The Old Globe in San Diego will open its 2013-14 season in the fall with “The Last Goodbye,” a musical conceived and adapted by Michael Kimmel from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that reimagines the conflicted love story against a soundtrack by late singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley.
While the show debuted in summer 2010 at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, the Old Globe staging, which plays Sept. 20 through Nov. 3, marks its first full commercial run. Given the Broadway credentials of the producers attached, led by Hal Luftig (Kinky Boots) and Ruth and Steve Hendel (Fela!), it’s safe to assume that a New York transfer is in the show’s sights. However, no post-San Diego plans have been outlined.
Currently fine-tuning the David Byrne-Fatboy Slim musical “Here Lies Love” for its April 23 opening at the Public Theater, director Alex Timbers (Peter and the Starcatcher) signed on to the Buckley project and has shepherded it through two years of developmental workshops since the Williamstown premiere. He will team with choreographer Sonya Tayeh (So You Think You Can Dance) and music director/orchestrator Kris Kukul on the production.
The show fuses classic and modern worlds by using Shakespeare’s original text with Buckley’s hauntingly emotional rock songs. Fueled by the enduring popularity of his albums Grace, Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk and other posthumous releases, Buckley’s cult status has continued to grow since his 1997 death by accidental drowning in a Mississippi River channel in Memphis.
“I cannot imagine a better launching pad for this project than the Old Globe,” said Buckley’s mother, Mary Guibert. “Michael Kimmel’s concept, which combines Jeff’s music and the Bard’s words, lifts the story to another level entirely.” The Buckley estate has been involved with the stage project since its conception.
If “The Last Goodbye” does segue to New York next season, it will be one of three major Romeo and Juliet iterations to play on the city’s stages. Off-Broadway outfit Classic Stage Company recently announced that Elizabeth Olsen will star as Juliet in a production in the fall, while Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad will play the star-crossed lovers on Broadway in a mixed-race production directed by David Leveaux.
Other musicals that have gone on to Broadway after being developed at the Old Globe include The Full Monty, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, A Catered Affair and Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Casting for The Last Goodbye has not yet been announced.