Nine-time Tony nominee Kathleen Marshall has signed on to helm the as-yet-untitled project about people on the “underside of the American Dream.”
“Jack & Diane,” John Mellencamp‘s little ditty ’bout star-crossed lovers in a small town, has a playwright and a Tony Award winner lined up to direct and choreograph the hit song’s previously-teased transformation into a staged musical.
Republic Records, Federal Films and Universal Music Theatricals announced on Wednesday that a musical written by Mellencamp (music/lyrics) and Naomi Wallace (book) is officially in development, with Kathleen Marshall, winner of three Tonys out of nine nominations, signed on to direct and choreograph.
The UMG companies do not mention by name the classic song, released in 1982 back when Mellencamp was known professionally as “John Cougar,” but the artist already discussed wanting to “mount ‘Jack & Diane’ as a Broadway musical” in a December 2018 interview on NBC’s Today show. A rep for Republic confirmed this is the same project, but noted a title has not been chosen. More details will be announced in the fall.
“This is a story about those people who live, love and die on the underside of the American Dream in small towns all across our country,” the backers said in the announcement. “This is a tale, laced with humor and visceral energy, about star-crossed lovers, and their stubborn refusal to give up, to lie down, to let go of the potential their youthful dreams once promised.”
They added, “This is also a story about a town in free-fall, and the tough choices people make, not always in their best interests.”
In his Today comments, Mellencamp made it clear his project was not a jukebox musical, ala Mamma Mia! or Jersey Boys, wherein a musical is wrapped almost entirely around existing — usually radio-friendly — songs. “My ambitions are set very high,” he said in December. “As close to Steinbeck as we can get it — in today’s world, with these two kids.”
While Marshall’s three Tonys are all for best choreography (Wonderful Town, The Pajama Game, Anything Goes), she has been nominated four other times for her work as a director. Wallace is a MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient whose plays include Slaughter City and One Flea Spare.