Disney already has a film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim‘s Into The Woods in development, and it’s about to be joined at the studio by another stage-to-film adaptation. Disney has commissioned an adaptation of popular musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
Dan Lin and Jonathan Eirich, who produced the live-action Aladdin movie for the studio, will produce the project. No filmmakers are currently attached. Hollywood producers have courted the creators of the musical for years, but this marks the first time it has been officially set up at a studio.
Based on an improv play created by Rebecca Feldman that was developed over a few years, the musical became of the longest running shows on Broadway, first hitting the stage in 2005 and winning two Tony Awards.
The show is set in a geographically ambiguous Putnam Valley Middle School, and follows several competitors in their quest to be spelling bee champion, looking at their diverse backgrounds and upbringing and why each of them longs to win the title.
William Finn wrote the show’s music and lyrics, the book was penned by Rachel Sheinkin, and the show was directed by James Lapine, who also staged the original production of Into The Woods.
It will be fascinating to see how this is tackled as a film, as one of the unique aspects of the musical is that four real audience members are invited on stage to compete in the spelling bee alongside the six characters. It also often uses improv techniques within the bones of the narrative.
How those features will make the jump to film is anyone’s guess, but as a live-action film this makes total sense. It’s filled with quirky characters and also has a strong heart, and those aspects should transfer to the silver screen pretty easily. Unless the film is dumped straight onto Disney+, of course.