'Creature' musical makes its debut in Hollywood

Universal has been keeping its classic monsters in the spotlight with film reboots. Now the studio is adding a tuner to the mix.

The company raised the curtain this week on musical “Creature From the Black Lagoon — A Raging Rockin’ Show” at its Universal Studios Hollywood theme park.

Universal hopes the pricey stage show, which boasts production values typically seen on Broadway, will breathe new life into the studio’s “Creature From the Black Lagoon” franchise as U readies a new bigscreen take on the monster. But at the same time, the musical is just the latest example of how Hollywood-backed theme parks are increasingly turning to tuners as a way to attract more tourists.

Disney has spent considerable coin to mount critically lauded musical versions of “Finding Nemo” at its Animal Kingdom park in Orlando, Fla., and “Aladdin” at California Adventure, as well as “Toy Story” on its Disney Cruise Line.

U hopes “Creature” will similarly appeal to parkgoers.

“The shows have become an important part of rounding out the day’s experience,” said Chip Largman, VP of Universal Creative, Universal Studios Hollywood and exec producer of the production. “They offer a different experience from a ride.”

U has already had some experience with stage shows, having successfully turned “Wicked” into a runaway hit.

“Creature From the Black Lagoon — A Raging Rockin’ Show” has similarly become “quite an ambitious” production, Largman said. “We wanted to take advantage of all the production values that are available to us and sought out all the experts, including the New York Broadway world, to come up with something that capitalizes on Universal’s horror genre and pokes a little fun at ourselves.”

The 25-minute production, which will play multiple times throughout inside a 1,700-seat theater, features an original score by Fred Barton (“Forbidden Broadway”), with four songs, additional music by Peter Fish and a script by Jonathan Tolins (“The Last Sunday” and 2003 Tony Awards) that takes a quirky comedic take on the beauty-and-the-beast storyline. Lynne Taylor-Corbett, who choreographed “Footloose” and helmed Broadway’s “Swing” and “Titanic,” directs.

Producers relied on scenic designer James Youmans (Broadway’s “West Side Story” and “Gypsy”) to create the elaborate Amazonian jungle environments seen onstage, including underwater sequencesreplicated through aerial acrobatics

Universal Creative oversaw the development of the production with producer Marc Routh, whose Broadway credits include “Young Frankenstein,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Hairspray.”

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