the pens of Stone (1776, Woman of the Year, My One and Only) and Yeston for four years. The pair wrote the Tony Award-winning musical, Titanic, and both contributed to the musical, Grand Hotel. Playbill On-Line first reported about the Death project in 2001. Stone died April 26, 2003, at the age of 73. He won Tony Awards for his books for Titanic, Woman of the Year and 1776.
Death Takes a Holiday appeared on Broadway in 1929, adapted from the original Italian by Walter Ferris. Death tells of the Grim Reaper visiting earth to discover why people are so fearful of him. Or, as Stone said in a Playbill On-Line interview, "What can life be that they cling to it so?"
Death then becomes a houseguest at a swanky nobleman's home where an engagement is being celebrated. And that's where he falls in love. "It's very lush and romantic and amusing in many aspects, even though it deals with a somewhat serious subject," Stone previously told Playbill On-Line.
"Each time they remake it," Stone said of the film versions, "it's farther from the original. We're keeping the locale: Italy, just after the first World War. It's a small musical: 10 principals, all of them important, no chorus."
Playbill On-Line learned a July 2004 workshop is likely for the project. British Leveaux is hot in the current Broadway season: He staged the Broadway revivals of Fiddler on the Roof and Tom Stoppard's Jumpers.
Yeston has been quoted as describing the piece as "an intensely romantic love story, deeply moving and life affirming."
At the opening night of Broadway's Assassins April 22, Yeston told Playbill On-Line columnist Harry Haun, "We're going to do it on Broadway next year. I've done the score, and the book was written by Peter Stone. He finished it completely and polished it, right before he died. This will be Peter's 19th musical."