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David Byrne Announces 'American Utopia' Broadway Residency

Friday, 17 May 2019 Written by Jon Stickler

David Byrne is heading to Broadway.

Following a sold out world tour, the former Talking Heads frontman’s 16-week residency at New York’s Hudson Theatre will begin previews on October 4, with an official opening on October 20, running until January 19, 2020. There will also be a preview run at Boston’s Emerson Colonial Theatre between September 11 and 28. 

Byrne announced details of the production, titled David Byrne’s American Utopia: A Once in a Lifetime Theatrical Event, with a statement:

"As I was recording the songs for my ’American Utopia’ album it occurred to me that they would be exciting to play live - and I realized that a lot of my older material would fit right in….I imagined a live show….I pictured a lot of drummers, a kind of drum line/samba school/second line- that would create the rhythms.

A few years earlier I had toured with the musical artist St Vincent, and we had a large horn section that we decided should be completely mobile. Could I liberate the other instruments in the band as well for the new show? It turns out I could – drummer Mauro Refosco, whom I’ve worked with for years, said we’d need six drummers to reproduce the necessary grooves. There is now a technology that allows a keyboard to be mobile, so Karl Mansfield (musical director) tested it out.

Annie-B Parson, whom I’d worked with a number of times in the past, came on board and we began to collaborate on discovering movement that seemed appropriate for the songs. Sometimes she gave us complex movement to try and sometimes, a little surprisingly, we’d discover, or at least I did, that the simplest idea could have a huge emotional impact.

Because of how theatrical the show is, others started telling me ‘this needs to go to Broadway.’ Why not? But what did that mean? Parked in a beautiful Broadway theater we can perfect the sound, the lights, the movement. I thought to myself that this new context might be good- it might bring out the narrative arc a little bit more, to make it just a little more explicit. I asked Alex Timbers, whom I’d worked with twice before on musicals, to help. He brought some original and insightful ideas to the room, ideas I was too close to imagine, and we used those to build on what we had.

People ask me will I be darting into a town car after these shows or taking a flying leap onto my bicycle…take a wild guess."

Byrne released ’American Utopia’ in 2018.

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