As previously tipped (See The Goss, 9 Dec 2004), Trevor Nunn will bring Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1936 literary classic Gone with the Wind to the musical stage. The new adaptation will premiere in April 2008 (previewing from March) at the New London Theatre, where Nunn’s production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats resided for 21 years up to May 2002 and where his Ian McKellen-led Royal Shakespeare Company double bill of King Lear and The Seagull will have a limited season immediately prior to Gone with the Wind (See News, 30 May 2007).

In development for more than three years, Gone with the Wind has music and lyrics by Margaret Martin, a sociologist making her musical theatre debut. Exact dates, casting and further creative team details have not yet been confirmed. Booking will open in September.

Set in Georgia in the 1860s, Gone with the Wind follows the indomitable Scarlett O’Hara’s ten-year journey from a life of luxury on her father’s plantation through the Civil War and the hardships it heaps on her and her family to the rocky post-war peace, with her love for Ashley Wilkes and the renegade Rhett Butler adding fuel to the fire.

One of the best-selling novels of the 20th century (the only book that's sold more, apparently is The Bible), Gone with the Wind was in 1939 made into one of Hollywood’s highest-grossing films, a winner of ten Oscars. Directed by Victor Fleming, it starred Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, whose final line – “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” – has gone down in cinematic history. According to a list recently compiled by the British Film Institute (BFI), the film has been seen by more cinemagoers (35 million) than any other in UK movie history.

The new musical was previously tipped for a berth at the West End’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane (See The Goss, 8 May 2006) – where Harold Rome and Horton Foote’s previous musical version of Gone with the Wind had a run 1972 - but that venue was snapped up this year by The Lord of the Rings, which opens next month.

Commenting on the new project, Trevor Nunn said today: “Having now worked on adapting two vast novels for the stage, Nicholas Nickleby (as a play) and Les Misérables (as a musical – both for the RSC), I am drawn to the challenge of telling Margaret Mitchell’s epic story through words, music and the imaginative resources of the theatre. The major turning point of American history is conveyed through Mitchell’s extraordinary cast of characters, black and white, as they pursue their different ideas of the future, and of the past.”

New York-based producer Aldo Scrofani - who has been driving the adaptation with Nunn and Martin and who has now brought on UK producer Colin Ingram to present the West End premiere - added: “Our task in presenting the musical stage version of this epic combines our obligation to remain true to Margaret Mitchell’s original story and characters while also revealing its relevance to our lives today. Our hope is that this theatrical adaptation will cause our audiences to rediscover this timeless and rich story, while also providing each of them a meaningful and memorable experience.”

Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949) was born in Atlanta, Georgia to a family not unlike that of O’Hara’s in Gone with the Wind. She started her career in 1922 as a journalist but resigned after a series of accidents. While convalescing in 1926, she began writing in secret the 1,037-page novel - her only book - that would be published ten years later. Her home in Atlanta is now a museum dedicated to her and Gone with the Wind.

Currently at the New London, Blue Man Group finishes its 19-month run on 24 June (See News, 27 Mar 2007). The RSC productions of King Lear and The Seagull, which opened to the press yesterday in Stratford-upon-Avon, will run in repertory for a limited London season from 12 November 2007, though again, exact dates have yet to be announced.

- by Terri Paddock