Backbeat hits Toronto

A music-infused play about the birth of the Beatles has a ticket to ride to Toronto.

TORONTO — A music-infused play about the birth of the Beatles has a ticket to ride to Toronto.

Mirvish Productions says it plans to bring Backbeat, adapted from the 1994 film of the same name, to the Royal Alexandra Theatre next summer.

“We saw the show and kind of fell in love with it and think that it’s quite special and it would do quite well here,” John Karastamatis, director of communications at Mirvish Productions, said Wednesday in a telephone interview.

“We would like to do this show in Toronto, making it the North American premiere of this production.”

Co-penned by Iain Softley, who directed and co-wrote the film, Backbeat details how the Beatles came together in Liverpool and then chased success in the seedy red-light district of Hamburg.

The story focuses on the relationship between John Lennon, his best friend and original Beatles bassist Stuart Sutcliffe (a.k.a. the fifth Beatle), and German photographer Astrid Kirchherr.

“It wasn’t what I expected when I went to see it,” said Karastamatis, noting he and the Mirvish producers saw the show for the first time last week in London.

“I thought I was going to get a fairly traditional musical about the Beatles and instead I got this very compelling, very poignant story about the triangle between John Lennon, Stuart Sutcliffe and Astrid.”

Backbeat, which includes tunes by the Beatles and other groups, debuted in Glasgow, Scotland in February and began performances in London’s West End in September.

The London run was originally slated to close in March but producers announced Wednesday that it will now finish Feb. 18, 2012 so they can make changes to the show.

Karastamatis said producers want to tour the show around the U.K., but he’s not sure if that would happen before or after the Toronto run.

Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre is available to stage the play next summer but nothing is in stone, he added.

“Nobody knows. This is being created as we go along,” said Karastamatis.

“With any luck, all this will happen. It may not happen on the schedule that we want because that may not be possible —we may want more time — but that’s our desire and our intention.”

Karastamatis also said Mirvish doesn’t know whether the Toronto run would feature the London cast or a homegrown one. They also aren’t sure if the show will move to Broadway after Toronto.

“It’s kind of like Mamma Mia,” he noted. “When we did Mamma Mia here in 2000 there was no talk of Broadway. We were the entry point for Mamma Mia to North America and the original London producers and us, we just wanted to see how the show would do, how it would fare here before anything happened and with that production it fared really well.”