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Adam Shankman won't sing on new musical, but will he make his way to the Emerald City?

April 28, 2010 |  6:04 pm

EXCLUSIVE:  Disney's  Wizard of Oz prequel "The Great Powerful" is turning into a hot directing gig in Hollywood -- so hot that "Hairspray" director and Oscars producer Adam Shankman has taken the bold step of removing himself from another Disney project as he aims to land the job.

Shank Shankman had attached himself to direct "Bob the Musical" -- a musical about a man who, after being struck on the head, hears melodious versions of others' thoughts -- at the end of 2008, right as Disney was bringing out his children's fairy tale  "Bedtime Stories." But Shankman has now stepped aside from "Bob" in an effort to show Disney where his heart lies.

Shankman will still have to sell Disney executives Rich Ross and Sean Bailey, as well as producer Joe Roth, on his take on the story of the Wizard before he came to Oz, a broad adventure story that will be shot in 3-D. And he will need to outmaneuver his main rival, Sam Mendes, for the gig. The winner could almost become the answer to a high-concept parlor game:  Is it better to imagine the Wizard of Oz by way of "American Beauty" or by way of "Hairspray"?

Shankman's move throws into question the future of "Bob," which already wasn't considered an especially high priority with the current Disney regime. It does speaks to how much of a priority "Powerful" is at Disney, with directors angling to land one of the few big gigs currently available.

It also offers a clue as to the professional intentions of Shankman, a choreographer earlier in his career who has remade himself as a versatile director and producer, particularly on musicals. In February, Shankman told my colleague Amy Kaufman that he feels he has graduated beyond some of his earlier work. "I’m being picky," he said. "I want to do something more adult than kids and animals, something with a more sophisticated sense of humor." The wizard awaits -- for one man, anyway.

--Steven Zeitchik

(Follow me on Twitter.)

Photo: Adam Shankman. Credit: Jason Merritt / Getty Images

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