'In You Dreams' Penned By Shaiman Protege Gets Showcase

The runaway success of Disney Channel's "High School Musical," the sound track from which has hit the No. 1 spot on the Billboard pop-music charts twice this year, has renewed interest in the teen musical genre -- and among the musical productions benefiting is "In Your Dreams," a musical written and produced by Miramax-linked screenwriter Zeke Farrow and scored by Marc Shaiman-protégé Lucian Piane.

"When 'High School Musical' debuted on the Disney Channel on Jan. 20 of this year, it drew nearly eight million viewers, making it the top-rated basic-cable TV show that week," says Farrow, who also co-wrote the award-winning indie feature "Slo-Mo." "My phone was ringing off the hook and my e-mail box was flooded with queries -- is yours next?" says Farrow. "I'm hopeful that it is."

"Everyone told me I was crazy for writing a high school musical," Farrow adds. "But it turns out my timing was perfect. And who doesn't like to tell their agent, 'I told you so!'"

Like "High School Musical," which has already been seen by 32 million viewers ages six to 14 in its first 10 screenings, and whose sound-track has already sold 1.57 million copies, Farrow and Piane's "In Your Dreams" is a large scale, splashy, teen musical -- with a dash of political satire. It centers around Helen, a 17-year-old girl who appears in three different incarnations, Black, Pink, and Blue.

The musical opens with the bizarre introduction of Black Helen, a girl tortured by fellow students Melanie and Jordanna and secretly in love with Jared. We quickly learn that Black Helen is but a dream and as she fades and Pink Helen wakes up, we realize that Pink Helen's life is a perfect, bubble gum musical. She is popular, she's dating Jared, she has high hopes for a perfect day. And today is the day to beat all days. It is prom, and Helen is a front runner to win prom queen…until she learns that the "Popular Girls Caucus" has turned against her -- and is even stuffing the ballot box to engineer her defeat!

"There's a little bit of political satire in the musical, to keep the older audience intrigued," admits Farrow. Still, prior to "High School Musical's" explosive cable success, Farrow's musical was not met with universal praise.

"Ryan Markowitz and Mark Kaufman at New Line passed, and Cristina Aguilera passed," says Farrow dejectedly. "And the woman at MTV was vitriolic in her rejection of it. She remembered my movie 'Slo-Mo' and compared my musical to that, saying that my musical was terrible. She was nasty."

But since the "High School Musical" cable explosion, Farrow has sealed a deal with Jason Eagen from Ars Nova, the New York City performance center, for a performance date this summer to showcase the songs.

"Zeke and Lucian have written a gallant high school musical that kids will take their parents to," says Eagen, who is excited about the possibility of eventually working with Farrow and Piane to mount a full production of the musical.

Ars Nova opened its doors three years ago in memory of Gabe Wiener with the goal of being a home for artists to develop and perform new works in an intimate audience setting. Since then some of New York's top writers, directors and performers have walked through their doors with ideas and walked out with projects that were ready to be taken to the next level. Some of those names include Rufus Wainwright, David Cross, Sandra Bernhard, John Cameron Mitchell, Jason Biggs, Sarah Jessica Parker, Amy Sedaris, Paul Rudd, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, The Wau Wau Sisters, Moises Kaufman, James Lapine, Tony Kushner, Stephen Belber, and Michael Patrick King.

What is helping to spur the excitement is the fact that "In Your Dreams'" 13 songs have already been professionally recorded on a CD with performances by a number of top Broadway singers, including "Hairspray's" Leslie Kritzer, "Wicked's" Laura Bell Bundy, "Les Miserable's" Jodie Langel, "Little Shop of Horror's" Kerry Butler, "Thoroughly Modern Millie's" Gavin Creel, "Hairspray's" Jackie Hoffman, "The Full Monty's" Sloan Just, and Anika Larsen, Danny Rocket and Anthony Rapp from "Rent."

Rhythm and blues artist Shayna Steele is also a contributor. "Even Grammy and Emmy-Award Winner Marc Shaiman is on the recording," says Farrow. The CD -- which includes songs such as "Better than Dreams," "When You're the Queen," "Put the I in Team," and "I Was Born to Reign" -- was recorded in Shaiman's Manhattan sound studio with production time contributed by Shaiman. Says Farrow: "Because of the generosity of Marc Shaiman, the songs don't have to be imagined – they can actually be heard. I feel like Judy Davis in 'Impromptu.'"

On the Hollywood side, Farrow has just registered a script version of "In Your Dreams" in the event that the film industry has a desire to pre-empt a stage production of the story.

"The story would be great for a production company like Matthew McConaughey's Just Keep Living, which he runs with Gus Gustawes and Kevin Morris, or Sarah Jessica Parker and Vanessa Taylor's Pretty Matches Productions, which has a two-year exclusive production deal with HBO," says Farrow. "HBO is trying to carve out Monday nights at nine for women -- but why not go on to carve out Tuesday nights at nine for teens?"

JK Livin is developing projects with New Line Cinema, Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures and Imagine Entertainment. The company has produced a documentary, "Hands On A Hardboy," and collaborated with Sandra Bullock's Fortis Films to produce "Making Sandwiches," which debuted at Sundance. McConaughey himself also wrote and directed two short films, "The Rebel" and "Chicano Chariots."

Parker's Pretty Matches is currently producing "The Washingtonienne" for HBO, based on a book of the same name about a high-sexed, low-paid Washington intern who turns tricks on her lunch hour to make ends meet.

"There's definitely a place for sluttiness in entertainment, but it may be a market that is currently oversaturated," says Farrow. "And those who run the business side of the entertainment industry should be worried about this slut-glut." Farrow points to recent comments by Naomi Wolf, whose feminist work, 'The Beauty Myth,' launched her to fame, made in a recent essay for the New York Times to the effect that today's entertainment for teens "packages corruption with a cute overlay."

Says Farrow: "As Wolf wrote: 'The problem is a value system in which meanness rules, parents check out, conformity is everything and stressed-out adult values are presumed to be meaningful to teenagers.' But as the success of Gary Marsh and Disney's 'High School Musical' demonstrates, there is definitely a huge audience – let's call it 'Flyoverland,' a land between New York and Los Angeles – that is searching for meaningful entertainment with a positive as opposed to a slutty message."

And that's not a small market by any means, says Farrow. Between 1990 and 2000, the number of youths between ages 12 and 19 climbed to 32.4 million in the United States, an increase of 4.5 million, according to a survey by Media Mark Research last year using U.S. Census data. The 12-19 year old market currently spends $170 billion a year on entertainment products, including movies. "There's obviously room for a wide range of value systems to succeed in this $170 billion marketplace."

Farrow says he is open to working with Oliver Obst and Tom Jacobson on his project as well. "And Joss Wedon and Mark Brokaw are also great." On the stage side, Farrow is a big admirer of work by Jordon Roth, Adam Epstein and Margot Lion.

And the dream cast? "If we're talking dream cast, Kelly Clarkson would be the dream, because nobody sings like her. She's great, and so likeable. Put me in a room with Kelly and I'll make it happen -- but don't quote me on that. I don't want to sound psychotic. But eventually Kelly will want to do a musical, I'm sure."

Kelly Osbourne would be great too, says Farrow. "Any Kelly, really. Can Kelly Ripa sing?"

But at this point the musical remains unsold. "I deserve to sell this musical," says Farrow. "And in the end, selling it is all that matters -- and the material speaks for itself." A potential sale is being handled by Jonathan Hung of Hung Entertainment Group.

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