Billboard Bits: 'Hairspray,' McDonald/Steely Dan, Duran Duran

News on 'Hairspray,' McDonald/Steely Dan, Duran Duran

Queen Latifah and John Travolta are the first stars cast for New Line Cinema's film adaptation of the smash Broadway musical "Hairspray." Latifah will portray Motormouth Maybelle, while Travolta will transform into the lovably large Edna Turnblad, a role originated by female impersonator Divine and updated on Broadway by Harvey Fierstein.

Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who produced the Oscar-winning film adaptation of the musical "Chicago," are in the midst of a nationwide casting search for a newcomer to star as main character Tracy Turnblad. The new "Hairspray" will begin shooting in the fall with an eye on a summer 2007 release.

Latifah and Travolta are both no strangers to musicals. Latifah was nominated for the best supporting actress Oscar and Golden Globe award for her performance in "Chicago," while Travolta is perennially associated with his 1979 role as sensitive tough guy Danny Zuko in the musical "Grease."

-- Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

Michael McDonald and Steely Dan may be reuniting. Sources tell Billboard that McDonald, who played keyboards and sang backing vocals on such Steely Dan classics as "The Royal Scam," "Katy Lied" and "Aja," is in talks to co-headline the band's
summer tour.

Each act would play its own set, and then McDonald would join Steely Dan for a number of hits on which he performed, including the 1977 No. 11 Billboard pop singles chart entry "Peg."

McDonald has scattered solo dates on the books through June 10 in Nashville. Meanwhile, Steely Dan principals Donald Fagen and Walter Becker are busy with their own solo projects: Fagen's third solo album, "Morph the Cat," arrives Tuesday (March 7) via Reprise, while Becker is at work on the follow-up to his 1994 solo debut, "11 Tracks of Whack."

-- Melinda Newman, L.A.

A quarter century after first crashing sales charts worldwide, Duran Duran's two founders are releasing a compilation that pays homage to the band's influences. Keyboardist Nick Rhodes and bassist John Taylor have compiled "Only After Dark" (EMI) -- 18 tracks of the glam rock, post-punk and electronic music that helped develop the group's early sound.

Coming out May 1 in the United Kingdom, the album's art incorporates images from photographer Paul Edmond's new book "Duran Duran Unseen" (Reynolds & Hearn), which chronicles the scene between 1979-82 in the group's Birmingham, England, hometown.

As regulars at the now-defunct Rum Runner club there, the duo were regularly exposed to a cross-section of music from the likes of David Bowie, Kraftwerk and Ultravox, all of whom are featured on the album. "As we were developing our own sound, this was the backdrop," Rhodes says. "Everything was at a crossroads. Everything was in flux."

-- Lars Brandle, London