By Lanford Beard
Updated July 20, 2011 at 04:42 PM EDT
A Clockwork Orange: Everett Collection

Certainly when people think of Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 classic A Clockwork Orange, at least one song pops into mind. But will the ultra-violent classic sustain an entire evening’s worth of show tunes? Original novelist Anthony Burgess, who passed away in 1993, believed so, reports the BBC. Five decades after Burgess wrote the chilling novel, the behind-the-scenes story of its life as a stage production has proved no less twisted than the source material itself. But how do Bono, The Edge, and West Side Story come into play?

Yep, you heard right: West Side Story. Burgess personally adapted his dystopian novel for a stage musical in the 1980s after Kubrick’s controversial cinematic riff, and he never gave up hope, even after a 1990 attempt by U2’s Bono and The Edge left audience members just as nauseated as Alex himself.

That’s where the landmark 1958 musical update of Romeo & Juliet shows up. According to Dr. Andrew Biswell, director of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Burgess’ version of the Clockwork song-and-dancer is “pretty close to West Side Story — that’s one of the obvious influences on it.” Unlike Kubrick’s interpretation of the story, Biswell says parts of Burgess’ new work are “very throwaway and jolly,” especially a prison scene in which one of the prisoners is kicked to death. Sure sounds like a recipe for hilarity to me.

Graduates of the Royal Northern College of Music at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation will debut the new music next year in Burgess’ hometown of Manchester during a series of events celebrating A Clockwork Orange‘s 50th anniversary.

And just in case you thought this story couldn’t get any weirder, it turns out that this isn’t the only musical adaptation of the novel to hit the boards in the coming months. An entirely separate Clockwork musical, with a new score, redone script, and an all-black cast will premiere at London’s Theatre Royal Stratford East in September.

So, Kubrick fans, do you think this stage version will finally succeed where others have failed? Are Alex and his Droogs the new Jets? And what rhymes with “orange” anyway?

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