Acclaimed director helms 'August Rush' premiere at Aurora's Paramount
Tony Award-winning director John Doyle knows for certain nobody is going to hire him to direct "Kinky Boots II." Even if such a show existed, Doyle wouldn't be the right person to helm it.
Described as an art house director, Doyle is a theatrical innovator known for casting singer/actors as instrumentalists in his artfully spare productions of such seminal musicals as "Company" and "Sweeney Todd." And he's doing it again for Paramount Theatre's premiere of "August Rush: The Musical."
A lot has changed since the soft-spoken Scotsman first started making theater 45 years ago. But his enthusiasm remains along with his desire to create, specifically the desire to create something new. That's especially true when it comes to the classics.
"What's the point of doing a copy?" asks Doyle.
At 66, Doyle -- artistic director for New York City's Classic Stage Company and visiting professor at Princeton University -- has become more selective about projects.
"I have to have a reason for going to work," he says. "The projects you take on, you have to want to commit to them."
Currently, he's committed to "August Rush: The Musical," based on the 2007 film about an 11-year-old orphan and music prodigy who seeks his birthparents: a classical cellist mother and rock singer father who don't know he exists.
The story of a boy finding himself and his world through music intrigued Doyle, who has been with the show since its first readings and workshops. The production finds Doyle once again casting actor-musicians, something he hasn't done in a while.
"This piece, because it's about music, it felt natural," he said.
Paramount's world premiere of "August Rush" resulted from a combination of determination, ambition and fortuitous circumstances. There's no Broadway transfer in the works yet, but who knows, says Doyle.
"If it goes amazingly well here and everybody thinks they can make some money, it'll go to New York City," he said.
That would please Paramount artistic director Jim Corti and chief executive officer Tim Rater, both of whom have been eager for Paramount to produce original shows.
"We need to create new works. We need to make a difference," Corti said.
If other theaters can do it, "why not us? We're obligated to give it a shot," said Rater, who first suggested adapting "August Rush" to Corti several years ago.
Enter director/choreographer Amber Mak. Hired in 2016 as Paramount's new works director, she checked on in-development shows and discovered someone had purchased the rights to "August Rush." Mak contacted an acquaintance on the production team and expressed Paramount's interest, but nothing came of the meeting. Not long after, the acquaintance called Mak to check if Paramount was still interested.
"Our reputation precedes us," said Mak. That and the promise of a longer run (through June 2) made Paramount an attractive partner.
The experience has been an education, said Corti.
"Look at who we get to learn from," adds Rater.
Doyle is just as effusive, praising Paramount's creatives, management, supportive subscribers and the beautiful space that he initially worried would be too big for this intimate story.
With this musical, "John is asking people to listen, to be quiet, which is something we don't do," said Mak. "I hope people leave the production with an ability to listen a little closer."
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"August Rush: The Musical"
When: 1:30 and 7 p.m. Wednesday; 7 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 1 and 5:30 p.m. Sunday, from April 24 to June 2.
Where: Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora, (630) 896-6666 or paramountaurora.com