The new musical is based on the wildly popular Japanese comic book series about a high school student who finds a notebook that allows him to kill anyone whose name is written within its pages. "Death Note" was created by writer Tsugumi Ohba and manga artist Takeshi Obata.
The mangas have also been adapted into a lucrative Japanese animé, video game and live-action film franchise. They are also popular among U.S. comic enthusiasts.
Death Note reunites Wildhorn with his Bonnie & Clyde book writer Ivan Menchell and lyricist Jack Murphy (Wonderland, The Civil War). The musical adaptation centers on the initial episodes in the series.
"It's probably one of the coolest things that I’ve been asked to do," Wildhorn told Playbill.com. "It's a different way of looking at death, the people and their gods, and it's quite an extraordinary project," Wildhorn added.
Wildhorn's musicals Jekyll & Hyde, Bonnie & Clyde and Carmen have been huge hits in Asian markets, and it was Japanese producer HoriPro that approached Wildhorn about adapting "Death Note" into a stage musical. The April 14 workshop was presented in English, but Wildhorn stated that the production will then be translated into Japanese for its April 2015 Tokyo debut. A Korean-language production, produced by Musical Heaven, will follow in July 2015. Death Note marks the first major original musical to be co-produced by Japanese and Korean partners.
The April 14 workshop, which was presented for Japanese and Korean producers, was directed by David Alpert (If/Then, The Trip to Bountiful). The cast featured Kelso (Kinky Boots) as Light, Drew Gehling (Jersey Boys) as L, Tony Award nominee Cuccioli (Jekyll & Hyde) as Soichiro, Warren (Bring It On) as Misa, Deborah Lew (South Pacific) as Toko, Eric Anderson (Rocky, Soul Doctor) as Ryuk and Jackie Burns (If/Then, Wicked) as Rem.
The ensemble included Alysha Deslorieux, Sean Jenness, Sara King, Dan Kohler, Adam Pribila, Rashidra Scott, Sara Sheperd and Jason Wooten. Death Note has musical supervision, arrangements and orchestrations by Jason Howland.
The actors assembled for the closed New York workshops will not be part of the Tokyo or Seoul premieres.