A new musical, A Sense of Freedom, based on the story of real-life Glasgow thug and criminal Jimmy Boyle, gets a reading at Sardi's in New York Sept. 26, prior to a world premiere staging in Scotland, with Helen Reddy.
Songs are by Domenick Allen, formerly of the rock band, Foreigner, with book and direction by Christopher Smith. Allen will also play star in the lead role of "Johnny Byrne" in Scotland, where actress and pop singer Reddy ("I Am Woman," "I'll Be Your Candle on the Water") will play his "Maw." Byrne's life as a "hardman" in the Glasgow streets is based on the life of Boyle, whose criminal deeds are cruelly punished until he is ultimately redeemed.
The piece is set in the 1960s and is based on Boyle's book, "A Sense of Freedom" (written in the special unit of Barlinnie Prison in Scotland) and the subsequent play, The Hard Man, first seen at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1997. The premiere was followed by a tour and a stop in London at the Arts Theatre. In 1996, an altered version by Smith and Allen was read at New York's Ensemble Studio Theatre.
The 18 songs in the subsequent musical adaptation range in style from pop to jazz to R&B to Celtic. A reading of the musical was presented at Raw Space in New York in 1998, under Smith's direction. Staged readings in Glasgow followed, as did a concert version there in November 1998.
The world premiere of A Sense of Freedom will take place at Scotland's Plymouth Royal Theatre in January 2001, with Reddy (Blood Brothers), Jimmy Logan (Scotland's "elder statesman of theatre") and American actress Leah Zimmerman (of Broadway's Chicago revival and The Will Rogers Follies). Director Smith previously helmed Contact With the Enemy in Manhattan and was Tommy Tune's associate director on Busker Alley. In the meantime, the New York reading for interested industry people will be 6:45 PM Sept. 26 at The Belasco Room at Sardi's. Interested industry people may call (212) 947-8150 for information.
The musical is being developed by David Cole and Guy Kitchenn, who co-produce with Theatre Royal Plymouth The Pyurdedbrilyent Company, Inc.
-- By Kenneth Jones