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Houdini - A New Musical

Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

Stephen Schwartz on BroadwayAbout Houdini the Musical

2013

Songwriter Stephen Schwartz has a new Broadway musical in the works. The show, titled Houdini, is based on aspects of the life of the famous American magician Harry Houdini. The director is Jack O'Brien (Hairspray). Aaron Sorkin was to be the book writer but had to drop out of the project. The producers are aiming for a Broadway opening in the 2015-16 season.

Hugh Jackman was set to play the title role but withdrew in December 2013. "I have greatly enjoyed the collaborative process on Houdini," Jackman said in a statement. "Ultimately, though, I wasn't able to commit to the time this role will require."

Stephen Schwartz is a long-time Broadway veteran whose credits as composer-lyricist include the hit musicals Wicked, Pippin, Godspell, and The Magic Show, as well as several shows that didn't succeed on the Great White Way. He also contributed songs or lyrics for a handful of movie scores. (See our Schwartz page for Stephen Schwartz bio, interviews, etc.)

After he finished Wicked, he didn't plan to be involved with any other new musicals for Broadway. But when offered a chance to work with playwright and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, he reconsidered. Aaron Sorkin dropped out of the project in 2013. A new book writer has been enlisted and progress is continuing on the show. Schwartz is enjoying his collaboration.

The earliest material written received a first informal reading in late June, 2012, and included Hugh Jackman. Schwartz has told the Associated Press that a full, private reading of the show is scheduled for December 2013. He hopes that the out of town, pre-Broadway tryout will be in Chicago.

Keep up with Mr. Schwartz and with the advancement of Houdini by subscribing to the free email newsletter The Schwartz Scene offers quarterly updates written by Stephen Schwartz about his activities, plus much more.

The Houdini Musical Story

Sorkin had explained in a statement that Houdini will not be a bio-musical per se. Rather, it will be told in a contemporary tone as "the story of an epic battle that took place between the world's greatest illusionist and a trio of women, known as 'Spiritualists,' who convinced millions of people, including the editors of Scientific American and The New York Times, that they could communicate with the dead."

Stephen Schwartz recently wrote an opera Seance on a Wet Afternoon that had a somewhat similar theme.

Stephen Schwartz and Houdini biographer Ken SilvermanHarry Houdini biographyFor the Houdini musical, Schwartz is thoroughly researching the life of Harry Houdini. (One of the features of Schwartz's lyrics is that they are carefully researched for colorful details that will help bring a character to life.)

In this photo he is pictured with Houdini biographer Ken Silverman, who he interviewed for background information for the project. [Stephen Schwartz and Kenneth Silverman in New York - photo by Schwartz biographer Carol de Giere.]

Silverman's book is one of many about the American magician and escape artist Harry Houdini (real name Ehrich Weiss) listed on Amazon.com.

See Houdini!: The Career of Ehrich Weiss: American Self-Liberator, Europe's Eclipsing Sensation, World's Handcuff King & Prison Brea

Stephen Schwartz biography Defying GravityStephen Schwartz Writing Musicals

Read about Stephen Schwartz's process of writing musicals in Defying Gravity: the Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz, from Godspell to Wicked

DefyingGravityTheBook.com - available in paperback and ebook

Defying Gravity includes many examples of how Schwartz approaches a musical for Broadway or film. It includes quotes from dozens of interviews that the author conducted with the award-winning songwriter over an eight-year period and features 200 photographs and illustrations including Schwartz's handwritten notes.

Stephen Schwartz's History with Magic

In 1974, Stephen Schwartz wrote the score for The Magic Show, a musical based around magician Doug Henning's talent. It ran for 1920 performances at the Cort Theatre on Broadway. (5/28/1974 to 12/31/1978). Two of the songs became popular cabaret concert classics, "Lion Tamer" and "West End Avenue."

He has always been fond of magic. He once commented, "As a kid, I always liked magic.  It was theatrical, and it was an intellectual challenge to try to figure out how seemingly impossible things were accomplished.  I think maybe subconsciously I was hoping there would turn out to be such a thing as "real" magic. When I was in high school and I wrote my first full-length musical, mercifully unproduced, the main character was a witch.  This is probably all part of the ongoing theme in my work dealing with the tension between romantic ideals and facing reality."

 

Hugh Jackman on Broadway in Houdini

Hugh Jackman will be returning to Broadway for this role. Previously he played in Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway (Nov 10, 2011 - Jan 1, 2012); A Steady Rain (Sep 29 - Dec 6, 2009) and The Boy From Oz (Oct 16, 2003 - Sep 12, 2004).

His many movie credits include a role as a magician in The Presige. Hugh Jackman film credits at IMDB

In a statement made for the "Houdini" announcement, Jackman said, "I have been deeply fascinated by the life of Harry Houdini since I was young, and in many ways I've been preparing for this role my whole life," Jackman added. "I am thrilled to be collaborating with this collection of artists who are all at the top of their game."

The Creative Team for Houdini

Stephen Schwartz is on board for writing the music and lyrics for the Broadway-bound musical Houdini.

Jack O'Brien, the Tony-winning director for Hairspray, will stage Houdini. Co-producer Rockwell (Hairspray, The Normal Heart) will also render scenic design for the musical. Kurt Andersen, who has been developing the musical over the last several seasons, will remain on as a creative consultant.

Tony winners Scott Sanders and David Rockwell are producing the musical about the life of the turn-of-the-century illusionist.

 

This page is copyrighted by Carol de Giere.