The Public Theater currently plays host to the workshop of the musical, entitled Nero: Another Golden Rome. Daniel Kramer, who most recently directed Alan Cumming in the London remounting of Bent as well as his own adaptation of Woyzeck, helms the project.
The musical, which depicts Nero through his ascension to emperor and the burning of Rome, features Euan Morton (Taboo, Howard Katz) in the title role. Also taking part in the workshop are Jan Maxwell (Coram Boy), Holly Brook (recently on tour opening for Duncan Sheik), Bobby Steggert (110 in the Shade), Steven Skybell (Wicked), Aaron Lohr (See What I Wanna See) and Diane Davis (Old Acquaintance). Dan Lipton serves as musical director.
The production, last seen at San Francisco's Magic Theatre, has undergone revisions since that mounting. Sater told Playbill.com, "This has been an opportunity to rework [the show] dramatically and uses music in a really inventive way — taking a different kind of model on how to bring song into story. What is exciting for Duncan and me . . . is to discover different ways of doing that."
Sheik and Sater are drawn to utilizing classic stories to comment on contemporary times. Sater feels especially committed to bringing Nero to New York audiences sooner rather than later, stating, "My inspiration for getting into musical theatre, as unlikely as this sounds, is Greek tragedy — it kind of goes from that. I thought it was important to do this while Bush was still in office, before the election. I don't know if that can happen now so quickly in New York." Sater hopes to continue to fine-tune the piece and ultimately present it at the Public, as part of the theatre's ongoing tradition of presenting daring and innovative new musical works.
In addition to Nero: Another Golden Rome, Sheik and Sater have several projects underway, including a contemporary version of the Hans Christian Anderson tale The Nightingale. That production will workshop in New York in association with San Francisco's A.C.T., with James Lapine attached to direct. Also currently in negotiations is an original movie musical with Sater providing the screenplay and Sheik writing music. "Hardly anybody makes the original story movie musicals anymore, so we're really excited about that," Sater said in a statement.
Nero: Another Golden Rome workshops at the Public for two weeks. A private industry preview will follow.