‘The Band’s Visit’ Writers Set New Musical Based On Bizarre True Story – Deadline

EXCLUSIVE: The strange, true-life story of Elmer McCurdy, a turn-of-the-20th Century train robber whose corpse became a carnival attraction and unwitting stage prop well into the 1970s, will be adapted into a musical by the writers of Broadway’s acclaimed The Band’s Visit.

The new theater piece, titled Dead Outlaw, will feature music and lyrics by David Yazbek and Erik Della Penna, with a book by Itamar Moses. The project marks the first reteaming of Yasbek and Moses since their multiple-Tony-winning The Band’s Visitwhich made its Broadway debut in 2017.

Yazbek and Della Penna have composed 14-songs for Dead Outlawand a premiere presentation is scheduled for March 14 at the Manhattan 54 Below.

Elmer J. McCurdy was a bank and trainer robber in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who died in a 1911 shoot-out with police in Oklahoma. His corpse was mummified and displayed at a funeral home and then became a carnival and sideshow attraction from the 1920s through the 1960s. By the 1970s, the corpse, thought to be a mannequin, was on display as a gallows exhibit at the Pike amusement zone in Long Beach, California, when a film crew shooting a 1976 episode of The Six Million Dollar Man damaged the body, exposing human bone.

Yazbek, a composer, writer and performer, said in a statement that he has been haunted by the McCurdy story for thirty years since first hearing it from a friend. A few years ago, he shared the strange tale with his friend and bandmate Della Penna and The Band’s Visit collaborator Moses. Fascinated by what the tale says about money, ambition, fame, memory and death, Yazbek and Della Benna began writing songs and Moses a narrative.

Today’s announcement describes Dead Outlaw as “a true story about money, fame and death. It’s about Elmer McCurdy, a dangerous but inept outlaw at the turn of the century who was killed by a sheriff’s posse. And that’s when his showbiz career as a traveling side-show attraction really took off.”

In addition to The Band’s VisitYazbek’s Broadway credits include Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and The Full Montyand he was a staff writer on Late Night With David Letterman and the composer of HBO’s Boardwalk Empireamong other projects.

Della Penna has written for and performed extensively with Hazmat Modine, Joan Baez, Natalie Merchant, Joan Osborne and Yazbek, among other credits, and his Wright Brothers musical Kitty Hawk was recently produced at The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami.

Moses’ plays include Bach at Leipzig, The Four of Us, Back Back, Completeness and The Ally; musicals include Nobody Loves You (with Gaby Alter), Fortress of Solitude (with Michael Friedman) and The Band’s Visit (with Yazbek), while TV credits include Men of a Certain Age, Boardwalk Empire, Outsiders, The Affair and Brave New World.

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