Rousing world premiere launches ‘August Rush: The Musical’

May 9, 2019

Since launching its own Broadway series in 2011, the Paramount Theatre in Aurora has been setting its goals higher and higher.

In its loftiest challenge to date, the Paramount Theatre took on producing its own show. “August Rush: The Musical” is a never-before-seen work based on the original, Oscar-nominated Warner Bros. film about a musically gifted child and the search for his birth parents.

In staging its own play and following a minimalist approach, the Paramount has put together an amazingly talented cast that makes “August Rush: The Musical” a rousing affair.

“I’m excited about the development of this new and unique musical,” Director John Doyle said in announcing the show. “August Rush centers on the emotional and musical journey of a young boy – a lost boy. Through music, he reunites with the parents he otherwise may never have found. The hope that the story highlights is powerful. That, more than anything, is what attracted me to the material, and I’m honored to be a part of its journey.”

Doyle knows how to get the best out of his cast. He earned a Tony Award for “Sweeney Todd” and also staged the Broadway revival of “The Color Purple,” starring Jennifer Hudson.

Jack McCarthy of New York City, 11, is perfectly cast in the title role of August Rush/Evan Taylor, bringing the sense of wonderment needed for the role.

He also has impressive vocal chops and stage presence for someone his age, which perhaps isn’t too surprising, given that he made his Broadway debut at age 8, playing the character of Michael in “Finding Neverland.”

McCarthy shares the role with Huxley Westemeier – who also has strong credentials – during the musical’s run at the Paramount Theatre.

In staging its own show, the Paramount brought plenty of star power. Besides McCarthy, several of the other actors have Broadway experience, including John Hickok, whose experience includes originating the roles of Gov. John Slaton in “Parade” and Zoser in “Aida.”

Hickok plays the dual roles of Wizard and Father in “August Rush: The Musical,” turning in a manic, over-the-top performance as the character Wizard. Showing his versatility as an actor, we are given a window into his inner conflict as Father, best exemplified in the song “The Right Thing.”

George Abud and Sydney Shepherd are harmonious together as the star-crossed Lewis and Lyla, the parents of August. “August Rush: The Musical” unfolds like a concert within a musical as the actors and orchestra play all the instruments live on stage.

And while the Paramount is known for big, bold sets in its productions, Doyle makes the right decision in scaling back the scenery and having a piano be the focal point on stage. The play runs 90 minutes with no intermission.

To see an abstract, stylized departure from more typical shows, theater fans can follow the melody to the Paramount to catch “August Rush: The Musical.”

If you go

WHAT: “August Rush: The Musical”

WHERE: Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., downtown Aurora

WHEN: Wednesday through Sunday until June 2

COST: $36 to $69

INFO: paramountaurora.com, 630-896-6666