Warner Bros. is developing a stage musical based on “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” the children’s classic that it bought to the big screen four years ago.
Sam Mendes’ and Caro Newling’s Neal Street Prods. are on board to produce the project. Mendes is eyeing it as a directing vehicle, but is far from making a decision on helming, said people familiar with the situation.
David Greig has been hired to write the book. The Scottish playwright has penned a slew of plays, including “Damascus,” “The American Pilot” and the real-estate drama “The Architect,” which became a 2006 movie starring Anthony LaPaglia.
Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, meanwhile, will compose the music; both worked on Warners/New Line 2007 big screen treatment of “Hairspray.”
The concept behind the stage version of “Factory” is to take the candy-colored set pieces — seen most elaborately in the effects of Tim Burton’s 2005 pic — and translate them to the stage, while also creating new musical elements and transferring some that animated the pic.
The project is being overseen by Gregg Maday’s Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures, which was also involved in the musical adaptation of “The Color Purple” and the Elton John vampire musical “Lestat.”
Roald Dahl’s children’s classic — about a poor boy who wins a tour of a mysterious chocolate factory from the eccentric Willy Wonka — first came to the screen in 1971 from Paramount as “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” The Warners version, titled “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and starring Johnny Depp as Wonka, made nearly $500 million worldwide for the studio in 2005, fusing Dahl’s quirky imagination with Burton’s elaborate visuals.
Maybe more important — and more encouraging for Warners — the property historically has been known for its music. The 1971 version won an Oscar for best original score and featured hits such as “The Candy Man Can,” while the 2005 pic featured a score composed (and a few songs sung) by Danny Elfman.
Mendes has been the rare presence who toggles between film and stage work. He came to prominence as artistic director at London’s Donmar Warehouse, and on the British stage has directed the Stephen Sondheim musical “Assassins” as well as the revival of “Cabaret,” among others. In the U.S., he has in the past few years helmed “Gypsy” and “The Vertical Hours” on Broadway and Shakespeare and Chekhov at BAM.
But he is only at the consideration stage of directing any stage version of “Factory.” The hyphenate is currently contemplating a number of film projects, particularly at Focus Features, where he is developing the George Eliot novel “Middlemarch,” the cattle-herding saga “Butcher’s Crossing” and the post-9/11 tale “Netherland” as producing and potential directing vehicles. He’s also attached to the comicbook adaptation ‘Preacher.” Mendes most recently helmed the young-parent dramedy “Away We Go” for Focus.