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"Houdini" prepares to make musical magic on Broadway

By Jessica Turgeon

The magic of Harry Houdini will hit the Great White Way in a new musical, "Houdini", expected to make its debut in the 2013-2014 season. "Houdini", featuring music by Tony Award-winning composer Stephen Schwartz, will be directed by Tony-winner Jack O'Brien.

After spending time recently filming, "Les Miserables," Tony-winner Hugh Jackman looks to make magic playing the title role in this musical. "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," said Jackman.

Jackman began his stage work in 1998 when he played the leading role of Curly in a London West End production of "Oklahoma!" with the Royal National Theatre. His performance led to an Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical. Jackman has starred on Broadway in "The Boy from Oz" in 2003-2004; a 2009 limited engagement of A Steady Rain, in which he co-starred with Daniel Craig; and most recently, in his one-man show, "Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway," which was a record-breaking hit, running for 10 weeks. After seeing Jackman's performance, "Les Miserables" producers composed a new Jean Valjean song for the film, titled "Suddenly," a song that was written specifically for Jackman.

Over the years, Jackman has won a number of awards and titles. In addition to the Olivier Award, Jackman won a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award for his performance in "The Boy from Oz", and an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performer in a Variety, Musical or Comedy Program for his performance hosting the 2004 Tony Awards ceremony. He is best known for his performances on screen playing Wolverine in the X-Men movies.

Playwright Aaron Sorkin is responsible for the book for "Houdini". He also wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for "The Social Network." Schwartz composed the score. Joining the production team along with O'Brien as director are co-producers Scott Sanders and David Rockwell. Kurt Andersen will contribute as creative consultant. The full creative team and cast have yet to be announced.

The show is not a traditional biography, according to producers. Instead, it tells the story of the "epic battle that took place between the world's greatest illusionist and a trio of women, known as 'Spiritualists,' who convinced millions of people…that they could communicate with the dead."

According to director, O'Brien, the score for "Houdini" is some of Schwartz's greatest work. "The two ballads Stephen has written, one that closes Act I and one that closes the show, are among the greatest things he's ever written," he shared with Jesse North of the Los Angeles Times. "The music is vintage Schwartz; it's gorgeous."

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