John Doyle, the two-time Tony-winning stage director, will be ensconced in the Village at Shirlington this time next year, as he guides the musical version of the 2007 movie “August Rush” to its world premiere at Signature Theatre.
The show, with a book by Glen Berger (“Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark”), music by film and theater composer Mark Mancina and lyrics by both, will have its inaugural run at Signature from Feb. 5, to March 3, and then move to the Paramount Theatre in the Chicago suburb of Aurora, Ill., from April 24 to June 2, 2019. Casting will be announced at a later date. A commercial producer is attached to the venture: Junkyard Dog Productions, whose current Broadway hit, “Come From Away,” made a pivotal stop at Ford’s Theatre before its New York run.
The planning for “August Rush” seems aimed at the kind of success that’s been experienced by producers of the stage versions of “Once” and “The Band’s Visit”: musicals adapted not from blockbuster movies, but from obscurer ones. The film version, directed by Kirsten Sheridan and written by Nick Castle and James V. Harts, was a modern fable concerning a prodigy with unusual powers of musical perception who is on a search for his birth parents. It starred Keri Russell, Freddie Highmore, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Robin Williams.
The critical reception wasn’t favorable a decade ago: “a loopy, goopy fairy tale” was how Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum described it. But Doyle — who won Tonys for his innovative direction of revivals of “Sweeney Todd” with Patti LuPone in 2006 and “The Color Purple” with Cynthia Erivo in 2016 — says the prior reception is not a handicap.
“It was a small movie and not a tremendously successful one,” Doyle, who is artistic director of off-Broadway’s Classic Stage Company, said in a phone interview. He added that it may in some ways be “easier to put on movies as musicals that weren’t that successful.” Such projects are not burdened, he continued with the lofty expectations attending a musical based on a hit film.
One of Doyle’s trademark impulses has been to have actors double as musicians, a device he used in Broadway revivals of both “Sweeney Todd” and “Company.” “I’ve done a lot of work where actors make the music,” he said. “But I haven’t had many opportunities to work on a new piece. In a romantic, sentimental way, it’s lovely in a musical when music can be the connective glue in the story.’