Backbeat, the Beatles Origin Story, Will Play L.A. Prior to Broadway Bow; Ahmanson Announces Season
By Kenneth Jones
The 2012-13 Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre season will feature Jeff Goldblum in the Broadway production of Theresa Rebeck's Seminar; the American premiere and pre-Broadway run of the musical Backbeat, about the birth of the Beatles; Tony Award nominee Tracie Bennett in End of the Rainbow; and the Los Angeles premiere of The Scottsboro Boys, among other works.
CTG artistic director Michael Ritchie announced the slate on May 30. The 46th season at the Los Angeles venue will also feature a stop of the national tour of Anything Goes starring Rachel York, plus the return of the musical Fela! as a bonus option to the season subscription.
The standout title for lovers of new work is Backbeat, Jan. 16-Feb. 24, 2013, which shows "the birth of one of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands in history" — or, "how the Beatles became the Beatles. It's co-written by Iain Softley and Stephen Jeffreys, based on the 1994 Universal Pictures film by Softley, Michael Thomas and Stephen Ward. Backbeat is directed by five-time Tony Award nominee David Leveaux (Nine, Fiddler on the Roof).
The Backbeat score features the rock classics "that the Beatles cut their teeth on," including "Money," "Long Tall Sally," "Twist and Shout," "Good Golly Miss Molly," "Please Mr. Postman," "Rock 'n' Roll Music" and more.
The show is set in 1960 when John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Pete Best (the drummer before Ringo Starr joined the group) and Stuart Sutcliffe (the band's original bassist) "embarked on their journey from the docks of Liverpool to the red light district of Hamburg," where "they worked in the clubs of the tawdry Reeperbahn, performing rock 'n' roll covers night after night, all the while honing what would become the Beatles' sound."
Backbeat also looks at "the compelling story of Sutcliffe, who falls in love with the striking German photographer Astrid Kirchherr, and must choose between being with her and resuming his painting, or staying with his best friend, John Lennon, and playing in the band," according to production nostes. "This triangular relationship became an intrinsic part of the Beatles story, and the decisions made and the music played put them on an unstoppable trajectory onto the world stage."
Casting for Backbeat will be announced at a later date.
Backbeat is presented by Karl Sydow in association with Glasgow Citizens Theatre, where it first opened in February 2010. The musical made its West End debut in London in October 2011. It will open in Toronto in July 2012.
Following the presentation at the Ahmanson in early 2013, Backbeat will move to Broadway.
Seminar (Oct. 10-Nov. 18) is the Broadway production of Rebeck's comedy about a group of young novelists who are criticized and sedued by a bullying editor. Sam Gold again directs. Goldblum succeeded Alan Rickman in the recent Broadway run.
Anything Goes (Nov. 27, 2012-Jan. 6, 2013) is the 2011 Tony Award-winning revival of the Cole Porter musical comedy, directed and choreographed by 2011 Tony winner Kathleen Marshall. York (of Broadway's City of Angels and Victor/Victoria) stars as lusty evagelist/nightclub singer Reno Sweeney.
End of the Rainbow (March 12-April 21, 2013) is Peter Quilter's play with music charting the final days of singer Judy Garland. In the show, concert sequences are meshed with private-life scenes involving Garland, her husband and her accompanist. The L.A. premiere will again star two-time Olivier Award winner and current Tony Award nominee Tracie Bennett as Judy Garland. Tony Award winner Terry Johnson will again direct. The full cast will be announced later.
Fela! (April 25-May 5, 2013) is the 2010 Tony Award-nominated Best Musical biography of Nigerian musician and activist Fela Kuti. Bill T. Jones directs and choreographs. It has a book by Jim Lewis and Bill T. Jones, music and lyrics by Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, additional lyrics by Jim Lewis, additional music by Aaron Johnson and Jordan McLean, and was conceived by Bill T. Jones, Jim Lewis and Stephen Hendel. Jones is a two-time Tony winner for his choreography (Spring Awakening, Fela!).
The Scottsboro Boys (May 21-June 30, 2013) is the provocative musical about a grim chapter in American justice. In the Depression, a group of African-American teenagers were jailed for a crime they did not commit. The musical satire — with a score by John Kander and Fred Ebb and book by David Thompson — is offered in the form the defunct theatrical convention of the minstrel show. Scottsboro was nominated for 12 Tony Awards in 2011.
Director-choreographer Susan Stroman's original 2010 work will be recreated. The Scottsboro Boys The show is currently playing at The Old Globe prior to a run in San Francisco. The 2013 reconstitution of Scottsboro Boys is a "special engagement presented exclusively at the Ahmanson."
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