A musical comedy featuring the songs of Britney Spears will fill the slot at the Chicago theater left vacant when producers of the upcoming Michael Jackson bio-musical scotched its own pre-Broadway run in the Windy City.
Once Upon a One More Time, with an original book by Jon Hartmere under the direction of Kristin Hanggi (Rock of Ages) and choreography by Keone & Mari Madrid (Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” video) will begin previews at Chicago’s James M. Nederlander Theatre on Oct. 29, running through Dec. 1. Opening night is Nov. 13.
The Oct. 29-Dec. 1 engagement is the exact window that had been set aside for Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough before producers of that show, including the Jackson Estate, opted to nix the pre-Broadway Chicago stand last month and head straight to Broadway next year.
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The world premiere Chicago engagement of the Spears show was made today by James L. Nederlander. Once Upon a One More Time – the title refers to Spears’ 1998 hit song “Baby One More Time” – is being described as “Broadway-bound” though details about a Broadway engagement were not disclosed.
“Throughout her career, Britney has captivated fans across the globe with her singular brand of energy and resilience,” said Nederlander in a statement. “For three years, we have been working closely with her to develop a concept that perfectly encapsulates her unique spirit, and are so thrilled to finally bring this joyous and electrifying show to the stage.”
Once Upon a One More Time is described as an irreverent musical comedy in which Cinderella, Snow White, and the other fairytale princesses gather for their book club, when a rogue fairy godmother drops The Feminine Mystique “into their corseted laps, spurring a royal revelation. Could there really be more to life than bird-made dresses and true love’s kiss?” In bypassing a standard biographical approach, Once Upon a One More Time sounds more akin to the recent Broadway production Head Over Heels, a fairy-tale comedy featuring the music of ’80s band the Go-Go’s.
“I’m so excited to have a musical with my songs – especially one that takes place in such a magical world filled with characters that I grew up on, who I love and adore,” said Spears in a statement. “This is a dream come true for me!”
The Jackson musical’s Chicago stand was canceled last month just weeks before the HBO debut of director Dan Reed’s damning Leaving Neverland documentary, in which allegations of Jackson’s molestation and sexual abuse of two underage boys – the now-adult James Safechuck and Wade Robson (the latter a choreographer whose clients also included Spears) – were chronicled in graphic and excruciating detail.
Producers of Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough – the Jackson Estate and Columbia Live Stage – attributed the Chicago cancelation to a 33-day Actor’s Equity strike, which ended Feb. 8, that prohibited union members from participating in a developmental lab for the musical. Equity subsequently pushed back on the claim, with a spokesperson noting that “The developmental lab that was scheduled for this production was delayed by 12 working days during the strike. It is difficult to understand how a modest delay in February would impact a run that was scheduled for late October.”
The Jackson musical is slated to arrive on Broadway during summer 2020, and features a book by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage and a score featuring more than 25 Jackson songs. Tony Award winner Christopher Wheeldon will direct and choreograph. The musical depicts Jackson and his collaborators as they rehearse for the 1992 Dangerous Tour, and though the producing and creative team have been quiet since the Leaving Neverland revelations exploded, director Wheeldon had told the Chicago Tribune (when the show still had Chicago plans) that the bio-musical is intended to be “a portrait of the artist, a man of contradictions that contained so much beauty. A life like Michael’s was so rich, dense and troubled. But there were these moments of great lightness. We are interested in celebrating Michael, and in breaking down his songs and really listening to them.”
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