'Sideways' Stage Musical Locks in Tony-Winning Director-Choreographer

'Sideways' (2004)

Kathleen Marshall has come aboard the developing project, based on the Rex Pickett novel about a California wine country road trip that became a hit Alexander Payne movie.

Three-time Tony Award winner Kathleen Marshall has signed on to direct and choreograph Sideways: The Musical, the developing stage property based on the Rex Pickett novel, which was made into a 2004 feature film by Alexander Payne.

The book for the Sideways musical is being written by Pickett, with an original score by Anthony Leigh Adams. The author's producing partners on the project are Solomon J, Lefore and Susan Gee of EFG-Renascence.

Payne's movie version starred Paul Giamatti as depressed English teacher Miles, who takes a road trip with his actor pal Jack, played by Thomas Haden Church, through Santa Barbara County wine country to celebrate Jack's upcoming wedding. While Miles shuffles nervously around his attraction to Maya, a waitress played by Virginia Madsen, Jack pursues a final pre-wedding fling with Maya's friend Stephanie, a pourer at a local winery, played by Sandra Oh.

According to a press release, the musical will focus less on the buddy comedy and more expansively on the simmering romance between Miles and Maya.

"I'm eager to move away from men over-emphasizing the journey of my male characters," Pickett said Monday in a statement. "I had an instinct that a woman director would focus more intently on, and highlight, the trajectory of the Miles/Maya love story and alchemize all the elements of my novel into a production with overall greater character nuance."

He added: "In Kathleen we found the perfect marriage of musical theater experience and someone who instinctually understands that Sideways is not just a fun, bawdy, picareseque buddy-buddy romp, but an emotional journey of the heart."

Marshall won best choreography Tonys in 2004 for Wonderful Town, in 2006 for The Pajama Game and in 2011 for Anything Goes. She also scored best direction of a musical nominations for all three of those shows, along with a choreography nom in 2000 for Kiss Me, Kate and both choreography and direction noms in 2012 for Nice Work If You Can Get It.

"In the Sideways libretto I discovered a fully-realized narrative of four characters with strong storylines who are three-dimensionally real and relatable, something not seen so much in musical theater today," said Marshall.

The musical is being fast-tracked through development for a spring-summer 2020 regional tryout at a theater to be named, and is aiming for a subsequent Broadway move.

Released by Fox Searchlight in January 2005 following its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival the previous fall, Payne's Sideways movie was nominated for five Academy Awards including best picture and won the best adapted screenplay Oscar for the director and his co-writer Jim Taylor. Budgeted at $16 million, the film grossed $71.5 million domestically and $38.2 million abroad.

Pickett is repped by APA and John Campbell at JCINTIME Management; Marshall is repped by CAA and Untitled Entertainment.