'Water for Elephants' To Be Adapted Into A Musical

Nora Dominick ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Assistant Stage Editor

Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon in Water for Elephants. Photo Credit: David James/Twentieth Century Fox.
Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon in Water for Elephants. Photo Credit: David James/Twentieth Century Fox.
Sara Gruen’s critically acclaimed novel, Water for Elephants is set to be adapted into a Broadway musical. The novel has been published in more than 43 countries and has earned close to 10 million dollars.
Water for Elephants will be adapted for Broadway by producers Peter Schneider and Elisabetta di Mambro, in association with Broadway Across America and Mehr! Entertainment. The group obtained the rights to the novel earlier this week.
Water for Elephants tells the story of a young Jacob Jankowski whose life is dramatically altered when he is tossed onto a train that is home of the “Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth” during the Depression-era. Jacob is soon hired by a doctor from the circus and begins to bond with Marlena, the gorgeous equestrian star married to August, the charming superintendent of the animals.
The love triangle begins to develop when Rosie, an Asian elephant, enters the scene. Rosie soon becomes the highlight of the circus when her act entitled “The Great Gray Hope,” brings in enormous crowds. The stakes are raised dramatically in this story about love and loss and further proves: anything can happen at the circus.
Water for Elephants was already adapted once for the big screen starring Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson and Christoph Waltz and grossed close to $117 million worldwide. Although the film didn’t receive high-praise it was very well adapted from the novel. The musical will hopefully take the strong points from each and create an amazing and awe-inspiring production.
A creative team has not yet been announced and in a statement di Mambro stated, “We are just starting the creative process, beginning to talk with composers, writers, and directors who can help transform this vibrant world onto the musical stage. Aware of the exciting challenge ahead of us, we are grateful that Sara Gruen has given us the rights to bring her beloved story and characters to life as a global musical.”
Once Water for Elephant gets off the ground, it is sure to be stunning. Set in a circus the set design is sure to be one of the most important parts of this upcoming Broadway musical. Also, there’s the little issue of portraying a live elephant on stage. The creative team could take the approach of the hit Broadway musical, The Lion King and use puppetry to portray Rosie. It’s sure to be a magnificent sight.
The reality of taking aspects from The Lion King could be quite possible considering Schneider is the former Disney film executive who helped produce and execute The Lion King back in 1997. With Water for Elephants rooted in its theatricality it seems like the perfect fit for a major Broadway musical.
Gruen seems to be thrilled to be part of the process in taking her hit novel to the Great White Way. In a statement Gruen elaborated on her feeling for the project saying, “I am beyond thrilled to be involved in a creative process that is entirely new to me, especially with such wonderfully talented people at the helm to reimagine my work for the stage.”
Water for Elephants will hopefully be making an appearance on the Great White Way and the announcement comes on the heels of several other announcements for adaptation musicals including Mrs. Doubtfire and School of Rock. Could theater lovers soon be seeing another season littered with adaptation musicals? Looks that way but Water for Elephants is sure to be a standout.

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