Baz Luhrmann to Duel with Joey Fatone

08/29/2002 AT 01:00 PM EDT

'N Sync-er Joey Fatone may be off and warbling in Broadway's long-running "Rent," loosely based on the Italian opera "La Boheme" -- but that's not stopping another production of the Puccini opera from being mounted on the Great White Way this fall.

Besides Puccini, this new version of the tragic Bohemian lovers tale has quite a pedigree: Its director is none other than "Moulin Rouge" director Baz Luhrmann, who's already hired his young cast of 50 for the production.

But Luhrmann, 39, freely admits to Time Out New York magazine that arias and waiting for the fat lady to sing may not be everyone's cup of tea.

"When you go to the opera," he says, "you feel like you need to be part of a special club to decode what is going on."

For his part, Luhrmann promises "to bring 'La Boheme' back to the fundamentals -- we want to make it as clear as possible." That should come as good news to theatergoers who had trouble following Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor's comings and goings in Luhrmann's extravagant movie musical, which was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.

To make the stage work more accessible, the director's planning to shift the Setting of "Boheme" to the very romantic Paris in the 1950s. Still, as Luhrmann acknowledged to Time Out, "There are easier ways to get a hit on Broadway."

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