Bolton stages world premier of hit show 'The Book Thief' musical after Broadway turns it down

When producers on Broadway were asked to stage the new musical of Markus Zusak's much loved novel 'The Book Thief' - they turned it down.

So bestselling author Jodi Picoult brought it to Bolton instead, and the world premiere of the musical has had outstanding reviews.

The author of 'My Sister's Keeper' has sold 40 million books worldwide and teamed up with Timothy Allen McDonald, who has worked on more than 65 musicals.

Along with two other writers they temporarily relocated from the US to Bolton for the rehearsals and the show's opening week.

Jodie Picoult and Tim McDonald were among a team of 4 US writers on the script. Credit: Octagon Theatre

Markus Zusak's 'The Book Thief' tells the story of an orphaned girl growing up in 1930's Nazi Germany, with the central theme of kindness and the power of words.

Picoult struggled to get Broadway producers on board - not because of its subject matter, but because they just weren't familiar with the book, she says.

"To be brutally honest, when we began pitching this to people in the United States, most people had not heard of the book, and that shocked me," she explains.

She admits she was nervous with Makus Zusak flying for the opening night but he told the cast 'he loved it.'

Bea Glancy and Jack Lord starring the The Book Thief Musical Credit: Octagon Theatre

15-year-old Bea Glancy from Whitefield in Manchester shares the leading role with Niamh Palmer who is just 12.

Bea, who went to Footlights drama school in Prestwich will already be known to fans of Games of Thrones after playing Teela in season eight.

The teenage actor says: "It was the best news of my life. I wanted this part so badly after reading the book and I completely fell in love with it and the character Liesel."

Jack Lord plays Hans Hubermann, the orphan's Papa.

The actor, who is originally from Rochdale, says: "What a gift what a joy to think something of this ambition and scale is right here, you must see it."

Lotte Wakeham, the Artistic Director at the Octagon Theatre, says she was approached direct the show by the US producers. Credit: Octagon Theatre

The artistic director at Bolton's Octagon Theatre, Lotte Wakeham has her own personal links to the story.

Two of its main characters are called Liesel and Max.

By coincidence, Wakeham's own brother and sister are Max and Ellen Liesel, named after her great grandfather and great aunt, Hungarian Jews who survived the Holocaust.

"So the story and themes of The Book Thief have always had a very special resonance to me," she says.

McDonald knew of Wakeham through her past work as associate director of Matilda The Musical, and she was honoured by the offer to direct the show.

"US producers are also reluctant to take a risk on new shows", Picoult says. "It is honestly not a good time to develop new musicals in America".

Broadway producers will no doubt be kicking themselves, they let such a hit slip through their hands.

The musical brought to life in a regional theatre has had standing ovations every night.

The Book Thief musical is on at the Bolton's Octagon Theatre until 15 October and talks are underway on what happens next.

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