Theater News

Controversial Producer Garth Drabinsky Returns With Broadway-Bound Musical Paradise Square

Set in Civil War-era New York City, ”Paradise Square” features a creative team including Moisés Kaufman, Bill T. Jones, and Craig Lucas.

Sidney Dupont, A.J Shively, and Jacobi Hall starred in the 2019 world premiere of Paradise Square at Berkeley Repertory Theatre.
Sidney Dupont, A.J. Shively, and Jacobi Hall starred in the 2019 world premiere of Paradise Square at Berkeley Repertory Theatre.
(© Kevin Berne)

Chicago's James M. Nederlander Theatre will host the pre-Broadway run of the new musical Paradise Square November 2-December 5.

The show is produced by Garth H. Drabinsky, the Tony-winning producer behind Kiss of the Spider Woman, who was sentenced to seven years in a Canadian prison in 2009 for fraud and forgery. That sentence was reduced on appeal to five years. Drabinsky served 17 months before being released on parole in 2013. Subsequent US charges were dismissed in 2018, clearing the way for Drabinsky to resume work as a theatrical producer south of the border.

Paradise Square is set in the Five Points neighborhood of New York City circa 1863 and is about a community of poor Irish immigrants and free Blacks who survive the war years and Draft Riots with raucous dance contests in neighborhood bars and dance halls. "It is here in the Five Points where tap dancing was born, as Irish step dancing joyously competed with Black American Juba," according to a press statement.

The book is a collaboration by Christina Anderson (Good Goods), Marcus Gardley (The House That Will Not Stand), Craig Lucas (The Light in the Piazza), and Larry Kirwan (lead singer of Black 47). It centers on a mixed-race family in 19th-century New York and the saloon run by that family's indomitable matriarch.

The score of Paradise Square is by composer Jason Howland (who did the arrangements for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical) and lyricist Nathan Tysen (Tuck Everlasting). Additional material is provided by Masi Asare (Monsoon Wedding) and Larry Kirwan. The musical features original songs as well as a reimagining of the songs of Stephen Foster ("Camptown Races"), who was writing and living in the Five Points at the time.

Moisés Kaufman (The Laramie Project) directs, with choreography by two-time Tony Award winner Bill T. Jones (Spring Awakening, Fela!). Ten-time Tony Award nominee Graciela Daniele (Ragtime, Once on This Island) will provide musical staging, in collaboration with Kaufman and Jones.

Paradise Square made its world premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 2019. Casting and dates for the Broadway run will be announced at a later date.