Chicago’s tunes have legit allure

Prod'n eyes regional theater opening next year

Add another band to the list of rockers going the tuner route — Chicago.

The songs of the popular horn-based act are being adapted for “Colour My World,” a classic “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back” musical, according to producer Richard Akins. While a Broadway run is the eventual goal, Akins figures the musical will have two stops before getting to New York. Initial budget estimates for the production are $9 million-$11 million.

Screenwriter Jeff Arch (“Sleepless in Seattle”) has been hired to write the book and Doug Katsaros (“Footloose”) is the musical director. Akins is in discussions with Broadway producers with an eye toward opening at a regional theater next spring or summer. Akins expects the script to be finished next month.

Friendly with members of Chicago since he met trombonist James Pankow at a New Jersey concert in 1968, Akins planted the idea of a tuner with the band after seeing the success of Abba songfest “Mamma Mia!” and Billy Joel’s “Movin’ Out.”

“Chicago has been writing a Broadway musical over the last 35 years,” Akin said, recalling his pitch to the band.

Going by album and singles sales, Chicago is the second most popular American band in history, behind only the Beach Boys. The group landed 32 singles in the top 40 between 1970 and 1990 and is among only a handful of acts to have albums chart in five consecutive decades.

“Colour My World” will include at least two dozen of the band’s hits, among them “25 or 6 to 4,” “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” “Beginnings,” “You’re the Inspiration” and “Make Me Smile.” Pankow has written two new songs for the tuner, one with guitarist Keith Howland.

Unlike other musicals based on a rock band’s repertoire, some of the tunes will be done as instrumentals (“Saturday in the Park,” for example) or in snippets.

Chicago keyboardist-songwriter Robert Lamm “asked me to make sure the book could stand alone,” Akins said. “Once we had the story, we began to tie in the songs, which meant we didn’t get in all my favorites or even all of the hits.” Noticeably absent from the current lineup are “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” and “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day.”

Story concerns two fraternity brothers still in college. The wild one is destined for a career in the entertainment business; the more introspective student is an artist. The two realize their dreams at an early age and, post-college, come to find there’s a void in their notions of success.

If the show makes it to Broadway, it will be Akins’ first on the Great White Way. He has produced more than 70 national tours of shows, including the Bolshoi Ballet and Radio City spectaculars, and produced concerts at the now-shuttered Music Fairs in several East Coast cities. Akins is producing “Colour My World” with his wife, Janina.

Chicago remains a popular summertime concert attraction in the U.S. and is currently on a co-headlining bill with Earth, Wind & Fire.

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