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The Cinderella man

'Doubt' helmer Hughes visiting 'Ever After'

Doug Hughes, Tony winner for his direction of “Doubt,” is set to make his tuner debut helming “Ever After,” a new musical based on the 1998 Drew Barrymore film of the same name.

Producer Adam Epstein (“Hairspray”) acquired the legit rights to the movie from 20th Century Fox in December. He describes the film-to-stage project as “Cinderella as not told by the Brothers Grimm — no magic pumpkin, no talking mice, no fairy godmother. It tells a real-life story about a heroine who fights societal constraints against all odds.”

Epstein brought Hughes aboard, and the two of them then proceeded to put together a creative team that now includes book writer Julia Jordan (“Sarah, Plain and Tall”), choreographer Rob Ashford (“Thoroughly Modern Millie”) and songwriters Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler. According to Hughes, he and Epstein conducted an “architecture-like contest, inviting a number of songwriting teams to submit material.”

Goldrich and Heisler won. Their musical “The Girl Most Likely To,” based on a Joan Rivers teleplay about an ugly-duckling loser turned serial-killer beauty, created much buzz on the workshop circuit a few years ago but never developed into a full production.

Before ‘After’

This fall, Hughes has back-to-back Broadway assignments with the new play “A Naked Girl on the Appian Way,” by Richard Greenberg, and a revival of Eugene O’Neill’s “A Touch of the Poet.”

Regarding his tuner debut, Hughes said he chose “Ever After” because “the story does sing. It’s like the musicals I loved as a kid when I had my head stuck in the stereo listening to Rodgers & Hammerstein shows.”

Epstein expects a first reading of “Ever After” in February, with a Broadway preem very tentatively penciled in for fall 2007. Epstein is also a producer on “Cry Baby,” a musical based on the John Waters film that should be ready for Broadway in fall 2006.

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