EXCLUSIVE: Legally Blonde: The Musical music/lyricists Nell Benjamin and Laurence O’Keefe are in the works on an untitled comedy musical at Universal for which they will write the songs and screenplay.
The pic, whose plot is being kept under wraps, is being produced by Scott Sanders and Mara Jacobs at Scott Sanders Productions.
“Nell and Larry’s script perfectly captures the blend of irreverence and emotion that they have brought to their stage shows in an irresistible story that I can’t wait for movie audiences to experience,” Sanders told Deadline.
Benjamin and O’Keefe’s Legally Blonde: The Musical received seven Tony nominations in 2007. Separately, Benjamin wrote the lyrics to Mean Girls: The Musical, for which she was Tony-nominated for Best Original Score with Jeff Richmond. O’Keefe has worked on such popular musicals as Heathers and Bat Boy. The duo are represented by WME and Epiphany Alliance.
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The Benjamin-O’Keefe project is one of several musicals in the works at Scott Sanders Productions, including In the Heights and an adaptation The Color Purple at Warner Bros. produced by Steven Spielberg, Quincy Jones and Oprah Winfrey. Sanders produced the Tony- and Grammy-winning stagings of The Color Purple.
Sanders’ latest Broadway hit Tootsie, based on the 1982 Sydney Pollack movie, received 11 Tony nominations and won two. It also won the New York Drama Critics Circle prize for Best Musical. Sanders is repped by Erik Hyman at Paul Hastings.
In the Heights, directed by Jon M. Chu, is set to debut on June 26.
Universal’s Senior EVP Production Erik Baiers and Director of Development Lexi Barta will oversee the Benjamin-O’Keefe project on behalf of the studio.
If there’s one facet of tentpole pics Universal excels in next to its rivals, it’s musicals — from Oscar-winning Broadway adaptations like Les Miserables to the sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again last year. To date in 2019, Universal has the Beatles-inspired Yesterday, which has grossed over $120M at the global box office; the Paul Feig-directed Last Christmas, inspired by the George Michael holiday ditty, set for November 8; and Tom Hooper’s feature adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats on December 20.
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