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Douglas Lyons will pen ‘Big River’ movie adaptation

The musical won the 1985 Tony Award for Best Musical.

Douglas Lyons (Credit: Shani Hadjian)

A film adaptation of “Big River” is in development. Douglas Lyons will write the script for the big-screen version of the 1985 Broadway musical of the same name, which was inspired by Mark Twain’s 1884 novel “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

The movie musical is being developed in partnership with Mary Miller, William Hauptman, who wrote the musical’s Tony Award-winning book, Rocco Landesman, who conceived and produced the original Broadway production, Emily Baer and Jason Seagraves under his Prod Co. banner.

Lyons made his Broadway playwriting debut in 2021 with “Chicken & Biscuits.” He has written the musicals “Polkadots” (produced by Atlantic Theatre Company’s Atlantic for Kids), “Beau,” “Breathe” and more. Lyons has served as a writer for both seasons of the AppleTV+ series “Fraggle Rock.” His Main Stem acting credits include roles in “The Book of Mormon,” “Beautiful” and “Parade.”

The stage musical “Big River” features a Tony-winning score by Roger Miller and Tony-winning book by Hauptman. Like the Twain novel, “Big River” chronicles the fictional Huckleberry Finn and Jim’s journey along the Mississippi River in the mid-1800s to secure Jim’s freedom. Lyons’ script will offer perspectives from both Huck and Jim; previously Huck was the musical’s focus.

“Douglas has taken the greatest American novel of all time and made it relevant to our time,” said Landesman in a statement. 

“It is my deepest honor to adapt this beloved Broadway classic for the big screen,” Lyons said. “With its legendary score and moving tale, ‘Big River’ invites us all to remember there’s more beauty in humanity than hate.”

“Big River” opened on Broadway on April 25, 1985 and ran for 1,005 performances through Sept. 20, 1987. The production was nominated for 10 Tony Awards, winning seven, including the statue for Best Musical. A Tony-nominated revival, produced by Roundabout Theatre Company and Deaf West Theatre (in association with Center Theatre Group), opened in 2003 and featured a cast of hearing and Deaf actors.