Moya Doherty and John McColgan of River Productions, creators of the Irish dance sensation Riverdance, announced the engagement at a press conference in Chicago Nov. 3.
The Pirate Queen will play at Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre Oct. 3-Nov. 26, 2006, and open on Broadway in spring 2007.
"The musical is based on the real-life story of the legendary Irish pirate chieftain, Grace O'Malley, who led an extraordinary life as a pirate, chieftain, lover and mother in 16th century Ireland," according to the announcement.
The work features a new score from the Tony Award-winning team of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, one of the most successful teams of author-composers in musical theatre. Miss Saigon, Les Miz and Martin Guerre are on their resume.
No casting has been announced, although published reports indicate Colm Wilkinson (Jean Valjean of Les Miz) has been in discussions about the project. Mark Dendy (Broadway's Taboo, Off-Broadway's The Wild Party) will choreograph the show, which "combines classic storytelling and a sweeping score, with the powerful, vibrant traditions of Irish dance and song, to create a modern musical event that is both an historic romance and a timeless epic."
The project will have set design by Eugene Lee, costume design by Martin Pakledinaz, lighting design by Kenneth Posner, co-lyrics by John Dempsey (The Fix, The Witches of Eastwick) and orchestrations by Julian Kelly. Casting is by Tara Rubin Casting.
This will be Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's first musical production with an American creative and design team following their smash successes with British collaborators on Les Miz and Miss Saigon.
Moya Doherty said in a statement, "We are very proud to have assembled this truly international team, who are all the best in their fields, to tell this remarkable story. We have enormous admiration for the work of Boublil and Sch?nberg and are delighted that they have agreed to embrace the story of Grace O'Malley."
John McColgan said, "Grace O'Malley has been, more or less, written out of history, but she has lived on in song and story to become an Irish heroine and icon, a symbol of resistance down the ages. We are proud to re-introduce Grace to the world."
Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg stated, "In a year when Les Misérables has been voted 'the United Kingdom's favorite musical' and when it is soon to become the longest running musical in British history, it is a great pleasure for us to announce the birth of our new musical. This unsung Irish heroine is truly a modern woman in period costume, a born political leader with a passionate love life. Bringing her story to the stage has been for us an emotional journey of discovery and a fascinating new challenge."
Galati (The Grapes of Wrath, Ragtime Seussical) will direct a cast of 40 in scenes set on "the deck of the ship which Grace captains, to the court of Queen Elizabeth I where the two remarkable women once met."
Galati won two Tony Awards in 1990 for his highly praised adaptation and direction of Steppenwolf Theatre Company's production of The Grapes of Wrath on Broadway. He was nominated for a Tony Award in 1998 for directing the musical Ragtime.
Grace (Grania) O'Malley lived 1530-1603. She was one of the last Irish clan leaders to resist the English conquest of Gaelic Ireland. She personifies the universal spirit of independence and rebellion against oppression, which makes for an inspirational story. According to the producers, "The background to this epic love story is a rich canvas of adventure, the birth of a conquering empire and the passing of a culture. At the heart of The Pirate Queen is the story of a compelling, inspirational woman, a heroine for her time and for all time. This is an Irish story with a universal appeal. History has forgotten Grace O'Malley. The Pirate Queen will remedy that."
Priority seating for The Pirate Queen is available now for groups of 20 or more by calling (312) 977-1710, or by subscribing this spring to the 2006-2007 Neumann Homes Broadway In Chicago Season Series.
According to an earlier casting announcement, the score "is a blend of pop, rock, musical theatre, and Irish music."
The leading man is billed as "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."
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.