Hugh Jackman has stepped away from the upcoming Broadway musical "Houdini," citing the scheduling demands of developing a new tuner as the cause of his departure from a project to which he's been attached, both formally and informally, for several years now.
"I have greatly enjoyed the collaborative process on 'Houdini,'" the actor said in a statement. "Ultimately, though, I wasn't able to commit to the time this role will require. I have tremendous respect and admiration for the creative team and I wish everyone the best. I know they're well on their way to making something extraordinary."
Jackman has already spent a notably long time attached to the project, first announced some five years ago with no stars yet in place and Danny Elfman on board as composer. Since then the creative team has been reshuffled more than once, with Aaron Sorkin on board the project for a bit before the title moved forward with its current creative team, composer Stephen Schwartz ("Wicked") and book writer David Ives ("Venus in Fur"). Jack O'Brien ("Hairspray," "The Coast of Utopia") directs.
Jackman, who has periodically made B.O.-busting pit stops on Broadway ("The Boy from Oz," "A Steady Rain," "Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway") despite a busy film career, was said to be attached, in an unofficial capacity, to "Houdini" essentially since the beginning, and was officially announced for the project a couple of years ago.
Of the actor's departure, producer Scott Sanders ("After Midnight," "The Color Purple") said in a statement, "Hugh has been terrific to have on this part of our journey. We will continue to move forward with our remarkable creative team as they craft this ambitious new musical."
With Jackman in the lead role, "Houdini" was poised to become a musical juggernaut on the Broadway landscape. Although the thesp's exit takes the heat down a tick, the brewing tuner will still be closely watched since it's the latest project from composer Stephen Schwartz, whose last musical, "Wicked," has been one of the Rialto's top grossers for a decade now. The current, Tony-winning revival of his 1972 outing "Pippin" also is logging boffo sales.
If there's a silver lining to Jackman ankling his role, it's that producers won't be saddled with a property that would likely be indelibly linked to Jackman in tickeybuyers' minds, thereby making casting his eventual replacement an enormously difficult task.
Prior to Jackman's exit, "Houdini" had looked to be on tap for a 2014 premiere. There's no word yet on whether that timeline still stands, but given the current upheaval, it seems unlikely.
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