Disney May Ring in Hunchback in Berlin, Spring `99

News   Disney May Ring in Hunchback in Berlin, Spring `99
Call it "Das Bell."

Call it "Das Bell."

Disney plans to try out its stage adaptation of its film musical The Hunchback of Notre Dame with a full production in Berlin, Germany, come spring 1999. A special venue is being built at the city center Potsdamer Platz for the show.

Der Glockner von Notre Dame (aka "Hunchback") will likely be rehearsed and first performed in English, with a lengthy German language run to follow. Auditions begin in May.

Co-producing the international venture is Stella Musical Management, which has already worked with Disney in bringing the German language Beauty and the Beast to London and Stuttgart. Stella generally brings in Broadway shows (in German) to German cities; this is the company's first world premiere.

Lyricist Stephen Schwartz told Playbill On-Line that, as with the animated film, he and composer Alan Menken are working on songs for the show, with James Lapine in charge of the libretto. Schwartz's works include Children Of Eden, Pippin and Godspell. Disney spokesman Chris Boneau confirmed in January that discussions are underway to bring the show to Broadway with Lapine directing. Lapine's lat ƒctorial assignments, The Diary Of Anne Frank and Golden Child, opened this season to positive reviews.

The Hunchback Of Notre Dame movie featured the voices of such theatre folks as Paul Kandel (Tommy), Tom Hulce (A Few Good Men), Kevin Kline (Ivanov) and Jason Alexander (Accomplice), and Charles Kimbrough (Company, Sunday in the Park With George).

Like 1995's Pocahontas, Hunchback has music by Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin) and lyrics by Schwartz (who also wrote The Baker's Wife, parts of Working and lyrics for Rags).

Based on Victor Hugo's novel about a misshappen man with a beautiful soul who yearns for the world beyond his belltower and falls in love with a beautiful gypsy girl, the film was directed by Kirk Wise and Garry Trousdale. Another Hugos novel, Les Miserables, was the source for the long running stage musical.

In other Disney Theatrical news, The Lion King has been enjoying weekly grosses averaging better than $800,000. Meanwhile, Beauty and the Beast begins its fourth year on Broadway Apr. 18.

Also, back in January, Disney held auditions for its next production, Elaborate Lives (based on the story of "Aida,"), planned for a Sept. 11-Nov. 1 run at GA's Alliance Theatre. As with Lion King, Tim Rice & Elton John are again penning the score, with 19 songs already written. Rehearsals start midsummer.

Linda Woolverton, who did the screen and stage adaptations of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, is writing the libretto. Robert Jess Roth, a Tony nominee for Beauty and the Beast, is the director. Matt West (also from Beauty and the Beast) is the choreographer.

-- By David Lefkowitz and Robert Viagas

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