NEW YORK— Quick: What rhymes with lysergic acid diethylamide?
In a trippy turn of events, Lincoln Center Theater says it will bring to Broadway a new musical exploring the use of LSD in the 1950s by three celebrated individuals.
The musical, Flying Over Sunset, imagines encounters with the drug by Aldous Huxley, the English intellectual who wrote Brave New World; Clare Boothe Luce, the American playwright who became a congresswoman and an ambassador; and actor Cary Grant.
In the show’s first act, they try LSD separately — which really happened — while in the second act, they use it together — which did not.
The production has an accomplished creative team:
- James Lapine, who wrote the book and will direct, shared a Pulitzer Prize for Sunday in the Park with George and has won three Tony Awards.
- Tom Kitt, who wrote the music, won a Pulitzer and two Tonys for Next to Normal.
- Michael Korie, who wrote the lyrics, was nominated for a Tony for Grey Gardens.
And the show will be choreographed by Michelle Dorrance, among the nation’s most heralded contemporary tap dance artists, working in theatre for the first time.
(The libretto depicts Grant as having been an early career tap dancer; in real life, he had performed with a group of acrobats.)
Tony Yazbeck (On the Town) will portray Grant, with Carmen Cusack (Bright Star) as Luce and Harry Hadden-Paton (My Fair Lady) as Huxley.
The creators have been working on the show for several years, and staged readings were held at the Vineyard Arts Project, on Martha’s Vineyard, in 2015 and 2016.
In an interview, Lapine said he came up with the idea after reading an article in Vanity Fair about Cary Grant’s psychotherapeutic use of LSD.
“I didn’t know it was around in the ’50s, and it piqued my interest, so I started doing a little research,” he said.
“I started reading Aldous Huxley, who was writing about it, and discovered that Clare Boothe Luce of all people was using LSD, and it was easy to connect the dots.”
The performers will sing only at those moments when their characters are being depicted as on LSD.
Lapine said writing the show had forced him “to push myself to go further out in terms of imagination.”
“Each of the characters had extraordinary lives, chose unusual paths, and were in some ways self-invented,” he said.
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The show, he said, “is about explorers — about people who reach a certain age, success and notoriety, and want more. They want to know what’s beyond the world they live in.”
Flying Over Sunset is scheduled to begin performances March 12 and to open April 16 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, which is at Lincoln Center but is a Broadway venue, and thus eligible for the Tonys.
The show will be the first original musical produced on Broadway by Lincoln Center Theater in a decade. The last was the short-lived Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown in 2010.