Reports of the project by the Tony Award-winning team of writer Alain Boublil and composer Claude-Michel Schönberg and Riverdance director John McColgan have circulated across the Atlantic, indicating a possible 2006 start in Dublin. Apparently Broadway is also in the sights of McColgan and producer Moya Doherty, who both found international success with their dance spectacle sensation Riverdance.
A casting notice for an American production of The Pirate Queen surfaced in New York the week of June 6, indicating early 2006 rehearsals toward an out-of-town tryout "followed by opening on Broadway in late '06."
"The producers of Riverdance present Boublil & Schönberg's The Pirate Queen, a new musical inspired by the legendary Grace O'Malley, a larger than life figure in Irish history," according to the casting notice. "Set in 16th century Ireland and England, it tells the story of her losses and triumphs, both in her personal relationships and in her battles with the English in defending her beloved Ireland."
The score "is a blend of pop, rock, musical theatre, and Irish music."
The choreographer is Mark Dendy (Taboo ), according to the casting notice. The lead character is Grania, the "headstrong, independent, intelligent, vibrant woman who chooses her own way from a young age. Athletic and agile. Fearless and unapologetic, without sacrificing her femininity. Fiercely loyal to those closest to her and to Ireland, she is a commanding leader and leads her pirate army successfully through many battles with the English. Agrees to an arranged marriage to help her country, in spite of her profound love for Tiernan."
The leading man is "Grania's best friend and companion from a young age. Handsome, gentle, loyal. Understands the need for her arranged marriage, but remains her steadfast protector despite the pain it causes him. Shares an unbreakable bond with Grania and sacrifices his own freedom to ensure hers."
Even Elizabeth I will sing — with, naturally, a "strong classical/legit soprano." She's "at first infuriated by Grania's successes in defeating her men," but "she almost reluctantly learns to admire her strength and convictions as another powerful, determined woman."
According to a story in the International Herald Tribune, the musical will use Riverdance-style Irish step choreography in dramatic scenes that include battles and funerals, director McColgan said.
Considering the smash status of Riverdance, with its millions of fans around the world, The Pirate Queen will likely get a box office kickstart from that crossover audience.
Producer Doherty told the Herald Tribune, "It will have Riverdance elements, and hopefully it will reinforce and strengthen Riverdance as well, in its own way."
Director McColgan's career as a television director began in the mid-1970s in Dublin. He played a key role in the evolution of Riverdance from its roots as a seven-minute dance number and went on to direct the full stage-show. He also directed the first video recording of the show, which became a hot seller around the world.
McColgan is a founding director of Tyrone Productions, the Irish independent television production company.
He is a member of the board of The Abbey Theatre and recently directed a production of the 19th century melodrama, The Shaughraun there (it broke box office records at the theatre and moved to London's West End).