The Tony Award-winning librettist Meehan (Annie, The Producers) told Playbill columnist Harry Haun that the Roundabout is eyeing a winter workshop of the darkly romantic show inspired by the play that came before it. Tony winner Doug Hughes (Doubt) is to direct, and a star is being wooed to play the grim reaper, a charming character who wonders what human life — and love — is all about.
Meehan said a December workshop has been discussed, but Playbill.com has learned that early 2008 might also be a possibility for the exploratory look at the latest draft of the show.
Peter Stone (1776, Titanic) was previously attached as librettist. His death in 2003 left the project in a kind of limbo until Meehan came aboard.
Hughes (Doubt, Mauritius, Inherit the Wind and Roundabout's A Naked Girl on the Appian Way) is attached as director of the workshop of Death Takes a Holiday.
Roundabout has not officially announced any plans for the workshop or any future production of the musical. Meehan is the librettist of Young Frankenstein, Annie, The Producers and Hairspray, as well as the upcoming Cry-Baby. He said he is also working on a libretto for a Rocky musical, based on the Sylvester Stallone film.
Tony-winning composer-lyricist Maury Yeston penned the score to Titanic, Nine and the internationally popular Phantom, his version of "The Phantom of the Opera," which has a book by Arthur Kopit. He also contributed to the score of Grand Hotel, the Musical.
The romantic Death Takes a Holiday was initiated by Peter Stone and Yeston in recent years. A draft was completed before Stone's death in 2003.
Playbill.com first reported about the Death project in 2001. Stone died April 26, 2003, at the age of 73. He won Tony Awards for his books for Titanic, Woman of the Year and 1776, and wrote the book for the Tony Award-winning The Will Rogers Follies.
The musical Death Takes a Holiday is based on the 1928 Alberto Cassella play, which appeared on Broadway in 1929, adapted from the original Italian by Walter Ferris.
Death tells of the Grim Reaper visiting earth to discover why people are so fearful of him. Or, as Stone once said in a Playbill.com interview, "What can life be that they cling to it so?"
Death becomes a houseguest at a swanky nobleman's home where an engagement is being celebrated. And that's where he falls in love.
"It's very lush and romantic and amusing in many aspects, even though it deals with a somewhat serious subject," Stone previously told Playbill.com.
There have been movie versions of the property, including a 1934 picture starring Fredric March and "Meet Joe Black" (1998), starring Brad Pitt.
"Each time they remake it," Stone said of the film versions, "it's farther from the original. We're keeping the locale: Italy, just after the first World War. It's a small musical: 10 principals, all of them important, no chorus." There are four servants in the mix as well, bumping the cast to a relatively intimate 14.
Yeston previously said the piece is "an intensely romantic love story — deeply moving and life affirming." He called the show a "chamber musical."
The Roundabout Theatre Company is the Manhattan not-for-profit with a presence both on Broadway (at Studio 54 and The American Airlines Theatre) and Off-Broadway. Visit www.roundabouttheatrecompany.org.