AIR SUPPLY's Graham Russell to Premiere Stage Musical DEVIL AND THE DEEP This June
Currently celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Air Supply (www.airsupplymusic.com), his multi-decade hit making duo with Russell Hitchcock, Graham Russell now ventures into exciting new creative waters, writing or co-writing a musical score for "Devil and The Deep," a fresh, bold musical reimagining of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic "Treasure Island."
Russell, a recent inductee into the Australian Music (ARIA) Hall of Fame, wrote the first song for the musical, the sweeping "Sail Away," himself and the other pieces with Katie McGhie, his partner in the popular acoustic duo Of Eden. The book for "Devil and The Deep" was written by Melissa Bell, whose plays and librettos have been presented at Theatre East, the Triad Theatre, The Snapple Theatre, the Abingdon Theatre and TheatreLab in New York City.
Theatre East will be producing the highly-anticipated musical adaptation, which is scheduled for its world premiere in June 11, 2015 (Russell's birthday) at Theater 3 on 43rd Street and 8th Avenue in NYC. Lisa Devine will direct. After its initial run, the producers will be seeking a larger venue for a longer run.
Set in the mid-18th century, the musical follows Jim Hawkins from poverty-stricken Bristol, England, all the way to Caribbean Islands as he embarks on a journey that will change his life forever. A boy who dreamed of adventure will be faced with lurking danger, betrayal, and grave choices that will, in turn, lead him to manhood. The show examines the parallel desires of Jim and the infamous Long John Silver and the paths they choose to take as they discover the true meaning of treasure.
Theatre East began talks with playwright Melissa Bell about this ambitious project in early 2013 as a straight play adaptation. Bell then asked Russell to contribute a few songs and, as Russell says, "it started to open up into something much larger." After he penned "Sail Away," a song that finds Jim fantasizing about life at sea, he invited McGhie to co-write "Be Who You Must Be" and "Gentlemen of Fortune." The presentation was subsequently re-conceptualized as a full blown musical.
"Every time I spoke to Melissa, she loved the songs so much that she thought it was only natural that we open it up more and incorporate more and more music," says Russell, who is concurrently engaged in a full slate of domestic and international touring with Air Supply throughout 2015 and beyond. "She appreciated the way Katie and I saw the characters as slightly different people than she saw them. So we got busy writing other songs. Katie likewise brought a fresh, distinctively female perspective to the characters that might have never occurred to me.
"The challenge," he adds, "was to write not just good songs but great ones, because you can't fill a musical of this caliber with anything less than hits that are cool and memorable, not only onstage, but that people will be singing years from now. I am really proud of the work we did and believe that these tunes would stand on their own merit even if they were not an integral part of telling this great story."
Pictured: Melissa Bell, Graham Russell, Katie McGhie. Photo by James M. Wilson.