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Tyro Chu to watch ‘Birdie’

Musical to reflect urban, hip-hop flare

Columbia Pictures and Red Wagon Prods. plan to produce the studio’s first movie musical in three decades and have tapped 23-year-old Jon M. Chu to direct an update of the 1960 tuner “Bye Bye Birdie.”

Although a “Birdie” script hasn’t been written, Chu has turned in a treatment for his vision of the film — expected to be a more urban, hip-hop take than the original and aimed at younger moviegoers.

Red Wagon principals Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher with VP Rachel Shane will produce “Birdie.” Col exec VP Amy Baer will oversee the project for the studio.

The studio is in talks with the recent USC grad, who has been generating considerable buzz with the short “When the Kids Are Away” that he wrote and directed. Boasting a cast and crew of 175 — including 40 salsa, swing and break-dancing actors and a 50-member orchestra — the 17-minute pic is a full-blown musical that revolves around what stay-at-home mothers do when their families are away during the day.

The Palo Alto native graduated last May from USC’s School of Cinema-Television, immediately landing the William Morris Agency and Marathon Entertainment’s Jewerl Ross and Danny Sherman as reps.

The “Birdie” remake comes as Hollywood is once again revisiting the musical genre, fueled by the successes of recent tuners like Miramax’s “Chicago” and Fox’s “Moulin Rouge.”

Original production revolved around an Elvis Presley-like rock ‘n’ roll star, Conrad Birdie, who is drafted into the Army. Before Birdie leaves, his agent books the singer on “The Ed Sullivan Show” to kiss a fan. The agent hopes the publicity will make him a fortune and encourage his girlfriend to marry him. “Birdie” originally bowed in 1960 at New York’s Martin Beck Theater, with Dick Van Dyke starring as the agent.

Col has held feature rights to the musical since 1963, when the studio produced a bigscreen “Birdie” that starred Van Dyke, Janet Leigh, Ann-Margret, Maureen Stapleton and Bobby Rydell.

In 1995, ABC revisited the musical in a period adaptation that starred Jason Alexander, Vanessa Williams, Chynna Phillips and Tyne Daly.

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