Steven Sater Working on Chitty Remake, Musical With Bacharach, Spring Awakening Film and More
By Adam Hetrick
March 11, 2010
Tony Award-winning lyricist-librettist Steven Sater told Playbill.com that the film version of Spring Awakening, his Tony-honored musical with composer Duncan Sheik, could begin production in Europe as early as this fall. The picture is one of many projects on Sater's plate at the moment.
Broadway's Spring Awakening, the alt-rock musical based on Frank Wedekind's coming-of-age drama, won the 2007 Tony Award as Best Musical and Best Score. Now on a national tour, the title has also been produced in more than 20 countries worldwide. Soon, it will saturate the international market in a new way — in a film version.
"It's coming together very soon," Sater said, anticipating that the Spring Awakening film would begin production in the fall, or at the latest, next spring. He added, "We need a lot of exteriors. We're going to shoot this on location either in Germany, Hungary, Budapest or Prague."
Sater has written the screenplay. Oscar winner Tom Hanks' production company Playtone Films is producing the screen adaptation, which will be directed by McG ("We Are Marshall," "Charlie's Angels"). Sater and Sheik have also penned a new song for the film, Sater told Playbill.com.
"While it remains a faithful translation of the stage play, I've been able to do things story-wise that I really wasn't able to do on stage," Sater said. "I think people will be genuinely excited about the way we're handling the movie."
Sater shared news of his other projects.
Sater is working on a new musical with pop-hit composer Burt Bacharach, whose 1968 musical Promises, Promises returns to Broadway this season. Sater and Bacharach have penned several pop tunes that have been No. 1 hits in Italy. The show, which would mark Bacharach's first musical in 42 years, received a winter reading in Los Angeles featuring Spring Awakening stars Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele. Although Sater couldn't reveal details about the musical, he did describe the experience of collaborating with the composer of such tunes as "Close to You," "Anyone Who Had a Heart" and "A House Is Not a Home." "When you write with Burt, you're writing lyrics first, but I go to his house and we sit at the piano, it's a real old-fashioned relationship," Sater said. "For me as a lyricist, I learn so much working with him. It's like playing tennis with the most amazing player in the world in terms of how he hits the ball back. It's incredible."
Sater and Sheik will continue their collaboration with a new stage musical for high-school-aged performers. The writers have a script ready and 15 new songs in place. Sater said the show is based on "a piece of literary material that I had been really drawn to." A workshop will take place the first week of April.
Sater is also penning a new screenplay for a film remake of the musical adventure "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," which is being produced by A Steady Rain and "Quantum of Solace" producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson for Sony Pictures. "I'm leaving it in period, but re-conceiving it to tell a more contemporary story," Sater explained. Sherman Brothers songs from the original film will be incorporated. Progress is moving swiftly on the project, which Sater ideally hopes would begin production in spring or summer 2011.
Sater confirmed that American Repertory Theater will stage the world premiere of Prometheus Bound, the new musical based on the Aeschylus work. It has book and lyrics by Sater with a score by System of a Down vocalist and songwriter Serj Tankian. Tony-nominated Hair director and A.R.T. artistic director Diane Paulus will direct the production. Spring Awakening vocal arranger AnnMarie Milazzo penned the arrangements for the score that will be musical directed by Lance Horne. "We've opened up the ancient Greek text with this wailing electric rock," Sater said of the musical that will explore issues of "tyranny, torture and human rights." A.R.T. and Amnesty International will align to launch a political outreach program as part of the production. A.R.T. has not announced the production.