Trans-Siberian Orchestra is gearing up for its annual holiday tour, but founder Paul O'Neill is still eyeballing the group's impending move to Broadway.
O'Neill tells Billboard.com that he and his creative partners have two rock musicals in the works for the Great White Way. "Romanov: What Kings Must Whisper," a rock opera about the Russia's Bolshevik Revolution in 1918, is "the furthest along, just because it's completely written and scored and ready to go." "Romanov" was actually supposed to be TSO's first album in 1994, he says, "but a number of people who have a lot of credibility on Broadway heard it and said it's too good to just go and do a record. It should be a Broadway musical, and I always wanted to take on Broadway, so we pulled it back."
Also on tap is "Gutter Ballet," which O'Neill started as a 1989 album for the group Savatage. He and Savatage frontman Jon Oliva plan to "rewrite some songs" from the original album. "We used some of the themes on other projects already," O'Neill notes, "but we won't do the same song in two different rock operas."
There's no hard and fast deadline for either endeavor to hit the stage, but O'Neill says that in both cases TSO will release an album before the production opens. "We'll do the opposite of the normal Broadway thing," he explains. "Usually a musical goes up on Broadway and then they release the cast album. We're going to release the album and then go on Broadway." Before anything happens, though, O'Neill says he has to "find the right voice to go with the right character," a painstaking process that sometimes takes a back seat to TSO's touring concerns.
"My biggest problem is simply time," he says with a laugh. "I need to get one of those magical stopwatches where time freezes and I can play catchup. But after we finish the winter tour, technically we have January off. So we're going to take a look and figure out where to concentrate our forces and where to concentrate the talent and what to do next."
TSO's winter tour kicks off Nov. 3 with companies in Youngstown, Ohio, and Omaha, Neb., and wraps Dec. 30 in St. Louis and Auburn Hills, Mich. The troupe's 2009 jaunt drew more than 1.2 million fans, grossing nearly $45 million. A special vinyl release of TSO's latest album, 2009's "Night Castle," is on tap for release in the U.S., while "Beethoven's Last Night" is due out in Europe, restoring 90 pages of poetry that had to be dropped from the CD booklet when it was originally issued in 2000.
O'Neill is also prepping for TSO's first European tour, which begins in mid-March with dates in Germany and Austria.
"Honestly, I'm really nervous about that tour," O'Neill says. "About 40 people came over and reviewed the band last year in preparation, and we got banner headlines like, 'Enough pyro to barbecue an entire school of blue whales,' and it just got better from there, and I was like, 'Whoa...' Buzz is a good thing, but it's also a scary thing because you have to live up to the hype, and you don't want to let the audiences down. So we have our work cut out for us."