Roy Orbison musical from the creators of & Juliet will open at the Leeds Playhouse | Theater

A new musical using the songs of Roy Orbisoncreated by the duo behind the West End hit & Julietis due to open in Leeds next year.

In Dreams will feature tracks from across the career of the American musician known as ‘The Big O’, but the jukebox musical, which will premiere at Leeds Theater, does not recount his life. Instead, writer David West Read said he would use “the pain and joy inherent in his songs” to tell the modern-day story of a singer who reunited her former bandmates for a party in a Mexican restaurant. The show will explore love and loss “through an optimistic lens”, he added, with a narrative about “friendship and the power of music to bring people together and help them through times. difficult”.

Around 20 songs by Orbison, including some from his band the Traveling Wilburys, will be heard on the show, which is directed by & Juliet’s Luke Sheppard and has support from Orbison’s sons. Some of the tracks will be played as if directly played by the fictional band’s characters while others will be used to reflect on history, said Read, whose other credits include the TV show Schitt’s Creek.

The idea for a biographical musical was floated, but Read said he “didn’t want to see someone do their best Roy Orbison impression” on stage. Instead, he hopes audiences will find a new appreciation for the songs, performed by a rich variety of voices, like in Bob Dylan’s recent musical. North Country Girl.

Jukebox musicals tend to receive large audiences across the UK, often with actors cast as singers themselves, as in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical and Jersey Boys, across all four seasons. But like Mamma Mia!, which uses Abba’s back catalog, In Dreams will weave a fictional plot out of the songs. “In some jukebox musicals, the lyrics aren’t intrinsic to the story — they provide a break,” Read explained. “I always try to let the song lyrics lead the story.”

& Juliet, which opened in London in 2019 and will close next spring, has just started a Broadway tour. The show imagines a different future for Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers and uses pop anthems written by Max Martin including I Want It This Way and… Baby One More Time. Martin has written so many hits — for artists including Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and Katy Perry — that you could make several musicals off of his resume, Read said. “You must kill your darlings – drop the wonderful songs if they don’t tell your story.” Tracks written by Martin and sung by Adele and Taylor Swift were among those Read tried but cut from & Juliet.

A challenge posed by Orbison’s work is the number of ballads, Read said. “Max Martin’s catalog is the opposite because it has so many fun songs to party with. Roy Orbison is known for his harrowing and soaring epic ballads. Finding the right balance by adding some of his rockier numbers was part of the process, but Read already knew his sources inside out. “I grew up with the music of Roy Orbison constantly playing in my house – both of my parents were big fans.” Now, the drama inherent in these songs will fuel a story that Read says asks a basic human question: “How do you want to spend your time on Earth and who do you want to spend it with?”

In Dreams is at Leeds Theater from July 1 to August 5. Other productions in the theatre’s spring/summer season include a new staging of A Passionate Woman by Leeds playwright Kay Mellor, who died earlier this year, and adaptations of Lord of the Flies and Of Mice and Men .

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