Playwright to helm tuner, write book for ani classic

NEW YORK — When you wish upon a star, you may find yourself in the hands of Tina Landau.

The playwright-director (“States of Independence,” “Stonewall: Night Variations”) is in talks with Walt Disney Theatrical Prods. to helm and write the book for a musical based on the animated classic “Pinocchio,” which the studio released in 1940.

Landau is currently readying her play “Space” for a West Coast premiere at L.A.’s Mark Taper Forum. Earlier this year, she directed and wrote the book for Adam Guettel’s musical “Floyd Collins” at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre. In approaching Landau, Disney Theatrical returns to the cutting-edge formula that gave the company Julie Taymor’s super-successful Broadway retooling of its 1994 animated hit “The Lion King.”

Music man unknown

As for the score to the new Pinocchio project, no composer is attached, although Stephen Schwartz may have carved himself the inside track. The composer-lyricist wrote the lyrics for such recent Disney fare as “Pocahontas” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” with Alan Menken supplying the music.

Even more significant, Schwartz has scored “Gepetto,” another “Pinocchio” spinoff, for ABC’s “Wonderful World of Disney,” to air next May. Landau is not associated with that project, which uses a teleplay by David I. Stern and is directed by Tom Moore.

Disney’s movie — based on Carlo Collodi’s 19th-century novel “The Adventures of Pinocchio” — had no less than seven writers, two directors and an Oscar-winning score and song (“When You Wish Upon a Star”) by Leigh Harline, Paul J. Smith and Ned Washington.

Will “When You Wish Upon a Star” ever be sung from the stage of a Times Square theater? If the “Gepetto” TV musical is any indication, maybe not: For his TV score, Schwartz retained only one song, “I’ve Got No Strings,” from the animated film.

On back burner

News of the Pinocchio musical first came to light when various creatives in search of material for a live tuner discovered that Disney Theatrical already had such a project burning on its woodpile. The “Pinocchio” project would be the first Disney theatrical based on a movie classic originated by the studio’s founder, Walt Disney.

Landau is repped by Helen Merrill Ltd., Schwartz by the law firm of Schreck, Rose & Dapello. Disney Theatricals could not be reached for comment.

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