Could Muhammad Ali be headed to Broadway? Producer David Sonenberg is developing a musical stage adaptation of the 1996, Oscar-winning documentary “When We Were Kings,” it was announced Thursday.
“When We Were Kings” documents the legendary 1974 fight between Ali and George Foreman, better known as “The Rumble in the Jungle,” that was held in Zaire, Africa. Sonenberg, who executive produced the documentary directed by Leon Gast, is now bringing it to the stage with a workshop scheduled for spring 2019 and plans for a full stage musical production the following year.
The book for the musical is adapted from the film and is written by Shelley Marcus. The songs for the musical are R&B classics from the 1974 Zaire music festival, with the exception of “Rumble In The Jungle,” which was written by The Fugees for the film.
The “When We Were Kings” film features Ali and Foreman, along with Don King, Stokely Carmichael, Norman Mailer, George Plimpton, Howard Cosell, Miriam Makeba, President Mobutu and more. The cast for the musical will also include portrayals of James Brown, B.B. King, The Pointer Sisters, The Spinners, Bill Withers, Celia Cruz, and The Fania All Stars, who performed at the music festival that took place just before the fight in Zaire.
“Muhammad Ali was called ‘The Greatest of All Time’ for good reason,” Sonenberg said in a statement. “Ali went toe to toe with everyone from Sonny Liston and Joe Frazier to Howard Cosell, Norman Mailer and the Supreme Court of the United States. Ali remains an undeniable cultural icon. Not only was he an extraordinarily gifted athlete, poet, spiritual and political leader, but he was certainly one of the most charming, disarming, controversial and electrifying personalities of all time.”
“The details of Ali’s life are as relevant today as they were 45 years ago,” Sonenberg added. “Ali’s story, as depicted in ‘When We Were Kings’ fuses sports, music, dance, politics, race and culture in a way that should be compelling to a broad global audience.”
Ali died in June 2016 after battling Parkinson’s syndrome for many years.