"Amazing Grace," a new musical about the composer of the hymn of that name, will bow officially this fall in Chicago with performances from Oct. 9 through Nov. 2 at the Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St.
With music and lyrics by Christopher Smith (a relatively unknown on Broadway) and a book by Smith and Arthur Giron, "Amazing Grace" is the story of John Newton, the former slave trader who, following his conversion to Christianity, became an abolitionist, Anglican cleric and hymn writer. He'll be played in this new musical by Josh Young, a Tony nominee for his role in "Jesus Christ Superstar" on Broadway and, recently, Che in the national tour of "Evita" that played Chicago.
"Amazing Grace" is directed by Gabriel Barre ("The Wild Party") and choreographed by Christopher Gattelli ("Newsies" and Mary Zimmerman's "The Jungle Book"). Although the Chicago engagement, which precedes a two-week November run at Fair Park in Dallas, is being billed as a world premiere, the piece previously enjoyed a "developmental production" by Goodspeed Musicals in 2012, along with a New York reading. Only Young has been announced as cast, but other performers associated with prior workshops include Robby Benson and Whitney Bashor.
Carolyn Rossi Copeland is the lead producer.
The show, which will rehearse in New York and have its technical rehearsals in Chicago, is offering its performers a full (and now rare) Equity production contract for the Chicago and Dallas engagements, which certainly would suggest Broadway aspirations, although no Broadway engagement is yet set.
The focus of the musical, which has a large, ethnically diverse cast and is billed as an epic story, is on Newton's conversion and subsequent dedication to ending slavery. Act 1 mostly is set in England around 1742, with the action moving to the likes of Sierra Leone and Barbados.