Peter S. Beagle penned the 1968 novel that is perhaps best known for its 1982 animated film adaptation that featured the voices of Alan Arkin, Jeff Bridges and Mia Farrow.
Actor Duhamel will produce the stage venture along with his wife, pop singer Fergie, as well as Connor Cochran and indie film producer Lauren Sands.
In a Sept. 19 phone interview, Cochran told Playbill.com that the producing team was expected to officially sign the deal to bring "The Last Unicorn" to life as a theatrical work in the coming weeks.
Talks with Duhamel and Fergie, who has been a fan of the film since childhood, began in January. A timeline for the production is not currently in place, but Cochran states that Fergie has already created several musical motifs for the production.
Fergie, the lead vocalist of The Black-Eyed Peas, who also launched her own successful solo career, is known for the songs "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Fergalicious," "London Bridge" and "Glamorous." She is expected to be involved in the musical aspect of the show, but Cochran said that additional songwriters will be brought on board to collaborate on the complete score. At one point Academy Award-winning Wicked, Pippin and "Pocahontas" composter-lyricist Stephen Schwartz had been approached to collaborate with Beagle on "The Last Unicorn," but terms of a deal "never gelled."
Beagle, who also penned the screenplay for the animated film, previously adapted "The Last Unicorn" for the stage in a 1988 dance-theatre adaptation, incorporating members of the Pacific Northwest Ballet, at the Intiman Theatre. A separate German stage musical was also produced.
A 2009 Chicago stage adaptation of the property, created by director-adapter Ed Rutherford for the Promethean Theatre Ensemble, caught the eye of Beagle and Cochran, who called it an "astonishing" adaptation of the novel that "got to the heart of the piece as staged theatre."
Rutherford is among the collaborators working to bring the new vision for "The Last Unicorn" to life. He and Beagle will co-write the book. It is expected that a seasoned theatre lyricist will be brought on to collaborate with Beagle on lyrics.
The team plans to meet potential musical collaborators in New York City this October.
While the project is still in early developmental talks, Cochran imagines "The Last Unicorn" will play a multi-year tour in a manner similar to Cirque du Soleil, with its own tent or venue that will immerse audiences in what he describes as a "more radical, innovative environment" that would differ from standard proscenium staging and seated Broadway fare.
A Main Stem production would ultimately require the creative team to reimagine the physical touring production for a Broadway house, Cochran said. Recent musicals, including Spider-Man and Holler If Ya Hear Me, have also reconsidered how Broadway audiences engage with stage musicals.
A $15 million offer from Asian producers is on the table to stage the production there, which the team is also exploring, Cochran said.
The news of the stage adaptation of "The Last Unicorn" was revealed in anticipation of New York Comic Con, which runs Oct. 9-12. Beagle and members of the team will be part of a special Oct. 12 panel at the 92 Y to discuss the stage musical.
Cochran and Beagle are currently crossing the country with a screening tour of "The Last Unicorn" that began in 2013 and runs through 2016. It is expected that the screening tour will play roughly 500 cities over the next several years. Live film rights for "The Last Unicorn" are also on the table.