Hugh Jackman has been touting his upcoming Broadway tuner “Houdini” from “The Wolverine” red carpets, and even if definite plans are far from finalized, the possible 2014 bow mentioned by the thesp could shake up the Rialto landscape with a new heavyweight contender.
The only certainty right now for “Houdini,” produced by Scott Sanders (“The Color Purple”) and David Rockwell, is the industry reading planned for the fall. Decisions about the title’s future timeline will likely be made after that.
But as Jackman has said while making the press rounds for “The Wolverine,” if the “Houdini” reading and its industry reception are encouraging, the show could end up on the Main Stem as soon as next year. That’s the kind of news that makes legiters’ ears prick up — because “Houdini” looks poised to be one of those musicals that will make other brewing tuners want to get out of the way.
No Broadway production is ever a guaranteed powerhouse, but “Houdini” comes close. Jackman is one of Broadway’s top draws at the box office, driving stellar sales for his 2003-04 stint in “The Boy From Oz” before topping himself in limited runs of “A Steady Rain,” the 2009 play in which he co-starred with Daniel Craig, and in 2011 outing “Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway.”
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The “Houdini” score, meanwhile, comes from Stephen Schwartz, whose most recent tuner was the global smash “Wicked.” Schwartz also has a handful of legit faves in his back catalog including “Pippin,” currently playing the Main Stem in a Tony-winning revival that has shaped up into a formidable commercial player.
That kind of B.O. pedigree makes “Houdini,” to be directed by legit regular Jack O’Brien (“Hairspray,” the upcoming “Macbeth” starring Ethan Hawke), look like one of those titles that other producers expect will use up all of a Broadway season’s oxygen at the box office.
On the other hand, if the most recent Rialto season has made anything clear, it’s that sometimes there’s room on the Street for more than one or two big hits a season. No fewer than five shows that opened in spring 2013 — “Kinky Boots,” “Motown,” “Matilda,” “Cinderella” and “Pippin” — have consistently topped the $1 million mark in recent weeks.
In any case, the Broadway timeline for “Houdini” is still entirely up in the air, at least for now. The project doesn’t even have a book writer definitively attached, following the January departure of Aaron Sorkin.
Still, off-the-cuff talk such as Jackman’s will nonetheless send ripples through the legit community, especially among those producers backing titles that could, depending on the timing, find themselves in competition with the star’s next Broadway magic act.