Goddamn Google. In the age of digital memory and cached web pages, the internet is usually a better source than people—it doesn't keep secrets, and never asks to talk off the record. So why do the search terms "Intiman," "Disney," and "musical" yield such frustrating results?

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On the initial Google results page, one excerpt from The Hunchback of Notre Dame Fan Club says something about a "mysterious new Disney musical" and Intiman artistic director Bartlett Sher. Then, once you click the "cache" button, the resulting site is a bunch of soft-pitch polls about the 1996 animated Disney Hunchback ("Did you cry when you watched it? TIED!") and nothing about this rumored Intiman musical. As if someone pulled the original post. As if there were a conspiracy.

The facts: Two weeks ago, Sher won a Tony Award for directing South Pacific. (The production itself won six more awards, becoming this year's most-Tonied show.) In a pre-Tony interview with KUOW, Sher said something about working on a musical adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In a post-Tony interview with the Seattle Times, Sher let something slip about a new Disney musical at Intiman in 2009.

Which, frankly, sounds insane. In the abstract, a nonprofit theater lending its resources and credibility to a corporation that took in $35.5 billion in 2007 seems a violation of the public trust. Did donors—public and private—give money to Intiman in order to bolster Disney's brand? Is this the theater version of the infamous Armani show at the Guggenheim Museum?

On the other hand: Intiman has suffered from serious debt in recent years (though most of it was eliminated by 2007 fundraising). As Chekhov wrote: "Credit leads into a desert with invisible boundaries." Maybe this deal with the Disney is an attempt to pay off the last of its debt and bulk up its endowment fund. Which would be good for everyone—providing it's a financial success. There is even the chance that it could be (perish the thought!) an artistic success.

If anybody could figure out what it will be. Sher and Intiman are mum.

My best guess, and pure speculation: The musical version of Hunchback composed by Stephen Schwartz (Pippin, Wicked) and Alan Menken (um, Sister Act the Musical), with book by James Lapine (Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods), which closed, after a three-year run at Musical Theater Berlin, in 2002. Some Disney-gossip blogs, like Jim Hill Media, report that "several small regional theaters have already asked Disney Theatrical for the rights to produce this James Lapine show stateside."

Who better, in the Mouse's mind, to direct the U.S. debut of Hunchback than the newly minted Tony magnet, Bart Sher? Let's just hope this thing makes money. It would be a shame if Intiman prostituted itself, and then had to pay for it. recommended

brendan@thestranger.com

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