Show Business: Shangri-La in Burbank

In James Hilton's 1933 novel Lost Horizon, Shangri-La was a valley of delicate beauty and perfect serenity set against a backdrop of soaring Tibetan mountains. To Movie Producer Ross Hunter, Shangri-La is Burbank, Calif. The mountain range is only 600 ft. long (not bad by studio standards) and made of plaster; in Hollywood, serenity is a realm that lies only beyond the fourth martini or the third joint. Otherwise, Hunter's Shangri-La—the set for a new musical version of Hilton's novel—has it all over the novel, as well as Frank Capra's 1937 black-and-white Ronald Colman tearjerker.

The four-acre set cost $500,000 —more than...