London’s National Theatre is in the advanced stages of planning a Christmas stage version of Pinocchio, based partly on the 1940 Disney film version and the original Carlo Collodi tales. Disney Theatricals has given its blessing for the stage version to be created (and songs from the film and others in the Disney catalogue to be used), but is not otherwise creatively or financially involved. The musical is scheduled to open at the National’s Lyttelton Theatre in December.
According to a report by Baz Bamigboye for the Daily Mail, the creative team will be led by John Tiffany (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Once, and Blackwatch) as director, reuniting with the designer, choreographer, and musical supervisor of the Tony-winning musical Once, respectively, Bob Crowley, Steven Hoggett, and Martin Lowe. Puppets will co-designed by Crowley and Toby Olie (War Horse). The book will be by playwright Dennis Kelly (Matilda), replacing the originally planned Enda Walsh.
National artistic director Rufus Norris is quoted as saying of Tiffany's work, “He can build up the theatricality in a handmade way, rather than bringing on tons of scenery.” He added that the National is “not in the market for doing a huge-scale, Disney-style musical. We’re talking about a story that’s essentially set in a puppetry workshop, so there’s a lot of that aesthetic built into the Collodi story.”
Disney Theatricals president Thomas Schumacher is reported to have allowed “unfettered access to songs used in the 1940 film,” including “I’ve Got No Strings,” “Give A Little Whistle,” “When You Wish Upon a Star,” and “Hi Diddle Dee Dee,” plus tunes from the Disney back catalogue.
Schumacher commented that Lowe has come up with “fantastic arrangements of songs, and ways to weave the music in and out of the story.” He has added of Tiffany's involvement, “If someone like John Tiffany comes to you and says, ’I want to do Pinocchio—will you let me have a chance at it?,’ why not say yes?!”
Schumacher is reported to have allowed the National to have complete artistic control and to produce the show. He is quoted saying, “They’re going to do a great job. It needs the safe environment of the National, so John and his team of artists can work on it without any outside pressure.”
Schumacher says that plans beyond the National will depend on the outcome there: he labeled it "an experiment" and said that if, for whatever reason, it didn’t work, “no harm, no foul.” And he commented, "If it’s just good — and if that’s the worst thing that happens — it’s perfectly fine. And if it is something that’s remarkable, wouldn’t that be great for the National?! We have an agreement to make an agreement when we see what it is.”
Tickets are expected to go on sale this summer.