Doing a Jack Kerouac play was one of Sean Daniels' goals when he arrived in Lowell four years ago to become Merrimack Repertory Theatre's new artistic director.

He's achieving that with "The Haunted Life," a new play Daniels adapted from Kerouac's unfinished novella. He co-directs it with Christopher Oscar Pena, in coordination with Kerouac's estate. It has its world premiere March 20-April 14 at the MRT.

It's a fitting conclusion -- a swan song, of sorts -- to Daniels' successful run at MRT, where he has presented more than a dozen premieres, directing many of them, since 2014. He announced last week that he'll leave MRT in May to become artistic director of the larger Arizona Theatre Company in Phoenix and Tucson.

MRT has done two other Kerouac-based works in its 40-year history -- Jon Lipsky's "Maggie's Riff," based on Kerouac's novel "Maggie Cassidy," in the early '90s, and a staged reading of Kerouac's only play, "The Beat Generation," in 2012.

But "The Haunted Life" is the first authorized adaptation of an actual novel by the Kerouac estate, notes Daniels. "When I got the job here, I said, 'We need to do a Kerouac play.' Jim Sampas, the estate's executor, was game and suggested adapting the novella," said Daniels.


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UMass Lowell professor Todd Tietchen had edited the manuscript, which was found in a Columbia University dorm room, possibly Allen Ginsberg's. It has now been published in book form. "Kerouac never finished it but had written an outline for its completion. We fill in the pieces," said Daniels. "It is filled with his gorgeous prose and poetic language."

Set in Lowell in 1942, it involves college student Peter Martin, who argues politics with his racist father, dreams of adventures with his pals and romances his girl. It's a breezy, golden summer until World War II brings an alarming darkness. Peter witnesses the toll the war takes on everyone he loves as he desperately seeks his place in a changing America.

The play has been in development for a year, including several workshops. And now it's coming to fruition as its "rock star" cast rehearses it, said Daniels.

"It's one of the most exciting casts we've worked with, including several Broadway pros," he said. "It's a gift to Lowell -- a love letter. Kerouac loved Lowell."

No one can predict whether "The Haunted Life" will go further than MRT. But as with all things Kerouac, there's plenty of buzz surrounding it.

"We've got some Broadway producers coming to see it," said Daniels.

So, as they say, stay tuned.

Tickets range from $22-$66 at 978-654-4678 or www.mrt.org.

Nancye Tuttle's email address is nancyedt@verizon.net.

In the wings

BOSTON SCENE: Broadway in Boston announced its 2019-2020 Lexus Broadway season Monday at an event at the Citizens Bank Opera House. The lineup includes a number of new shows, including "The Band's Visit," "Anastasia" and "Mean Girls," plus the return of some favorites, including "Disney's The Lion King," "Cats," "Jersey Boys" and "Chicago." Shows will be performed at the Opera House and the Emerson Colonial Theatre. Here's the lineup: "Disney's The Lion King," Oct. 3-27, Opera House; "Come From Away," Nov. 5-17, Opera House; "Cats," Jan. 7-19, Opera House; "Mean Girls," Jan. 28-Feb. 9, Opera House; "Fiddler on the Roof," Feb. 25-March 8, Colonial; "Jersey Boys," March 18-22, Colonial; "The Band's Visit," March 24-April 5, Opera House; "Chicago," May 5-10, Colonial, May 5-10; "Anastasia," July 7-19, Opera House, and "Summer: The Donna Summer Musical," Aug. 4-16, Opera House. Subscription packages are on sale at 866-523-7469 or www.BroadwayInBoston.com. Public on-sale dates will be announced at later date.

ON THEIR TOES: The Russian National Ballet brings Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" to audiences next week with performances at Lexington's Cary Hall on Thursday, March 21, at 7:30 p.m., and at Worcester's Hanover Theatre on Friday, March 22, at 8 p.m. One of the world's best-loved, most famous ballets, it's a masterpiece of dance, music and drama. It weaves together a story of young love and wicked deception against a lush, passionate score. Tickets in Lexington are $69-$129 at www.caryhalllexington.com or call 800-657-8774. Tickets in Worcester are $41-$59 at www.thehanovertheatre.org or 877-571-7469.

MORE DANCE: Matchboxes, brooms, garbage cans, Zippo lighters and more fill the stage with energizing beats at "STOMP," playing the Lowell Memorial Auditorium, East Merrimack Street, on Wednesday-Thursday, April 10-11, at 7:30 p.m. The cutting-edge show is an inventive, invigorating blend of music, dance and theater. Tickets $29-$79 at www.lowellauditorium.com.