According to Variety, Producer David Sonenberg has begun work on a musical version of “When We Were Kings,” the Oscar-winning 1996 documentary about the Rumble in the Jungle, the legendary 1974 heavyweight title bout in Zaire between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali. Sonenberg produced the documentary.
In one of the best fights of all time, Ali rope-a-doped his way to defeating Forman and regaining the heavyweight crown via an eighth round knock out. I remember this fight like it was yesterday…
The documentary detailed the lead up to the fight, including the three night Zaire 74 music festival, that Zaire’s dictator Mobutu Sose Seko spent $10 million of his country’s limited resources to host. A separate documentary was produced in 2008 on the music festival called Soul Power, which featured performances by James Brown, Bill Withers, Manu Dibango, Miriam Makeba, The Spinners, Celia Cruz, Fania All-Stars and B.B. King.
The score for the stage production will incorporate songs that were featured in the film. The cast will mirror the personalities from the film such as Don King, James Brown, Norman Mailer, Mobutu Sese Seko and George Plimpton, plus the fighters themselves.
“The story fuses music, sports, dance, politics, race and culture in a way that should appeal to a broad, pan-generational audience,” said Sonenberg. Sonenberg plans to incorporate music into the story in ways that are more naturalistic than in traditional musical-theater fare, while still ensuring that “the songs are integrated into the emotion of the story,” he said.
The book for “Kings” will be adapted from the screenplay, which won the Oscar for documentary.
The show is expected to open in 2014, probably premiering off Broadway.