J.J. Abrams on 'the Incredible Fun' of Bringing 'The Play That Goes Wrong' to Broadway and Beyond (Exclusive)

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In 2009, filmmaker J.J. Abrams made Star Trek a bankable film franchise agian with a new installment -- the 11th overall -- starring Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. The film went on to make over $385 million worldwide and spawned two sequels. 

“When they asked me if I would get involved in Star Trek, my first thought was, When will I ever get a chance to do anything like this?” Abrams recalls to ET ten years later. “It just feels like a once in a lifetime opportunity and to get to work with that cast was so amazing, the crew was just extraordinary [and] I can't believe it's been ten years.” 

A modern master of sci-fi, having co-created Lost for ABC and helmed reboots of the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises, Abrams is not the first person you think of when it comes to being a self-dubbed “theater geek.” But admittedly, the filmmaker has a longtime love of the stage, saving Playbills for all the Broadway productions he attended growing up.

And now, at 53 years old, Abrams can add producer of the Tony Award-winning play, The Play That Goes Wrong, to his long list of credits. (Read more about his Broadway debut.)

Opening on Broadway in 2017, the rambunctious comedy tells the story of an amateur theater company trying to put on a 1920s murder mystery while struggling to make it through to their final curtain call. After a successful run, the show moved Off-Broadway to New World Stages in 2019.

“Literally everything that can go wrong does and it is a preposterously funny,” Abrams tells ET’s Ashley Crossan during a visit to the Ahmanson Theatre in June, before recalling the first time he saw the production in London, where the show originated. “When I saw it, the feeling I had was, I don’t understand how this was made, because it didn’t feel like it was a play that was just being put on. It felt like this concoction that somehow was created.”

Of course, Abrams has since learned how it’s all pulled off. “When you watch backstage, it’s a remarkable thing,” he says. “It’s a dance, like, to see how intricately choreographed the thing is. But it’s brilliantly done.”

Surprisingly, it was during the filming of Stars Wars: The Force Awakens that led Abrams to The Play That Goes Wrong in the first place. Needing a day off, he bought a ticket to the production. “I just don’t remember laughing that hard in a theater,” he says. An instant fan, he met with the producers of the show and told them that he’d love to help bring it to Broadway and beyond, which now includes a touring company that is set to perform in Los Angeles at the Ahmanson Theatre from July 9 to Aug. 11.

Having recently finished principal photography on the final installment of the newest Star Wars trilogy, The Rise of Skywalker, in February of this year, Abrams is once again able to lend his support to the theater production. “It's been incredible fun,” he says. “The cast of this thing -- they are remarkable and I just can't wait for [fans] to see it.” 

 

--Additional reporting by Ashley Crossan

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