Grim Reaper Will Sing Maury Yeston Show Tunes in World Premiere of Death Takes a Holiday

News   Grim Reaper Will Sing Maury Yeston Show Tunes in World Premiere of Death Takes a Holiday
 
Roundabout Theatre Company will give life to the new Maury Yeston-Peter Stone-Thomas Meehan musical Death Takes a Holiday beginning June 10 at Off-Broadway's Laura Pels Theatre. Tony Award winner Doug Hughes will direct.

Maury Yeston
Maury Yeston Photo by Aubrey Reuben

The cast and design team for the world premiere will be announced shortly, although British star Julian Ovenden's name has been mentioned in published reports. Opening night for the romantic Italian-set musical, based on the Alberto Casella play of the same name, will be July 14. The story famously finds Death falling in love with a beautiful woman.

The music and lyrics are by Tony Award winner Maury Yeston (Nine, Grand Hotel, Titanic), with book by Thomas Meehan (Annie, Hairspray, The Producers) and the late Peter Stone (1776).

Death Takes a Holiday will feature musical direction by Kevin Stites. Death Takes a Holiday will play a limited engagement through Sept. 4.

According to Roundabout, which announced the production in Jan. 24, "In Death Takes a Holiday, it's just after the first World War and the loneliest of souls arrives at an Italian villa disguised as a handsome young Prince, and for the first time experiences the joys and heartbreaks of life. But when he unexpectedly falls in love with a newly engaged young woman, the mysterious stranger discovers that love may in fact be stronger than death."

Casella's play, rewritten for the American stage by Walter Ferris, was originally produced by the Shubert brothers in the Great Depression. Yeston previously said the piece is "an intensely romantic love story — deeply moving and life affirming." He called the show a "chamber musical."

The darkly romantic musical was initiated by Stone and Yeston. A draft was completed before Stone's death in 2003, and then Meehan was asked to work on the property. Death tells of the Grim Reaper visiting earth to discover why people are so fearful of him. Or, as Stone once said in a Playbill.com interview, "What can life be that they cling to it so?"

Death becomes a houseguest at a swanky nobleman's home where an engagement is being celebrated. And that's where he falls in love.

"It's very lush and romantic and amusing in many aspects, even though it deals with a somewhat serious subject," Stone previously told Playbill.com.

There have been movie versions of the property, including a 1934 picture starring Fredric March and "Meet Joe Black" (1998), starring Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins.

"Each time they remake it," Stone said of the film versions, "it's farther from the original. We're keeping the locale: Italy, just after the first World War. It's a small musical: 10 principals, all of them important, no chorus." There are four servants in the mix as well, Playbill.com previously reported, bumping the cast size to a relatively intimate 14.

Roundabout previously produced the 2003 Broadway revival of Nine by songwriter Yeston.

Todd Haimes, artistic director of Roundabout, said in a statement, "Maury Yeston and Peter Stone began working on Death Takes a Holiday several years before it came to Roundabout. Peter was one of the great librettists in musical theatre, and, after his death, it was fortunate that Tom Meehan, one of the best in the business, took over the book writing duties. It was in 2008 that Tom and Maury approached me about working on the show at Roundabout, and I suggested Doug Hughes for the project. We ended up doing a series of developmental readings with the team over the past two years, and I think we're all agreed that the show is now absolutely ready to get on its feet..."

Hughes (Doubt) most recently staged the Roundabout Broadway production of Mrs. Warren's Profession starring Cherry Jones.

Tickets ($76-$86) are on sale now at Roundabout Ticket Services at (212)719-1300, online at www.roundabouttheatre.org or at the Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre box office (111 West 46 Street).

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