Arts and Culture

The life and legacy of heavyweight boxing champ and Louisville native Muhammad Ali will take centerstage in a new musical.

The show’s lead producer, Richard Willis, announced the development of the new musical, called “Ali,” earlier this month in a press release. 

“In telling Muhammad Ali’s story, ‘ALI’ will utilize the musical theatre medium to explore the life of the man who overcame tremendous odds to become the G.O.A.T and who used his platform to become one of the most influential and inclusive civil rights leaders the world may ever know,” the release said.

Lonnie Ali, The Greatest’s widow, gave her blessing.

“Muhammad has been a muse and continues to be a source of inspiration to so many artists around the world,” Lonnie Ali said in the release. “I’m so proud to support this project and am thrilled to see his story brought to life on the Broadway stage.”

Willis said he’s humbled by the chance to “tell Muhammad Ali’s complex and incredibly powerful story on stage with two of the most gifted artists working today.” 

Those two artists include Clint Dyer, deputy artistic director of the National Theatre in London, who has been tapped to direct the show and write the book. Louisville Orchestra music director Teddy Abrams will compose the music; Abrams wrote a multimedia rap-oratorio about Ali in 2016 after his death.

Dyer called the opportunity a dream come true.

Abrams said his 2016 composition helped him understand how “Ali’s journey from fighter to humanitarian reflected the personal and global conflicts and contradictions of the human condition.”

“And through his lens, I better understood persistent and fundamental issues, and the continued need to strive for peace and equality,” Abrams said in the release. “Ali deserves the epic, dramatic treatment of a full-scale musical, enshrining his legend and teachings for his fans as well as new generations to come.”

Producers ultimately have their sights set on Broadway. 

But the show will first play a pre-Broadway run in the U.S. Details on that have yet to be announced.

In the release, producer Richard Willis said he hopes to share information about other members of the creative team, including choreographer, soon.

Stephanie Wolf is WFPL's Arts & Culture Reporter.