Williams, Patinkin in ‘Elmo’

Join cast of Henson-Columbia feature

Singing thesps Vanessa Williams and Mandy Patinkin have signed to join puppet stars Elmo, Bert, Ernie, Big Bird and the rest of the “Sesame Street” cast in the Jim Henson Pictures/Children’s Television Workshop/Columbia Pictures feature production “Elmo in Grouchland.”

Pic, slated to begin lensing today in Wilmington, N.C., follows Elmo as he inadvertently stumbles into a far-away land of rude, grouchy, trash-loving creatures and stinky garbage.

Also joining the cast are a variety of new characters designed by Jim Henson’s Muppet Workshop, including the Pesties, who are ruled by Bug the Bug; Grouch Girl Grizzy; and the Stenchmen, a group of singing and dancing trash monsters. Williams (“Erasure,” upcoming Col pic “Dance With Me”) plays Grouchland’s Queen of Trash, and Patinkin (“Chicago Hope,” “The Princess Bride”) plays Huxley, a greedy thief.

Gary Halvorson is directing from a screenplay by Mitchell Kriegman and Joseph Mazzarino. Brian Henson, Stephanie Allain and Martin G. Baker are exec producing. Alex Rockwell and Marjorie Kalins are producing, with Kevin Clash and Timothy Bourne co-producing. Laurie Furie and Doug Belgrad are the Col execs overseeing the project.

Columbia will distribute.

Williams is repped by the William Morris Agency. Patinkin is handled by United Talent Agency.