New musical, “Amazing Grace,” stages sneak peek in Chicago

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The list of musicals receiving their world premiere “tryouts” in Chicago is expanding. Last season it was Cyndi Lauper’s “Kinky Boots.” This week it will be Sting’s “The Last Ship.” And this fall it will be “Amazing Grace,” which is headed to the Bank of America Theatre, where it will run Oct. 9-Nov. 2.

“Amazing Grace” features a score by Christopher Smith, a book by Smith and Arthur Gizon, direction by Gabriel Barre and choreography by Christopher Gattelli (who received a Tony Award for “Newsies”). An invited audience of press and group sales reps got a sneak peak [sic] of the show Monday at the Broadway Playhouse here.

“Amazing Grace” comes with this appended note: “The song the world knows; the story it doesn’t.” Moving from England, to Africa, to the Caribbean, it is a tale of slavery and abolition, sin and redemption, romance and adventure, and chronicles the true story of John Newton (1725–1807), the Englishman who becomes a slave trader, but eventually sees the light. By all indications it is long on plot and near operatic in sound, with elements of African dance and fight choreography.

The principal members of the cast — Josh Young (who plays Newton), Erin Mackey (the more high-minded woman who loves him), Charles Wallace (as Newton’s slave, Thomas), and Laiona Michelle (as Nanna) — performed a sampling of the show’s anthemic songs. Included were (respectively), “Nothing There to Love” and ‘Testimony,” Tell Me Why,” “Nowhere Left to Run” and “Day Break.”

The female chorus from Chicago’s Mother McCauley Liberal Arts High School sang the anthem of the show’s title.
“This show has been five years in the making, and had an early staging at Connecticut’s Goodspeed Opera in 2012,” said producer Carolyn Rossi Copeland. “It has a story that unfolds in pubs and churches, in jungles and on oceans, and many other places. And I promise you that the cast of 38 will join to sing the title song.”

Group tickets to “Amazing Grace” are now on sale. Call (312) 977-1710. Individual tickets will go on sale at a later date. For more information visit

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2 thoughts on “New musical, “Amazing Grace,” stages sneak peek in Chicago

    1. The error was in the original text, so we fixed it in the title but only added [sic] to the quoted material. Thanks for your input. IR

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