New musical about 19th-century New York plans Broadway run

The show, which has been reworked and in development for a decade, is about a long-gone slum in Lower Manhattan, Five Points, where, during the runup to the Civil War, free Black residents and Irish immigrants coexisted until the draft riots of 1863.

Not only about the history of New York City, the musical is also about the history of music and dance. It features songs by Stephen Foster, a prominent 19th-century US songwriter who spent time toward the end of his life in Five Points, and it credits the Five Points community with a role in the origins of tap dance. (Tap is a US dance form that is generally understood to have roots in the British Isles and Africa; it has a complex and murky history, but the dancing cellars of the Five Points were an important site of development for the form.)

“Paradise Square” is a comeback bid by a storied Canadian producer, Garth Drabinsky, who won three Tony Awards in the 1990s but then was convicted of fraud. He served time in a Canadian prison; charges in the United States were later dismissed.

The musical is to star Joaquina Kalukango, a Tony nominee for “Slave Play,” as the proprietor of the saloon in which much of the action takes place. Other cast members include Chilina Kennedy, John Dossett, Sidney DuPont, AJ Shively, Nathaniel Stampley, Gabrielle McClinton, Jacob Fishel and Kevin Dennis.

The Broadway run is scheduled to begin previews Feb 22 and to open March 20 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. Before the pandemic, the plan was to capitalize the musical for up to $13.5 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission; a spokesman said the actual capitalization will probably be somewhat less.