Broadway’s Kathleen Marshall has signed on as director and choreographer for the in-development Sideways: The Musical, a stage adaptation of the novel previously adapted for the 2004 Alexander Payne film.
Marshall, a three-time Tony Award winner for her choreography and four-time nominee for directing, will collaborate on the development of the Broadway-hopeful Sideways with composer Anthony Leigh Adams as well as Rex Pickett, who wrote the original novel and is writing the musical’s libretto.
According to producers, the musical is being “fast-tracked” for a Spring/Summer 2020 regional staging before moving on to Broadway.
Pickett announced in May that he’d formed a joint venture with EFG-Renascence Productions to develop the musical. (The 2004 novel has already been adapted as non-musical stage versions, most notably in 2013 at California’s La Jolla Playhouse in a production directed by Des McAnuff.)
The novelist has said he wants the musical to explore elements of the book that either had been downplayed or eliminated from the film and previous stage versions, particularly by exploring more “expansively” the romance between the characters Miles and Maya (played in the film by Paul Giamatti and Virginia Madsen).
“As grateful as I am for the movie and the various non-musical stagings, I’m eager to move away from men over-emphasizing the journey of my male characters,” said Pickett. “I had an instinct that a woman director would focus more intently on, and highlight, the trajectory of the Miles/Maya love story and alchemize all the elements of my novel into a production with overall greater character nuance. In Kathleen we found the perfect marriage of musical theater experience and someone who instinctually understands that Sideways is not just a fun, bawdy, picaresque buddy-buddy romp, but an emotional journey of the heart. That’s what I wrote. The book for the musical is a pure distillation of my novel.”
Marshall won the first of her three choreography Tonys (of six total nominations in the category) in 2004 for Wonderful Town, then in 2006 for The Pajama Game and 2011 for Anything Goes. She has been nominated four times for Best Director of a Musical, including Wonderful Town, The Pajama Game, Anything Goes, and the 2012 production of Nice Work If You Can Get It.
“In the Sideways libretto,” Marshall said, “I discovered a fully-realized narrative of four characters with strong storylines who are three-dimensionally real and relatable, something not seen so much in musical theater today. The most successful comedies seem to always spring from desperation and characters with rich inner lives… and Sideways has it all.”
According to the production team, the musical’s book had been completed and recordings made for more than half the show’s songs when Pickett and his producing partners Solomon J. Leflore and Susan Gee of EFG-Renascence began their search for a director, specifically looking for a female director with a background in musical theater.
Leflore said that with Marshall on board, “this long journey to Broadway — from novel to movie to play to musical — [becomes] an imminent reality for all the fans who have hungered in vain for a sequel.”
Added Gee, “The movie is as beloved today as it was when it came out 15 years ago, and the brand recognition of Rex’s characters is as fresh and timeless as ever. The musical version, in Kathleen’s hands, will hoist the iconic story to new heights.”
The film version, featuring an Oscar-winning adapted screenplay by director Payne and Jim Taylor, starred Giamatti, Thomas Hayden Church, Madsen and Sandra Oh. Sideways grossed more than $500 million worldwide and was nominated for Oscars in five major categories, including Best Picture.
Pickett is repped by APA, and John Campbell at Jcintime Management. Marshall is repped by CAA and Untitled Entertainment.