Time travelling

Michael Mayer on a Pharrell Williams film, Head Over Heels, and Adam Driver in Burn This

by Anne-Katrin Titze

The Seagull and Head Over Heels director Michael Mayer on Adam Driver for the role John Malkovich originated in Lanford Wilson's Burn This: "It will be the first Broadway revival. He is just perfect for this part."
The Seagull and Head Over Heels director Michael Mayer on Adam Driver for the role John Malkovich originated in Lanford Wilson's Burn This: "It will be the first Broadway revival. He is just perfect for this part." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

While The Seagull, starring Annette Bening, Saoirse Ronan, Elisabeth Moss, and Brian Dennehy with Corey Stoll, Billy Howle, Jon Tenney, Michael Zegen, Glenn Fleshler and Mare Winningham is in cinemas across the US, including the prestigious Paris Theatre, Michael Mayer is busy in preparation for an original Broadway musical (producers include Gwyneth Paltrow and Jordan Roth) that he is directing. Head Over Heels, based on Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia, a 16th century masque, adapted by James Magruder, original book by Jeff Whitty, costumes by Arianne Phillips (Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals, A Single Man), scenic design by Julian Crouch, choreographed by Spencer Liff to the song catalogue of The Go-Go's and Belinda Carlisle, arranged by musical supervisor Tom Kitt, has been in rehearsals since early June.

‪The Seagull‬ star Saoirse Ronan's window on Broadway to promote Dominic Cooke's On Chesil Beach
‪The Seagull‬ star Saoirse Ronan's window on Broadway to promote Dominic Cooke's On Chesil Beach Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Michael Mayer is also working with Pharrell Williams on a film project and on Nico Muhly's Marnie at The Metropolitan Opera, based on Winston Graham’s novel, which had been adapted by Jay Presson Allen for Alfred Hitchcock's film, and starred Sean Connery and Tippi Hedren. A Broadway revival of Lanford Wilson's Burn This, with Adam Driver, is coming up for Michael next year.

Over the past two weeks I was able to see some of the musical numbers for Head Over Heels when I was invited by the director to a studio off Times Square where the cast was at work. At the tech rehearsal last Saturday inside the Hudson Theatre where previews will begin on June 23, Michael introduced me to Julian Crouch, whose serpentine set design may bring to mind André Leon Talley's comments in Kate Novack's documentary The Gospel According To André.

Anne-Katrin Titze: What's coming up for you? Film-wise? Theatre-wise?

Michael Mayer: Film-wise, there are a couple of things that are out there that have been announced that I'm putting together. And one of them is actually a new movie musical that Pharrell Williams is doing with me.

It's not his life story at all but the story is based very loosely on his growing up in the late Seventies in Virginia Beach. And what that was like, to be a young musician with dreams in a world that tried to tell you not to dream too big. So that is at Fox and we just got the first draft in.

Head Over Heels begins previews on June 23 at the Hudson Theatre in New York
Head Over Heels begins previews on June 23 at the Hudson Theatre in New York Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

AKT: And theatre-wise?

MM: The other thing is that I've got a new Broadway musical opening [this] month, called Head Over Heels, which is an adaptation of an Elizabethan romcom.

AKT: Of course! Nothing less than that.

MM: But it's a mashup. All the songs in it are by The Go-Go's [and Belinda Carlisle]. So it's super fun and all gender-bendy and very of the moment right now. And it's about this family who's tried to outrun the curse that has been predicted by the Oracle of Delphi [played by a fantastic Peppermint].

So they're trying to figure out how to get away with not dealing with the reality of what they've done. And in so doing - just like As You Like It or something - they leave the court. They go into the woods and discover themselves. In every possible way.

AKT: Sounds terrific. You have more coming up, don't you? Two more?

MM: I have so many things. I have two new productions at The Metropolitan Opera this fall. Marnie, a new Nico Muhly opera based on …

AKT: … Hitchcock's Marnie!

MM: Hitchcock's Marnie, yep. That opens in October at The Met. And then I have a new La Traviata, which opens in December at The Met.

AKT: Sure! And then? What else?

MM: And then [laughing] ...

Taylor Iman Jones as Mopsa and the Head Over Heels cast
Taylor Iman Jones as Mopsa and the Head Over Heels cast

AKT: That's not enough.

MM: I know! So crazy. Then in January I'm supposed to start rehearsals with Adam Driver on a new Broadway revival of Lanford Wilson's play Burn This. It will be the first Broadway revival. He is just perfect for this part.

AKT: He is. And you never sleep?

MM: I don't sleep a lot. They're so different. It actually ends up feeding you a little bit. I feel like if all I did was small independent movies that I wouldn't be able to do as much. But I think the bouncing back and forth between these worlds keeps me ...

AKT: And the centuries, too?

MM: And the centuries! Oh so true, right?

AKT: You have an escape.

MM: It's like time travel. It's a little like Doctor Who.

In-between scenes at the Head Over Heels Hudson Theatre tech rehearsal
In-between scenes at the Head Over Heels Hudson Theatre tech rehearsal Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

AKT: And most of it is here in New York?

MM: Yeah, mostly.

Read what Michael Mayer had to say on Annette Bening, Saoirse Ronan, Elisabeth Moss, Brian Dennehy and Ann Roth's costumes for The Seagull.

Read what Michael Mayer had to say on Nico Muhly, remembering the past, and a Hamlet scene not shot for The Seagull.

The Seagull is in cinemas in the US.

Head Over Heels will be in previews starting on June 23 and open on July 26 at the Hudson Theatre in New York.

The English National Opera had the world premiere of Nico Muhly's Marnie at the Coliseum in London in 2017. Marnie at The Metropolitan Opera in New York will run from October 19 through November 10.

La Traviata at The Metropolitan Opera will open on December 4 and run through April 27, 2018.

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