Paradise Square, A New Musical to play Pre-Broadway engagement at Chicago’s James M. Nederlander Theatre


Paradise Square
Pre-Broadway engagement at Chicago’s James M. Nederlander Theatre, 
November 2 – December 5, 2021


Broadway In Chicago announced the Pre-Broadway Premiere of Paradise Square on May 18, 2021. This bold and uncompromising new musical, which examines a remarkable yet virtually unknown moment in American history, will play a strictly limited engagement from November 2 – December 5, 2021, at Broadway In Chicago’s James M. Nederlander Theatre (24 W. Randolph). Paradise Square will be the first major Pre-Broadway show to raise its curtain in Chicago after the prolonged closure of live theatre due to the global pandemic.

Casting and Broadway theatre and dates will be announced shortly.


New York City. 1863. The Civil War raged on. An extraordinary thing occurred amid the dangerous streets and crumbling tenement houses of the Five Points, the notorious 19th-century Lower Manhattan slum. Irish immigrants escaping the devastation of the Great Famine settled alongside free-born Black Americans and those who escaped slavery, arriving by means of the Underground Railroad. The Irish, relegated at that time to the lowest rung of America’s social status, received a sympathetic welcome from their Black neighbors (who enjoyed only slightly better treatment in the burgeoning industrial-era city). The two communities co-existed, intermarried, raised families, and shared their cultures in this unlikeliest of neighborhoods.

Front, l-r – Hailee Kaleem Wright, Karen Burthwright and Sidney Dupont; Back l-r -Chloé Davis, Sir Brock Warren, Jamal Christopher Douglas and Jacobi Hall in Paradise Square at Berkeley Rep. Photo/ Alessandra Mello/Berkeley Repertory Theatre

The amalgamation between the communities took its most exuberant form with raucous dance contests on the floors of the neighborhood bars and dance halls. It is here in the Five Points where tap dancing was born, as Irish step dancing joyously competed with Black American Juba.

But this racial equilibrium would come to a sharp and brutal end when President Lincoln’s need to institute the first Federal Draft to support the Union Army would incite the deadly NY Draft Riots of July 1863.

Within this galvanizing story of racial harmony undone by a country at war with itself, we meet the denizens of a local saloon called Paradise Square: the indomitable Black woman who owns it; her Irish-Catholic sister-in-law and her Black minister husband; a conflicted newly arrived Irish immigrant; a fearless freedom seeker; an anti-abolitionist political boss, and a penniless songwriter trying to capture it all. They have conflicting notions of what it means to be an American while living through one of the most tumultuous eras in our country’s history.

The distinguished creative team for Paradise Square features direction by two-time Tony Award nominee Moisés Kaufman (I Am My Own WifeThe Laramie Project), choreography by two-time Tony Award winner Bill T. Jones (Spring AwakeningFela!), and a book by Christina Anderson (Good Goods, Inked Baby), Marcus Gardley (The House That Will Not Stand), Craig Lucas (The Light in the Piazza) and Larry Kirwan (lead singer of Black 47). Ten-time Tony Award nominee Graciela Daniele (RagtimeOnce on This Island) will provide musical staging, in collaboration with Kaufman and Jones.

The score of Paradise Square is by the team of Grammy and Emmy Award winner Jason Howland(Beautiful: The Carole King MusicalLittle Women – The Musical) and Nathan Tysen (AmélieTuck Everlasting), with additional material provided by Masi Asare (Monsoon WeddingThe Family Resemblance) and Mr. Kirwan. The musical features original songs as well as a reimagining of the songs of Stephen Foster, who was writing and living in the Five Points at the time.

The multi-award-winning creative team features scenic design by Allen Moyer, costume design by Toni-Leslie James, lighting design by Donald Holder, sound design by Jon Weston, projection design by Wendall K. Harrington, special effects by Gregory Meeh, and hair and wig design by Matthew B. Armentrout. Dramaturgy is by Thulani Davis and Sydné Mahone. Associate choreographers are Talli Jackson and Gelan Lambert. Irish and Hammerstep choreography is by Garrett Coleman and Jason Oremus. Casting is by Stewart/Whitley, CSA.

Paradise Square is produced by Garth H. Drabinsky (Kiss of the Spider Woman (Tony Award, Best Musical), Show Boat (Tony Award, Best Revival of a Musical), Ragtime, Fosse (Tony Award, Best Musical),Parade). Mr. Drabinsky’s longtime colleague, documentary filmmaker Peter LeDonne (the Academy Award-nominated Curtain Call and Sister Rose’s Passion) is co-producing.

The world premiere of Paradise Square was produced in January 2019 by Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The musical is based on Hard Times, originally conceived by Mr. Kirwan, which was originally presented at the intimate Off-Broadway theatre, Nancy Manocherian’s the cell, in 2012.

With visceral and nuanced staging and choreography that captures the pulsating energy when Black and Irish cultures meet, Paradise Square depicts an overlooked true-life moment when hope and possibility shone bright.

Tickets are available now for groups of 10 or more by calling Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710 or emailing
Paradise Square will be a part of the new BIC subscription which launches in August. Individual tickets for Paradise Square will go on sale on June 8. For more information, visit

All Broadway In Chicago schedules and productions will continue to be reviewed as further guidance and recommendations are provided by the CDC, State of Illinois, and ChicagoDepartments of Health.  For the latest health and safety procedures and guidelines visit

Broadway In Chicago was created in July 2000 and over the past 21 years has grown to be one of the largest commercial touring homes in the country.  A Nederlander Presentation, Broadway InChicago lights up the Chicago Theater District entertaining more than 1.7 million people annually in five theatres. Broadway In Chicago presents a full range of entertainment, including musicals and plays, on the stages of five of the finest theatres in Chicago’s Loop including the Cadillac Palace Theatre, CIBC Theatre, James M. Nederlander Theatre, and just off the Magnificent Mile, the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place and presenting Broadway shows at the Auditorium Theatre.
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Moisés Kaufman (Director) is the founder and artistic director of Tectonic Theater Project, a Tony- and Emmy-nominated director and playwright, and a 2015 recipient of the National Medal of Arts. Mr. Kaufman’s Broadwaydirecting credits include the revival of Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song, the revival of The Heiress with Jessica Chastain, 33 Variations (which he also wrote) starring Jane Fonda (Five Tony nominations); Rajiv Joseph’s Pulitzer Prize finalist Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo with Robin Williams; and Doug Wright’s Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning play I Am My Own Wife with Jefferson Mays. His play The Laramie Project (which he wrote with the Tectonic Theater Project company) is among the most performed plays inAmerica. Kaufman also co-wrote and directed the HBO film adaptation of “The Laramie Project,” which received two Emmy Award nominations for Best Director and Best Writer. He is an Obie Award winner and a Guggenheim Fellow in Playwriting.

Bill T. Jones (Choreographer) is the artistic director/co-founder of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company and founding artistic director of New York Live Arts. He is the recipient of the 2014 Doris Duke Award; the 2013 Presidential Medal of the Arts, the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors; Tony Awards for Best Choreography for FELA! and Spring Awakening; Obie Award and Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation Callaway Award for his choreography for Spring Awakening; the 2010 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award; the 2007 USA Eileen Harris Norton Fellowship; the 2006 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Choreography for The Seven; the 2005 Wexner Prize; the 2005 Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement; the 2005 Harlem Renaissance Award; the 2003 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize; and the 1994 MacArthur “Genius” Award. In 2010, Bill T. Jones was recognized as Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government, and in2000, the Dance Heritage Coalition named Mr. Jones “An Irreplaceable Dance Treasure.”

Graciela Daniele (Additional Musical Staging) has earned 10 Tony Award nominations and six Drama Desk nominations. Her Broadway Director/ Choreographic credits include Chita Rivera, The Dancer’s LifeAnnie Get Your GunMarie ChristineOnce on This IslandChronicle of a Death Foretold and Dangerous Game. Directed and choreographed Michael John LaChiusa’s Hello Again and Marie Christine and Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s Dessa Rose and The Glorious Ones (Lincoln Center). She has Musical Staged/ Choreographed Ragtime (Astaire, Ovation [L.A.], NAACP, and Callaway Award), The Goodbye GirlZorba with Anthony Quinn, The Rink starring Liza Minnelli and Chita Rivera, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. She choreographed the New York Shakespeare Festival’s The Pirates of Penzance on Broadway, Los Angeles and London, the motion picture of Pirates, and three Woody Allen films including Mighty Aphrodite (1996 Fosse Award), and Everyone Say I Love You (1997 Fosse Award). Ms. Daniele directed and choreographed A New Brain at Lincoln Center Theatre. She is recipient of the 1998 “Mr. Abbott” Award for Outstanding Achievement by a Director/Choreographer. Ms. Daniele directed and choreographed the Michael John LaChuisa’s Little Fish (Second Stage) and Bernarda Alba (Lincoln Center Theatre) along with the Lincoln Center Theatre production of William Finn’s Elegies, A Song Cycle. Most recently, she has choreographed The Visit on Broadway. Upcoming: The Gardens of Anuncia(Old Globe). She is a member of the Theater Hall of Fame.

Christina Anderson (Book) is a playwright, tv writer, educator, and creative. Her plays have appeared at The Goodman Theatre, OSF, The Public Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, Kansas City Rep, and other theaters in the United States and Canada. Awards and honors include: 2020 United States Artists Fellow, MacDowell Fellowship, Lily Awards Harper Lee Prize, Herb Alpert Award nomination, Barrymore Nomination, and New Dramatists Residency. Her work has appeared multiple times on the annual Kilroy’s List, an industry survey of excellent new works by female playwrights. She is also the winner of the Lucille Lortel Fellowship. Christina’s plays include: How to Catch CreationThe Ripple, The Wave That Carried Me HomeMan InLovepen/man/ship; The Ashes Under Gait City; and Blacktop Sky. She taught playwriting at Wesleyan University, Rutgers University, SUNY Purchase College, and served as the interim Head of Playwriting at Brown University. Christina worked as a television staff writer on the CBS drama, “Tommy.” Current projects include: producing an a
lbum of instrumental hip hop music titled The Montage Flow, and writing her first tv pilot “The Only Isaac.”

Marcus Gardley (Book) is a proud Bay Area-born playwright-poet whom The New Yorker calls “the heir to Garcia Lorca, Pirandello and Tennessee Williams.” He received a 2019 Obie Award for his play The House That Will Not Stand and is the recipient of the 2019 Doris Duke Artist Award. His play X or The Nation V. Betty Shabazz was a New York Times Critic’s Pick and was remounted Off-Broadway in the spring of 2018. He is a 2019 Library Laureate of San Francisco, the recipient of the 2018 Guiding Light Award presented by California Shakespeare Theater, and won the 2017 Special Citation Theater Award for his play black odyssey, which swept the Theatre Bay Area Awards, garnering six other prizes including Best Production. He is the 2013 USA James Baldwin Fellow and the 2011 PEN Laura Pels Award winner for Mid-Career Playwright. He wrote the screenplay for The Color Purple musical feature film and What’s Going On, a biopic about Marvin Gaye produced by Dr. Dre. Currently, Gardley is developing several tv projects for Amazon studios and writing a musical about Jean-Michel Basquiat with music composed by Jon Batiste.

Craig Lucas (Book). Plays include Missing PersonsRecklessBlue WindowPrelude to a KissGod’s HeartThe Dying Gaul, Stranger, Small TragedyThe Singing ForestOde To JoyI Was Most Alive With You. Screenplays include Longtime Companion (Sundance Audience Award), The Secret Lives of Dentists (NY Film Critics Best Screenplay Award), RecklessBlue WindowThe Dying Gaul. Libretti include The Light inthe PiazzaTwo BoysOrpheus in Love3 PostcardsAn American inParisAmélieSousatzka. He directed the world premiere of The Light in the Piazza, Harry Kondoleon’s plays Saved Or Destroyed and Play Yourself, and the films The Dying Gaul and Birds of America. He received the Excellence inLiterature Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, the Laura Pels/PEN Mid-career Award, the Greenfield Prize, LAMBDA Literary Award, Hull-Warriner Award, Flora Roberts Award, Steinberg/ACTA Best Play Award among others. He has three Tony nominations and three Obie Awards.

Larry Kirwan (BookMusic, LyricsConceiver) was born in Wexford, Ireland and lives in New York City.  He was leader of Black 47 for 25 years during which the political rock band played 2,500 gigs, released 16 albums and appeared on Leno, Letterman, O’Brien, Fallon and every major US TV show. He has written three novels including Liverpool Fantasy and Rockin’ The Bronx, a memoir, Green Suede Shoes and A History of Irish Music. His latest novel Rockaway Blue was recently published by Cornell U. Press. He has written or collaborated on 19 plays and musicals including Paradise Square which began at the cell in Manhattan as Hard Times (produced by Nancy Manocherian, directed by Kira Simring). He collaborated with Thomas Keneally (Schindler’s List) on the musical Transport for which he wrote music and lyrics. It was produced at The Irish Repertory Theatre (directed by Tony Walton). His political thriller Rebel in the Soul was also produced at “The Rep.” He is currently adapting The Informer for stage. A political activist, he is an Irish Echo columnist and celebrity host of Celtic Crush on SiriusXM Satellite Radio. He was president of Irish American Writers & Artists for five years.



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  1. I’m so excited about the play “Paradise Square.” It’s an exciting story with historical significance about a moment in time when Black and Irish cultures were intertwined in every good way and debatably birthed tap dancing in Five Points in New York!


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