By Patricia Reaney
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fifty years after Omar Sharif and Julie Christie captivated audiences in David Lean's Oscar-winning epic film "Doctor Zhivago," the musical adaptation of the love story set during the upheaval of the Russian Revolution will open on Broadway.
The musical is based on Boris Pasternak's novel that became an international bestseller after it was smuggled out of the Soviet Union and published in Italy in 1957. Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature a year later.
The musical, which premiered at the La Jolla Playhouse in California in 2006 and was followed by an Australian production, begins previews on March 27 and opens on April 21 at the Broadway Theatre.
"We spent a long, long time figuring out how to structure the story so that we wouldn't shortchange the love story, which is at the center, nor the epic side of the piece," said Tony-winning director Des McAnuff.
Although the book recounts some of the most tragic events in history, McAnuff said at its core it is a celebration of art, life and love.
"Ultimately it is a story of five people, three men in love with one woman and two women in love with one man," he said. "There are many other dimensions but that is the center of the piece."
British actor Tam Mutu, making his Broadway debut, plays the married, idealist physician and poet Zhivago, who is torn by the tumultuous events surrounding him and his love for another woman, Lara, played by actress Kelli Barrett.
Mutu admitted being intimidated by the role Sharif made famous in the 1965 film, but said the character of Zhivago is so rich and nuanced it is a like a feeding ground for an actor.
It is also a musical adaptation of the book which will add a different dimension to the character. With music by two-time Grammy winner Lucy Simon, it has original songs with lyrics by Tony nominee Michael Korie and Emmy nominee Amy Powers.
"I'm a huge romantic, so playing what is arguably one of the most famous love stories of the 20th century is the stuff of dreams," he said. "You honor what has gone before you, and you put your own flavor to it as well."
"It is truly a very important novel, perhaps one of the most important novels ever written," said McAnuff. "It punched a hole in the Iron Curtain."
(Editing by Eric Kelsey and G Crosse)