'Harry Potter' Wooed Stage Two Transatlantic

Sonia Friedman and Colin Callender, familiar names to the theater crowd and the TV biz, scored the 'Potter' stage rights from among a slew of suitors

It doesn’t take a genius to peg the uber-successful Harry Potter franchise as ripe for a stage incarnation, and author J.K. Rowling has said she’s been besieged over the years by hopeful producers looking to be the ones to make it happen. But it was two Brits, both transatlantic veterans of the entertainment industry, who won her over.

Sonia Friedman (above, left) may not be a familiar name in Hollywood, but she’s well-known on Broadway as a frequent producer of stage shows on both sides of the Pond. Her current Rialto credit is the Shakespeare-in-rep stagings of “Twelfth Night” and “Richard III,” which won ecstatic raves when it opened earlier this fall and has logged strong sales despite magnanimously offering a quarter of its ticket inventory for $25 a pop. She also played a major role in shepherding Gotham megahit “The Book of Mormon” to the West End.

For the Potter prequel, Friedman teams with Colin Callender (above, right), who scored a Broadway success last season with Tom Hanks starrer “Lucky Guy.” He’s likely best known in the U.S. for his stint as the president of HBO Films from 1999 to 2008; now he’s a producer for both stage and TV, with smallscreen credits including the current “Dracula.”

In a statement, Rowling said she’d gotten “countless approaches” about turning the boy wizard’s story into a stage title. “Sonia and Colin’s vision was the only one that really made sense to me,” she added.

The concept would see the legit incarnation serve as a prequel of sorts to the stories told by the books and their film adaptations, with the storyline detailing young Harry’s earliest years as an orphan. Rowling, who will produce with Friedman and Callender, will consult on the script but won’t write it herself. Instead producers are on the hunt for a writer and a director to join the creative team.

The stage production, which will move into serious development next year for a targeted 2015 opening on the West End, marks Rowling’s latest expansion of the Potter franchise in other media. Earlier this year Warner Bros. announced she’d make her screenwriting debut on “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” intended as the first in a series of films about the titular Hogwarts textbook and the adventures of its author.

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