EXCLUSIVE: Korie Reveals Ashford to Direct Neverland; McAnuff Set for Australian Dr. Zhivago

By Adam Hetrick
13 Apr 2010

 Rob Ashford
Rob Ashford
Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Finding Neverland, the new musical from Tony nominated Grey Gardens songwriters Michael Korie and Scott Frankel, is looking to fly onto the stage in the near future.

Korie, who is penning lyrics for the stage production that has a book by Allan Knee (based on his 1990 play The Man Who Was Peter Pan, which was adapted into the 2004 film "Finding Neverland"), tells Playbill.com, "It's all ready to go, it's now a matter of dates and availability. We're casting our net for the right J.M. Barrie."

"The energy of the part, J.M. Barrie, really calls for what we think [is] 'above-the-title casting,'" Korie explains. Christian Borle (Legally Blonde) read the part of Barrie in previous readings of the musical. Korie also revealed that Tony Award-winning choreographer Rob Ashford, who helmed earlier industry readings of Finding Neverland, is attached to direct and choreograph the upcoming production.

Details of the production are expected to be announced within the next six months. "It is intended to be a Broadway show. It's big," Korie says of the work, which could first premiere out of town, or arrive directly on Broadway. "If the right person we found could only do it in New York, then we'd develop it in New York. If we had time, then we'd go out of town and come to New York," he states.



Korie also said that the musical Dr. Zhivago, which premiered at the La Jolla Playhouse in 2007 as Zhivago, will play Australia. Tony winner Des McAnuff, who staged the La Jolla developmental run, will also direct the latest incarnation. According to the official website for the work, producer John Frost is in talks to open the Australian premiere in 2011. The website states that Australian actor Anthony Warlow is in discussions to star in the title role. Dr. Zhivago has lyrics by Korie and Amy Powers, with a book by Michael Weller and a score by Lucy Simon.

McAnuff is also attached to direct Senna, a new opera based on Brazilian Formula 1 world champion Ayrton Senna da Silva, who was killed in a crash during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. Korie explains, "I was so intrigued by the whole idea of opera and speed. They're not things that you usually associate together. I'm loving it." The Metropolitan Opera and the English National Opera co-commissioned the work that has a score by Michael Torke and libretto by Korie.

 

Michael Korie
photo by Robert Petkoff

Among Korie's other projects are the new musical Beauty, for which he is collaborating with singer-songwriter Regina Spektor and director Tina Landau. Stuart Oken is producing the musical that will debut out of town next year, according to Korie. Landau, who is penning the book to the musical loosely based on the "Sleeping Beauty" fairytale, will also direct. "It takes place in the very, very distant past and the very far future," Korie says.

Korie spoke about the musical Happiness on which he also collaborated with composer Frankel, director Susan Stroman and book writer John Weidman in 2009 at Lincoln Center Theater. The loosely structured work, set on a New York City subway car, finds its characters faced with selecting one happy moment from their lives to live for eternity. Critical reception was mixed.

Korie reflects, "We all loved working on the workshops and doing the production and we thought it was great. But in retrospect, we need to retool… Now, I think we need a little distance from it and then I think that within a few years we'll come back to it. I think we need more story."

"I learned some stuff," he added. "Songs alone are not enough. We all have good ideas about it having seen it once, and I think we need to retool."

Korie is currently at Minnesota Opera Company workshopping his new opera The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, which features a score by Ricky Ian Gordon. The two also collaborated on the opera of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, which arrived in a one-night-only concert at Carnegie Hall in late March after a 2007 premiere at the Minnesota Opera. The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, set against the backdrop of World War II, will officially premiere in Minnesota April 16-23, 2011, under the direction of Eric Simonson. Tony Award winner Michael Yeargan will design the production that will star Kelly Kaduce as Micòl, according to the Minnesota Opera.