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Universal in the house for Broadway

'Animal House' musical is latest for studio's stage arm

With its brewing musical version of “Animal House,” Universal Pictures Stage Prods. has teamed with a group of legiters that are becoming frequent collaborators with the Hollywood studio’s legit arm.

Also on the producing team are prolific Rialto producers Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel (“Hair,” “August: Osage County”) as well as James L. Nederlander, prexy of Broadway landlord and producing/presenting company Nederlander Org. Universal was among the producers of Richards and Frankel project “The Merchant of Venice” as well as the current “Gore Vidal’s The Best Man” and “Porgy and Bess” — with the latter now playing in the Richard Rodgers, a Nederlander house. Another Universal title, “Wicked,” has been packing the Nederlander’s Gershwin Theater for close to a decade.

Such bicoastal teamwork — along with a roster of properties that have hit the stage including the tuner version of “Bring It On,” a current tour of which Universal also produces — has helped make the movie studio a regular presence on the Rialto. Recent outings also have included “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” (another Richards-Frankel production), “Cry-Baby” and the Tony-sweeping “Billy Elliot.”

Producing for the stage can be an iffy business, but U execs know from first-hand experience that a hit can mean big money. “Wicked,” a consistent top grosser on Broadway, has become one of the studio’s most profitable properties before a movie has even been made of the “Wizard of Oz” prequel tale.

The stage version of Universal’s 1978 screen comedy “Animal House” has a creative team that includes Canuck band Barenaked Ladies and book writer Michael Mitnick, whose play “Sex Lives of Our Parents” received a Gotham run as part of Off Broadway’s Second Stage Uptown series in 2011. Casey Nicholaw (“The Book of Mormon”) will helm and choreograph.

Production timeline for “Animal House: The Musical” has yet to be set. Richards said the creatives began work on the show a couple of months ago and hopes to have an initial reading of the show later this year.

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