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‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ to dress as Italo tuner

Musical to bow at Rome's Teatro Sistina, fall '99

ROME — Veteran Italian theater director and impresario Pietro Garinei has acquired the rights to transform Fox’s hit cross-dressing comedy “Mrs. Doubtfire” into an Italian-language musical, slotted to bow at Rome’s Teatro Sistina as part of the season beginning in fall 1999.

Garinei reports that the deal was concluded recently by Harry Bernsen, representing the Music 2 company Garinei founded with his late partner, Sandro Giovannini, and by Fox representative Mark Meyerson.

Negotiations are under way to attach a composer and lyricist to the project, with Garinei expected to take an active role in shaping the vehicle for the stage.

The musical will be freely adapted from the 1993 Chris Columbus feature, which starred Robin Williams as a father who loses custody of his children and disguises himself as a nanny in order to be near them.

The announcement comes on the heels of a season in which Broadway-style musicals have become unprecedentedly popular in Italy, led by a hit production of “Grease” that recently transferred from Milan to Rome’s Sistina.

Several other imports such as “Hair,” “The Rocky Horror Show,” “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” “A Chorus Line” and “The Phantom of the Opera” have recently been staged or are in preparation, and audience appetites also are returning for the homegrown tuners made popular in past decades by Garinei and Giovannini.

“There’s a new generation of theatergoers in Italy that also are music-lovers, and naturally, they seek out theater with music,” says Garinei. “People are rediscovering that musicals are complete entertainment and by far the best form of theater in Italy for family audiences.”

Garinei last season staged a revival of the 1957 romantic musical “A Pair of Wings,” starring screen diva Sabrina Ferilli, which had successful runs in Rome and Milan.

Other milestone musicals from the Garinei and Giovannini hit factory include “Ciao Rudy,” which was based on the life of Rudolph Valentino and was made popular in 1966 by Marcello Mastroianni in the title role; and “Rugantino,” a 1962 historical Roman musical, which is being revived for Christmas at the Sistina with Ferilli and rising screen star Valerio Mastandrea.