In a press release issued this morning, Broadway in Chicago announced a pre-NYC engagement of Paradise Square, a musical telling of the Draft Riots of 1863. It promises a blend of original music —by Jason Howland (Little Women), Nathan Tysen (Amélie, Tuck Everlasting), Masi Asare (Monsoon Wedding, The Family Resemblance) and Larry Kirwan (lead singer of Black 47) — and "reimaginings" of the folk tunes of Stephen Foster to fill the powder keg that was Five Points, a Lower Manhattan neighborhood where Civil War tensions between poor Black and Irish Americans set it alight. (Foster was living in Five Points at the time.) On book: Christina Anderson (Good Goods, Inked Baby), Marcus Gardley (The House That Will Not Stand), Craig Lucas (The Light in the Piazza) and Mr. Kirwan. Moisés Kaufman (I Am My Own Wife, The Laramie Project) is director; Bill T. Jones (Spring Awakening, Fela!) is choreographer; Graciela Daniele, musical stager in collaboration with Kaufman and Jones. Casting and Broadway theatre and dates will be announced shortly. A great big musical with such a deep social conscience and so laden with top-flight talent; it could only be helmed by producer Garth Drabinsky. He is as famous for his daringly political musicals (Kiss of the Spider Woman, the '94 Show Boat revival, Ragtime, Parade) as he is infamous for chicanery. In 2009, he was convicted in Canada for keeping two sets of books on his producing entity Livent, a publicly traded company. He was sentenced to five years, served eighteen months, and more or less kept a low profile since. (He was also wanted in the United States on much the same charges, but those were dropped in 2018; the federal judge overseeing the case concluded justice had been served in Canada.) This last part did not make the press release.
More promising is the show itself: Paradise Square premiered at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in 2019 to mixed, if encouraging, reviews, and it seems like its timing will never be inappropriate.. Apropos for the spare-no-expense Drabinsky, who underwrote the production for the non-profit, a New York Times article called it the costliest musical that the company had ever mounted. But it also represents, in a way, a homecoming. Paradise Square will open at the Nederlander, formerly the Oriental, which Drabinsky's Livent restored to resplendent glory, reinvigorating the Loop's Theater District and helping to turn Chicago into a first-class touring stop and tryout town. Such is his complicated legacy. If Broadway in Chicago is going to reopen, might as well reopen it with a Garth Drabinsky Bang. ### Paradise Square will run November 2 - December 5, 2021 at the Nederlander Theatre (24 W. Randolph). For tickets or more information, please visit broadwayinchicago.com.