NEW YORK – Holy Broadway! Batman: The Musical has finally landed a director -- Tim Burton.
Warner Bros., which is producing the multimillion-dollar musical, has been courting Burton, who directed the 1989 Batman movie as well as the 1992 sequel Batman Returns, for over a year.
The studio sealed the deal last week, theater sources say, after Burton had several long and productive meetings with bookwriter David Ives and composer Jim Steinman.
Reached yesterday, Steinman said: "We're thrilled he's going to do it. David and I floundered around for a year trying to figure out how to musicalize Batman. Then we looked at Tim's original movie and thought, that's it."
Steinman said Burton "has already got a list of 20 designers from all over the world he wants to talk to about the production."
Burton -- who also directed Planet of the Apes and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow -- has never staged a musical before, though he's said to enjoy the theater and has mused to friends that he'd like to start a puppet theater one day.
According to one theater source, he wants to direct Batman: The Musical because he is not pleased with the goofy, campy turn the franchise took with Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, both of which were directed by Joel Schumacher.
Burton's movies were haunting and much darker than the theme-park rides Schumacher cranked out.
"He wants to re-establish his original vision," said the source. "His major impulse is to redeem the soul of the Batman series."
Burton will begin working on the musical full-time next year. The plan is to open out of town in 2004 and arrive on Broadway in 2005.
The budget is still being worked out, but veteran producers figure a Batman musical would cost at least $15 million.
In addition to Batman and Robin, the musical will feature the characters The Joker and Cat Woman.
Steinman, whose Dance of the Vampires opens this fall on Broadway, described his Batman score as a mixture of "Brecht, Weill, Rodgers & Hammerstein and rock 'n' roll."
The overall design concept, as of right now, he said, is "Gotham City as Berlin in the 1930s."
Warner Bros. is in the process of setting up a theatrical division similar to the one Disney has put together.
The studio, says a source, has carefully tracked the success of Disney's The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, and now wants to get in on the game.
"They have movies that are just as popular, and they are looking for new ways to exploit them," the source said.