Producer Ben Sprecher is looking beyond the troubled Broadway musical Rebecca with a new production of The Exorcist that will have its U.K. premiere October 21 at Birmingham Repertory Theatre.
John Pielmeier’s stage adaptation of the Oscar-winning horror film premiered at the Geffen Playhouse in 2012 under the direction of Tony Award winner John Doyle. Critics and audiences who came looking for a scare were left cool by the play that was more of a theological investigation of good and evil than the horror experience they came expecting.
“We discovered something very interesting about The Exorcist,” Sprecher told Playbill.com. “People come to that show predisposed to be scared. If we don’t scare them, they come away disappointed. What that particular version of the play was, was more of a theological discussion, and it just didn’t get there ‘scary wise.’”
Starring Brooke Shields (and with Malcolm MacDowell ready to sign on as Father Merrin), The Exorcist was poised to transfer to Broadway when Sprecher pulled the plug.
“At that point, I said to John [Pielmeier], ‘We can’t do this show, we can’t do this play,’ because the audience was clearly disappointed,” Sprecher said. “We didn’t want to take that very famous title and squander it in any way. We own the rights worldwide in every language.”
Sean Matthias has since signed on to direct a completely new treatment of the drama that promises to deliver visceral scares, according to the Sprecher and his co-producer Stuart Snyder.
Pielmeier threw out his first treatment, and delivered a new version of The Exorcist that is now structured so that the magical and supernatural elements are “really part of the storytelling,” according to Sprecher.
Should the Birmingham premiere be well-received, the plan is to take The Exorcist to the West End sometime next year, with Broadway and global productions to follow. Bill Kenwright, the producer who ushered the vampire thriller Let the Right One In to the West End, is attached to the project.
“We have embraced the idea that crazy stuff is going to happen on stage. Scary stuff is going to happen, hopefully not just on the stage, but hopefully when it comes to Broadway it will be environmental,” Sprecher added. “The reality of the show’s story line embraces the idea that ‘My God, this is happening on stage for real right in front of my eyes.’ We are definitely going for it.”
Anna Fleischle (Hangmen at the Royal Court) will design the production that has lighting by Tim Mitchell.
Casting has not been announced.
Take a look at the L.A. premiere below: