Avett Brothers’ musical ‘Swept Away’ on program for Berkeley Rep premiere

David Neumann (heart), the choreographer for “Swept Away,” rehearses with solid members in Berkeley. “Swept Away” will attribute music from the Avett Brothers and will be directed by Tony Award winner Michael Mayer. Photo: Nina Riggio / The Chronicle

Berkeley Repertory Theatre plans to last but not least raise the curtain on the world premiere of the Avett Brothers-encouraged musical “Swept Absent,” on Sunday, Jan. 9, right after a yr-as well as pandemic delay.

The excellent news? Demand from customers for tickets is so higher that the present has currently prolonged its run two times, with strategies to occupy the company’s Peet’s Theatre by means of March 6.

The poor information? Well, just look at the headlines.

At rehearsals in the initially 7 days of December, the production’s Tony Award-winning director, Michael Mayer mentioned, “We’ve acquired all our digits crossed.” 

As the hugely mutated omicron variant of the coronavirus was gaining traction across New York and shutting down Broadway exhibits — which includes Mayer’s revival of “Little Shop of Horrors” at the Westside Theatre immediately after a forged member analyzed constructive for COVID-19 — the director said he was nevertheless emotion optimistic about the opening day for “Swept Absent.” But if he’s realized something from the earlier two several years, it is to be adaptable. 

“The ‘show will have to go on’ principle is mitigated a small bit at this issue,” Mayer claimed. “The show should go on, but perhaps not tonight.”

With the assistance of choreographer David Neumann (middle), the solid of “Swept Away” rehearses in Berkeley. Photo: Nina Riggio / The Chronicle

“Swept Away” was initially established to make its premiere at Berkeley Rep in June 2020, with a script by fellow Tony winner John Logan and a score drawing from the Avett Brothers’ catalog, notably the North Carolina folk-rock band’s 2004 LP, “Mignonette.”

“To me, it’s an prospect for musical theater fans to be introduced to or deepen their appreciation of the Avett Brothers’ work,” Mayer explained. “It’s also an chance for their followers to arrive and listen to these tunes in a new context, sung in a different way, and in relation to other characters.”

Mayer has some knowledge bringing well-liked new music to theater levels. Ten a long time ago, he staged and directed the Environmentally friendly Working day musical “American Fool,” and he has due to the fact staged “Head More than Heels,” which was constructed all around hits by the Go-Go’s, and a revival of John Cameron Mitchell’s “Hedwig and the Indignant Inch.”

The notion for a drama built about the music and lyrics of the Avett Brothers was brought to him by screenwriter John Logan, whose Broadway generation of a “Moulin Rouge!” musical was also mired over COVID protocols.

“What impressed me most about the Avett Brothers’ songs is the variety, from toe-tapping banjo music to soaring spirituals to personal love tracks,” Logan claimed. “It gave me the broadest array of colour. The procedure of going as a result of it and finding the tracks was laborious, but it was joyous.”

Taurean Prince Everett, a cast member of “Swept Away,” rehearses in Berkeley. Picture: Nina Riggio / The Chronicle

The new musical is set in 1888 and follows a shipwrecked crew of four, together with two brothers, who try to survive off the coast of New Bedford, Mass.

The creation stars John Gallagher Jr., Stark Sands, Wayne Duvall and Adrian Blake Enscoe, with choreography by David Neumann. It runs for a minor more than 75 minutes, with no intermission.

“When you’re working with folks starving in a lifeboat, you just can’t ship folks out for a scorching canine and margarita,” Logan mentioned. “It’s not a mild demonstrate. There’s not a ton of tap dancing. It’s the anti-‘Moulin Rouge!’ ”

The tale resonated with the Avett Brothers as well.

“There are many situations I’m up there where I embody this journeyman that is going through an evolution in existence, from like and agony and pleasure and suffering,” Scott Avett explained to The Chronicle by cell phone, calling from his house in North Carolina. “Obviously, Broadway requires the magnifying glass and puts it proper up near. I’m so moved watching it as it is developed.”

Cast associates of “Swept Away” rehearse in Berkeley. Photo: Nina Riggio / The Chronicle

Even nevertheless he started producing “Swept Away” in 2017, Logan reported living by means of the COVID-19 pandemic has only deepened its context.

“For all of its intensity, it’s a tale of redemption and obtaining grace in definitely tricky circumstances,” he mentioned. “If anything, what we’re residing by way of is obtaining grace in difficult situation. This is the fantastic clearly show for appropriate now.”

Mayer explained that there is now popular fascination, both of those from the musical theater and indie rock worlds, with tickets having been procured from folks in 42 states.

And, he noted, neither lover will be let down.

“John has seriously placed the songs with amazing treatment and a deep comprehending of them,” Mayer stated. “They’re never placeholders. In those people jukebox musicals, it can from time to time truly feel random. This is not like that. He positions them in a way so that you really listen to them.”

Scott (left) and Seth Avett of the Avett Brothers carry out in 2018 in Charlotte, N.C. Picture: Jeff Hahne / Getty Illustrations or photos

The Avett Brothers ended up far more than ready to see their function in a new artistic context and even recorded a new variation of the title tune, “Swept Away,” with siblings Scott and Seth Avett on banjo and acoustic guitar and bandmate Bob Crawford on upright bass. A movie for the tune was filmed for Berkeley Rep’s Ovation Gala.

“When we would examine performing anything with the writers and forged and crew, it was apparent that it was in team hands that would not enable anything out which is any a lot less than outstanding — and I’m mindful with that phrase,” Avett stated. “As an artist, it is likely the final compliment and the ultimate praise of our function.”

For Logan, the Avett Brothers’ endorsement of the job was the 1 that seriously mattered.

“It could have been a genuinely quick assembly,” he stated, “but one of the factors that most excited them was other artists currently being impressed by their perform and bringing it to a new audience.”

“Swept Away”: Musical. Jan. 9-March 6. $37-$186, topic to improve.Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2025 Addison St., Berkeley. 510-647-2949. www.berkeleyrep.org