"Jekyll and Hyde" may not have the pedigree of "Les Misérables," but the producers of a planned movie adaptation of the musical version of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic story argue that it commands a similar global audience.
In fact, the show's worldwide appeal is one of the reasons the producers — a group that includes Phoenix Pictures CEO Mike Medavoy and former talent agent Rick Nicita — say they were interested in shepherding it to the big screen.
"It transcends cultures and languages," Medavoy said. "It just has these amazing themes of good and evil that resonate anywhere and the score, and the songs are so alive."
All told, there have been 600 productions of "Jekyll ,and Hyde," many of them coming abroad, Frank Wildhorn, the composer on the show, told TheWrap. The soundtrack has been recorded 32 times in 28 languages, he added.
Productions have been mounted all over the globe, from Malmö, Sweden, to Atizapán, México to Seoul, South Korea, where it ranks as the longest-running American show in that country's history.
That's critical. If foreign crowds turn out like they did for "Les Misérables," they will give the team behind the movie a substantial hit. So far, "Les Misérables" has racked up $150.5 million abroad and another $132.2 million stateside.
Wildhorn wrote the music for "Jekyll and Hyde" along with Leslie Bricusse, who handled the book and lyrics. It follows the titular doctor and his villainous split-personality Mr. Hyde on their various misadventures in Victorian England.
The play was critically savaged when it debuted on Broadway in 1997, but developed a passionate fanbase over its more than 1,500 performances. A revival of the show will hit the Great White Way in April for a 13-week limited run, with Tony nominee Constantine Maroulis in the title role.
"Jekyll and Hyde' is undergoing such an amazing rebirth around the world," Wildhorn said. "With all the new productions, it just gives it such amazing momentum."
Medavoy and Nicita hope to have the project camera ready within the next two years. They said they are close to naming a director and have a short list of actors who are capable of handling the vocally demanding score. Medavoy said that the choice of leading man will be guided by who has the chops for the part, and will not be determined by an actor's star appeal.
"When you're talking about stars, there are not that many who sell tickets these days," Medavoy said. "You can’t say that anybody in 'Les Miz,' for example, basically year and year out, can be counted on to sell tickets."
Medavoy and Nicita both think that they will have their choice of actors, many of whom will be inspired by the strong reviews and awards attention actors like Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway have received for their work in "Les Misérables."
"There are a lot of secret singers in Hollywood, and we're going to find them," Nicita said.
Neither producer would say what they anticipate the budget will be, but they were confident that with tax breaks it could be brought in for less than the $61 million it cost to make "Les Miserables."
"That's about what it will cost, but this story is a little more contained," Medavoy said.
There are certain financial advantages to not storming barricades.