If you’ve ever watched National Lampoon’s Animal House and wished for a song-and-dance number, your prayers have been answered. Universal Pictures Stage Productions announced yesterday, on the thirtieth anniversary of star John Belushi’s death, that a musical version of the 1978 classic comedy is in production with a score by the late-’90s Canadian alt band Barenaked Ladies, and a book by the playwright Michael Mitnick.
Universal is no stranger to adaptations, with two huge hits over the past decade in the best-selling Wicked, from Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel, and Billy Elliot, which was based on the 2000 Stephen Daldry film that made a star of a young Jamie Bell and took home ten Tony Awards in 2009. The producers Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel—who helped Universal bring this season’s The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess to Broadway—and James L. Nederlander, the president of the Nederlander Organization, have also signed on. Matty Simmons, the founding publisher of National Lampoon, will be the executive producer. Casey Nicholaw, a Tony-winner for his work on The Book of Mormon, is to direct and choreograph.
Even in this age of innumerable screen-to-stage adaptations, with musical versions of the films Newsies, Ghost, and Once all opening over the next few weeks, Animal House seems like a stretch for Broadway. Although, as the consistently sold-out Book of Mormon has proven, theatergoers are not necessarily averse to the sort of crude humor that would seem more at-home in a frat house.