The new musical was conceived by bestselling author Jodi Picoult and playwright Timothy Allen McDonald.

By Maureen Lee Lenker
May 13, 2021 at 09:00 AM EDT
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The COVID-19 pandemic has touched all of our lives in innumerable ways, and the first musical about the experience is officially here.

Breathe, a new musical conceived by bestselling novelist Jodi Picoult (in her theatrical debut) and playwright Timothy Allen McDonald, chronicles the virus's impact on five relationships. Told through a series of interlocking suites titled after symptoms of COVID-19, each set has a different songwriting team and director.

Picoult and McDonald envisioned the show as the COVID-19 equivalent of a Rent or The Normal Heart, speaking truth about the health crisis as it unfolds.

In this exclusive track from the suite titled "Swelling and Irritation," real-life Broadway couple Patti Murin and Colin Donnell star as a working couple struggling to homeschool their children. The song "The Lucky Ones" grants them a moment of grace as they watch their sleeping children, studying the rise and fall of their breath, and realize their own fortune in their healthy, happy family.

Murin and Donnell were married in 2015 and just welcomed their first child last year.

Colin Donnell and Patti Murin
Colin Donnell and Patti Murin
| Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Doug Besterman and Sharon Vaughn wrote the "Swelling and Irritation" music and lyrics respectively, while Lorin Latarro directed this suite.

"The pandemic, we have come to believe, with all its terrors, loss and grief, has been one of the greatest opportunities for discovery ... certainly, in our lifetimes," Besterman and Vaughn tell EW. "We never quite realize how dysfunctional, riotous and awkward and precious our lives are until something like this disassembles us and we have to figure out a way to put ourselves and our relationships back together. And unlike putting together a grill or a vacuum cleaner, there is no manual. The revelation in our piece comes when our couple realizes how they had truly underrated the richness of their family ... and each other. That they are in fact... the lucky ones."

Breathe, which makes its world premiere exclusively on Overture+ on May 14 at 8 p.m. ET, features 23 original songs. Other composers include Ever After songwriting duo Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich, The Lightning Thief's Rob Rokicki and Not Quite Extinct's Rebecca Murillo, Five Points' Douglas Lyons and Ethan Pakchar, and Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical's Daniel Mertzlufft and Kate Leonard.

The musical, which also features the talents of Kelli O'Hara, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Denée Benton, and more, was filmed in March 2021 under the supervising direction of Jeff Calhoun. It was filmed without an audience at 92 Street Y's Kaufmann Concert Hall, and for much of the cast and crew, it marked their first return to the stage and in-person performances since the March 2020 Broadway shutdown.

The original cast recording will also be released on May 14, via Broadway Records.

"The arts have always helped people make sense of seismic shifts in the world," said Picoult in a statement. "When the pandemic began, Tim and I wanted to memorialize how we shared the same anxiety and fear and frustration, even though we were all separated from each other. What's theatre, after all, but a person isolated in their own seat, having the same feelings as the person beside them, because of what's happening on stage?"

Breathe tackles the numerous realities of the last year, from the challenges of parenting in quarantine to generational divides on Black Lives Matter to the need to mourn over Zoom and more.

Watch the clip above for more or visit the show's website.

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