SALEM — Jim Kilroy decided on the topic of his new musical “Storyville” after its locale, New Orleans, was hit by Hurricane Katrina.
He started to hear certain sentiments, people saying things like, “Good, they might not rebuild the (mostly black) 6th Ward.” And, “Maybe now we can get a white mayor.”
His story — and he’s taken on the extraordinary task of writing the music, lyrics and book — is set in a far-off New Orleans, the Big Easy at the turn of the last century, a place where beauty and romance mix easily with race and racism. Kilroy examines the impact of even trivial differences in skin color.
It’s a story that sings well enough to have attracted Tony Award winner (for “Book of Mormon”) Larry Hochman to do the orchestration.
“Storyville is a beautiful and gripping work of theater,” Hochman says in a blurb. “I was attracted to the score immediately. ... I became totally intrigued. It has genuine heart and soul.”
What makes his work even more remarkable is the fact Kilroy doesn’t live and has never lived in New Orleans. In fact, he was born in Cambridge and has spent nearly four decades here on the North Shore, where he runs the Piano Warehouse in Danvers. What’s more, for a period he had a quintessentially New England job — playing for the Celtics, Bruins and Red Sox as a replacement for organist John Kiley from 1988 to 1994.
But he does have a heartfelt link to New Orleans — music. He’s been a regular at Mardi Gras, often as a jazz drummer.
Currently, Kilroy is trying to find producers willing to put up the money, as much as $25 million, required to mount his musical, possibly for off-Broadway. In addition to all the work he’s done in creating “Storyville,” he’s spent $20,000 of his own money trying to attract backers. Among other things, the funds went for Hochman’s orchestrations and to get three songs recorded and made available to potential investors.