The new musical Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil—based on John Berendt’s 1994 novel—will make its world premiere next summer at Chicago's Goodman Theatre.
The novel, a New York Times best seller, tracks an antiques dealer through four trials for murdering a male prostitute in Savannah, Georgia. The story is modeled on the real-life shooting of Daniel Lewis
Hansford. The work won the 1995 Boeke Prize and was a finalist for the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction. A film adaptation was released in 1997 starring John Cusack and Kevin Spacey.
Director Ashford says, “I am a huge fan of John Berendt’s terrific book—and of its star, the beautiful city of Savannah! When asked if I’d be interested in helping tell that story on stage, I pinched myself and then said ‘absolutely!’ I can’t imagine anyone bringing these unique and wonderful characters to life in words and music better than Taylor Mac and Jason Robert Brown.”
“Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was a seminal book for me as a young queer person, coming out in the late 1980s and early 90s,” adds Mac. “The eccentricities of Savannah, and how they were celebrated by such a large readership, seemed to say, the things that made me odd and an outcast in the world were actually things I should cherish. Likewise, musical theatre has always had a similar effect on me. Singing our thoughts is such an eccentric way of expressing ourselves—yet so perfectly aligned with my personal liberation and joy. So turning Midnight into a musical, and with such master craftspeople as Jason, Rob, and Tanya is essentially an extension of celebrating the joy and liberation from exposing what’s hidden.”
“When I am deciding to start a new show, the two most important questions I ask myself are: 1) Does it sing? and 2) Do I get to work with fun people? With Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, I knew the answers to both questions immediately,” states Brown. “The book's milieu, so rich with mystery and romance and history, sings with every sentence, deeply passionate, slyly comic, emotions threatening to boil over on every page. And to work with Rob Ashford, whose transformative production of Parade at the Donmar Warehouse in 2007 reinvigorated not only the show’s reputation but my creative process, was a no-brainer. But then add to that the brilliant, joyful, radically inclusive mind of Taylor Mac, and there was no way I could resist. Creating this world with these mad geniuses is, in true Savannah tradition, a grand and great party. I can’t wait for the world to join in.”