David Byrne writes Joan of Arc musical

David Byrne
David Byrne (Image credit: Getty Images)

Former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne has written a musical about Joan of Arc.

Last year, the singer confirmed the project was written without revealing the subject matter directly, while declaring, “It’s about a woman whose life is in the historical record.”

He previously worked with Norman Cook, aka Fat Boy Slim, on the concept album and stage production Here Lies Love about the former First Lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos.

The musician has regrouped with much of the team behind Here Lies Love – including director Alex Timbers – to tell a contemporary version of the story about the 15th Century heroine who led the French army to victory over the English at Orléans before later being captured, tried for witchcraft and heresy and burned at the stake in 1431 at the age of 19.

Byrne says: “This show is about Joan of Arc, a story everyone sort of knows, or knows something about, anyway. Everyone certainly knows how it ends, which I like – it means that everything that happens will feel like an irrevocable tragic advance toward a preordained ending.

“Like Here Lies Love, this one is almost all contemporary music with very little spoken text, though this time around the music is more anthemic and ‘spiritual’ rather than the clubby disco grooves of Here Lies Love. On stage, imagine a singer – a contemporary young woman – backed by her inspired band, ultimately immolated at the end of her concert.”

Byrne feels Joan of Arc’s tale is both timeless and inspirational.

He says: “Why has this story endured over centuries and been made into so many plays and movies? Because it’s about someone – a nobody, a teenage girl – who inspired others to act, to overthrow their oppressors and take charge of their lives. She transforms from an innocent, into an androgynous warrior, and finally a martyr.

“Joan’s story is about the power of the individual to make a difference and (for me) the hubris and sometimes oversteps that often go along with that.

“In other words, it’s completely relevant.”

Saint Joan is scheduled to premiere on Valentine’s Day 2017 at The Public Theater in New York.