Warren Leight and Todd Almond Are Writing A Separate Peace, the Musical

News   Warren Leight and Todd Almond Are Writing A Separate Peace, the Musical
A stage musical of John Knowles' coming-of-age novel, "A Separate Peace," is in development by Tony Award winner Warren Leight, Olivier Award-nominated director Stafford Arima and emerging composer-lyricist Todd Almond, Playbill.com has learned.
Warren Leight
Warren Leight Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Leight (Side Man) and Arima (The Tin Pan Alley Rag, Altar Boyz and London's Ragtime) have acquired the rights to the 1959 book and have assembled the creative team. Work has only just begun.

Leight and Almond first worked together in 2003 when Almond acted in a production of Leight's post-World War II play, James and Annie. Berkeley Rep will be premiering Almond's musical, Girlfriend, in spring 2010. Leight, whose Side Man won the Tony Award as Best Play, is a writer-producer of HBO's award-winning series "In Treatment."

"A Separate Peace" is set in the early 1940s at an East Coast American prep school called Devon, where introverted, bookish student Gene bonds with outgoing, athletic Finny, leading to a tragic end. The book has been adapted for films twice (a 1972 feature and a 2004 TV movie) and appears on American high school reading lists. The story, told in flashback from an older Gene's perspective, is concerned with darker aspects of the human experience: envy, violence, competition.

Novelist Knowles, born in 1926, attended high school at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, a school not unlike Devon.

Canadian-born director Arima, now a busy New York City-based director, came across the novel in 2007. He'd never read it before, but he saw the possibility of a musical. He made a phone call to his agent to discuss the possibility of getting the rights and snagging Leight as librettist. Arima said he was an admirer of Leight's Side Man, a memory play about a broken family. Of "A Separate Peace," Arima told Playbill.com, "I was drawn into the psychology and complexity of friendships — admiration and love that can turn into competitiveness, jealousy and rage. And how does forgiveness play a part in that relationship? In true friendships, all can be forgiven — this is what inspired me about 'A Separate Peace.'"

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