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Theater & art

THEATER

‘Finding Neverland’ to launch ART season

American Repertory Theater artistic director Diane Paulus, left, at a “Finding Neverland” workshop in New York with Mia Walker, assistant director.

Jimmy Ryan

American Repertory Theater artistic director Diane Paulus, left, at a “Finding Neverland” workshop in New York with Mia Walker, assistant director.

The American Repertory Theater’s 2014-15 season, consisting entirely of world premieres, will begin this summer with the musical “Finding Neverland,” about “Peter Pan” playwright J.M. Barrie.

Although it is based on the 2004 film of the same name, “it’s a completely new production with an entirely new score, entirely new script,” ART artistic director Diane Paulus, who is directing the show, said by phone from New York.

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Other highlights of the season include a new opera by fast-rising composer Matthew Aucoin, a new play by Eve Ensler, and a two-man “apocalyptic vaudeville” starring Mandy Patinkin and Taylor Mac and directed by Tony Award-winner Susan Stroman.

“Finding Neverland” has music and lyrics by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, a book by James Graham, and choreography by Mia Michaels. Casting will be announced soon, Paulus said. Rehearsals begin in Cambridge on June 2, she said, and previews will begin in late July for an August premiere at the Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge.

The 2004 Miramax “Finding Neverland” film starred Johnny Depp, and the play is listed as “presented by special arrangement with” Miramax mogul Harvey Weinstein. Although a Weinstein-produced “Finding Neverland” musical by other writers debuted in England in 2012, it never made it past Leicester.

The cast won’t include “Glee” star Matthew Morrison, who took part in a workshop for the show in New York this month. His “Glee” schedule made it impossible for him to follow the show to Cambridge, Paulus said.

Paulus will also direct an as-yet untitled opera with music and libretto by Aucoin, to have its world premiere in May 2015. (Aucoin is the son of Globe theater critic Don Aucoin, who does not cover the ART.) The opera will feature local chamber orchestra A Far Cry.

“I saw [Aucoin’s] work as an undergraduate at Harvard, and the buzz on campus was he was the next Leonard Bernstein, so I had my eyes and my ears out watching him,” Paulus said.

She invited him to be a part of the ART and Harvard’s involvement in the National Civil War Project to commemorate the war’s 150th anniversary. At a suggestion from ART dramaturg Ryan McKittrick, she said, Aucoin adopted as source material Walt Whitman’s diary of his time as a volunteer nurse during the war.

“He took the diary, read it, and turned around a treatment for an opera within six weeks or something,” Paulus said. “I was completely entranced by his ideas, and then I heard some of the music, and then I asked him if he would let me direct the premiere.”

In November, the ART will offer Ensler’s “O.P.C.,” a world premiere play from “The Vagina Monologues” playwright. The title stands for Obsessive Political Correctness, and the play is a satirical comedy about a Dumpster-diving Freegan and her mother, a liberal candidate for the Senate. No director has been announced.

“It’s a really funny play, it’s almost a satire, but it’s passionate, it speaks to issues of the environment and the liberal movement and what happened to the radicals,” Paulus said. “It’s a very topical play.”

Ensler will be an artist in residence at the ART, and “O.P.C.” is only the first of several projects planned, Paulus said: “She and I have something we’re cooking up, but you won’t be seeing it for a couple of years.”

A new drama will debut at the ART in February, with details announced soon. It, too, will be a world premiere, Paulus said.

Besides the opera, May 2015 will bring the world premiere of “The Last Two People on Earth: An Apocalyptic Vaudeville,” starring Patinkin and Mac, with direction and choreography by Stroman, a five-time Tony Award-winner, at the Loeb.

“We just call it ‘Mandy and Mac,’ ” Paulus said with a laugh, noting that Mac is a longtime favorite who brought his “The Lily’s Revenge” to the ART in 2012. She likened the play to a vaudeville take on “Waiting for Godot.”

That show will play at the Loeb while the Aucoin opera will likely be presented at a venue in Boston, the ART said in a release.

Beyond the main season, the ART will bring back the family musical “The Light Princess” for the holidays, with book by Lila Rose Kaplan and music by Mike Pettry, starring performers from the ART Institute Class of 2015.

At Oberon, the ART will present “Sane New World,” a one-woman show by comedian Ruby Wax, based on her book of the same title, and The Hypocrites’ “Mikado,” by the Chicago troupe whose wacky take on “Pirates of Penzance” was a hit in two runs in Cambridge. “The Donkey Show” and other programming will continue there as well.

Subscriptions for the 2014-15 season go on sale April 25, along with tickets for some preview performances of “Finding Neverland.”

Joel Brown can be reached at jbnbpt@gmail.com.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misquoted Diane Paulus in describing her reaction to hearing Matthew Aucoin’s initial work on an opera that she will be directing.

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