Acclaimed director helms 'August Rush' premiere at Aurora's Paramount

 
 
Posted4/21/2019 7:00 AM
hello
  • Sydney Shepherd plays August's birth mother Lyla and George Abud plays the boy's birth father Lewis in the premiere of "August Rush: The Musical," beginning previews April 24 at Paramount Theatre in Aurora.

    Sydney Shepherd plays August's birth mother Lyla and George Abud plays the boy's birth father Lewis in the premiere of "August Rush: The Musical," beginning previews April 24 at Paramount Theatre in Aurora. Courtesy of Justin Hoch at New 42nd Street Studios

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.

Director John Doyle rehearses the premiere of "August Rush: The Musical" at Paramount Theatre in Aurora.
Director John Doyle rehearses the premiere of "August Rush: The Musical" at Paramount Theatre in Aurora. - Courtesy of Justin Hoch at New 42nd Street Studios

"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.

Huxley Westemeier, who shares the titular role in "August Rush: The Musical" with Jack McCarthy, watches while his castmates rehearse for Paramount Theatre's world premiere directed by John Doyle.
Huxley Westemeier, who shares the titular role in "August Rush: The Musical" with Jack McCarthy, watches while his castmates rehearse for Paramount Theatre's world premiere directed by John Doyle. - Courtesy of Justin Hoch at New 42nd Street Studios

"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.

Jack McCarthy, who doubles with Huxley Westemeier in the title role of "August Rush: The Musical," rehearses with Leenya Rideout, who plays Hope, in the Paramount Theatre premiere beginning previews April 24 in Aurora.
Jack McCarthy, who doubles with Huxley Westemeier in the title role of "August Rush: The Musical," rehearses with Leenya Rideout, who plays Hope, in the Paramount Theatre premiere beginning previews April 24 in Aurora. - Courtesy of Justin Hoch at New 42nd Street Studios

"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."

• • •

"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

Tickets: $36-$69

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.