Benoît Jutras, the composer behind many Cirque du Soleil productions, is developing a slate of original musicals for the stage and screen.
The first project will be a rock opera that traces Japan’s Imperial Family through the final days of World War II. The show, which has the working title “十” (the Japanese symbol for 10), was written to be performed by an entirely Asian company with gender-fluid casting.
Cirque du Soleil is not involved in Jutras’ new works, though he is reuniting with two frequent Cirque collaborators: Harris Shper and Taylor Jeffs. Shper has been involved with the troupe’s music division and Jeffs has been a consulting creating director since 2014.
The trio says their goal is to develop showcase stories that fall outside of traditional Hollywood-centric properties.
“Our hope is that, to whatever small degree we are able, we will have the opportunity to help restore balance to the musical theater landscape,”Shper says.
Of “十,” Jeffs said audiences may be surprised at the show’s parallels to the world today.
“The untold story of the last days of World War II has all the ingredients of a superlative antihero story,” he said. “Reluctant to his position, Japan’s Emperor alone had the power to end the darkest period of modern history. What effect does the weight of that power have on an individual?”
This venture marks Jutras’ first foray into English language musicals. Outside of Cirque du Soleil, he has written the music for several live shows, including “Le Reve” at Wynn Las Vegas, “The House of Dancing Water” in Macau, China and “The Han Show” in Wuhan, China. Though the pandemic has brought live entertainment to a standstill, Jutras believes that theater will help people heal from the challenging COVID-19 crisis.
“As the world’s theaters begin to re-open, we need to give our audiences incentive to return and re-discover the power of live performance,” he said. “When musical theater works, it’s a high that lasts a lifetime. My collaborators and I are excited to make our contribution to this great medium.”