Writer-producer Jules Bass — one half of Rankin/Bass Prods., the duo behind iconic 1960s TV specials “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman” — is pulling together a new stage project, optioning Rebecca Rischin’s book “For the End of Time: The Story of the Messiaen Quartet” for a musical adaptation.
In addition to clarinetist Rischin’s nonfiction title, Bass has also picked up the rights to a series of video shorts created by painter Zach Smithey for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, “Night Fantasies,” to be incorporated into the true story of composer Olivier Messiaen and his 1941 work “Quartet for the End of Time,” composed when he was imprisoned in a German POW camp.
Plotline of the musical, which will include original songs written by composer Art Labriola and lyricist and book writer Bass, also will delve into Messiaen’s marriage to violinist Clare Delbos and his affair with pianist Yvonne Loriod. Video elements, meanwhile, explore Messiaen’s synesthesia. Daniel Neiden is on board to direct.
According to Bass, the show’s original songs will be orchestrated for piano, clarinet, violin and cello, the same instruments for which “Quartet” is written. A live four-piece band will play the production’s original music, but Bass said that due to the challenges of playing the “Quartet” itself, he has also optioned a Danish quartet’s recording of Messiaen’s work.
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In addition to his well-known animated output (“Mad Monster Party,” “Thundercats,” “The Last Unicorn”), his more recent work includes the novel “Headhunters,” made into 2011 film “Monte Carlo” toplined by Selena Gomez. He’s written lyrics for prior projects including 1970s TV outings “The Hobbit,” “The Easter Bunny is Comin’ to Town” and “Jack Frost.”
Producer-scribe imagines “For the End of Time” starting out in an Off Broadway venue in a production capitalized at between $750,000 and $850,000. With a script and score currently ready to go, he aims to begin industry presentations of the material in New York by the end of the year.