The NASCAR themed production of the pop rock musical Helldrivers of Daytona, which opened last Monday, was cancelled Friday. The stage show at the Royal George Theatre in Chicago canceled the remainder of its run after theater critics panned the musical.
Previews began September 8 for an anticipated run through October 30.
A statement from the producers reads, “We all believed in Helldrivers of Daytona and more importantly believe in creating new works for the American Musical stage. We are disappointed by the critical response, but we knew that it was a risky endeavor. Still, many of the people who saw it were thoroughly entertained and delighted by the work of our fantastic cast and musicians. We have decided to close the production and we will evaluate how we might make changes for future productions of the musical. We want to thank our talented team of designers, our director and co-choreographer, our music director, our cast and crew, and of course our creative team who have all worked so diligently to get Helldrivers to the starting (and alas, finishing) line.”
In Helldrivers of Daytona, according to press notes, “tensions flare as drivers compete for the top slot in the 1965 Daytona Speedway Jackpot 500. Amidst a sea of tanned surfers, speedway groupies, motorheads and bikini babes, Lucky Stubbs (James Nedrud) must find a way to win his dream girl, Pepper Johnson (Samantha Pauly), from rival driver Count Porcini Portobello (Jeff nominee David Sajewich), a dangerously enticing European hotshot. The race for love and glory is on in this spoof of 1960s Elvis-style rock movies, a ride that’s fast, furious and funny.”
The show was meant to be a spoof of 1960s Elvis-style rock movies. Elvis did make a NASCAR themed movie in 1968 featuring shots of Richard Petty, Buddy Baker, Cale Yarborough and Tiny Lund.
The production has been in development since early 2015 when the production team developed the show in residence at the Department of Theatre and Dance as part of the Texas Musical Theatre Workshop. The show as had staging’s and workshops in Texas, Wyoming, Illinois and California. The Chicago debut was being billed as a “pre-Broadway tryout.”