BOSTON - The bar where everybody knows your name is coming to the stage.
"Cheers Live on Stage" is a comedy based on some of the most memorable moments of the celebrated TV show's first season. It will feature retired Red Sox pitcher and shameless lothario Sam Malone, pretentious waitress Diane Chambers, rotund barfly Norm Peterson, and the rest of the regulars when it debuts in September in Boston.
Even though it's based on the TV show set in a Boston bar, loyal fans should see plenty of new material in the stage version, and may even get a chance to be a part of the performance. A national tour is planned.
Erik Forrest Jackson, the writer who adapted the show for the theatre, binge-watched all 22 episodes of the first season nine times and pored over the original scripts before he started writing.
"I took season one of 'Cheers' and put it all into a big pot and cooked it up and boiled it down," he said. "The main through-line is the relationship between Sam and Diane but done in a way so it feels fresh."
Fans will get their fill of all of their favourite "Cheers" characters, but because the two-hour show is based solely on the first season, there will be no Woody, no Frasier and no Rebecca.
"It will ring bells and feel familiar when Carla talks about her crazy offspring, and Norm moans about not being able to get a job, and Cliff drops another one of his little known 'facts,'" Jackson said.
The television series ran for 11 seasons from 1982 until 1993, winning 28 Emmys and six Golden Globes, and is found on just about every list of the top television programs in U.S. history.
That legacy made adapting it for the stage easy, said Jackson, who has worked on similar projects.
The quality of the original is also what made the live reboot attractive to Randy Buck, the chief executive officer of Troika Entertainment, which is producing the show along with Stageworks Media.
Troika more traditionally brings Broadway musicals on the road, but barely hesitated when given the chance to get involved in the "Cheers" project.
"Everyone just loves this show," said Buck, who hopes to attract "Cheers" fans who might not otherwise be motivated to go to the theatre.
The show will have a cast of 14 actors — although no original cast members are involved — but to lend a little authenticity to a typical neighbourhood bar, director Matt Lenz is planning what he says is an unusual casting call.
Every night, he will bring about 10 or so pre-selected members of the audience to be on stage with the cast as bar patrons. They'll be dressed in 1980s fashions and given directions, perhaps walking onstage to sit at a table, order a drink, then head upstairs to Melville's, the restaurant above the bar.
The stage set will appear almost identical to the TV show, and producers plan to use the original theme music.
"This is almost like a sacred text," Jackson said. "I can infuse it with new life and energy, but I have to be respectful of the original."