Andrew Lloyd Webber has been in New York auditioning actors for his upcoming new musical, Whistle Down the Wind, which will have its world premiere somewhere in the U.S. later this season.
Preliminary casting began in March, but more dedicated casting began the last week in May. Also involved in the casting process are director Hal Prince, musical director Mike Reed and casting director Donna DeSeta.
The new musical is scheduled to go into rehearsal in early October. A Broadway opening has been announced for this season -- some reports say late 1996, some say spring 1997. Webber hasn't said whether the show would try out in Los Angeles or another U.S. city first.
Though based on the novel by Mary Hayley Bell and the 1961 film set in Britain's north country, the ALW adaptation relocates the story to Louisiana in Christmas of 1959. It's the story of three children who find an escaped murderer in a barn, and become convinced that he's actually Jesus Christ.
Explaining the decision to debut the show in the U.S., Lloyd Webber told Playbill On-Line in December 1995, "Well, it's an American story after all." Lyrics for the musical are by Jim Steinman; book by Lloyd Webber and Patricia Knop. Joey McKneely (Smokey Joe's Cafe) will choreograph. Andrew Jackness is set to do sets; Florence Klotz costumes, Howell Binkley lighting.
Prince, who directed Webber's Phantom of the Opera and Evita will stage the show in the U.S. before London -- the first ALW musical to go that route.
There has been speculation that Lloyd Webber will open the $6 million show in Los Angeles before Broadway, as he did with Sunset Boulevard. But production spokesman John Barlow said there is no firm decision on that yet.
Prince began as a producer in the 1950s, but turned increasingly to directing in the 1970s and now directs exclusively. He holds the record as the individual who has won the most Tony Awards, 20, including eight for directing. Prince directed Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd and Merrily We Roll Along, among others. His most recent Broadway project was the Tony-winning revival of Show Boat.
Webber announced Whistle in 1994 as a musical film, but has vacillated in interviews on whether it would be a stage show, a movie, or both simultaneously. The stage version is apparently now firm.