Sunday, October 03, 2010

RICHARD AND ROBERT SHERMAN MILESTONE




Fifteen years ago this very day, my dear friends the Sherman Brothers had a very disconcerting event happen. I was representing Bob's young songwriting son Robbie at my talent agency at the time. Boy, do I miss this young man-- Robbie Sherman proved that the apple does not fall far from the tree. He was simply brilliant! And a sweet guy too! Anyway, The Sherman Brothers, themselves were preparing at this time and on this day in 1995 for their newest Broadway style musical for its premiere in Tampa Bay, Florida. Tommy Tune was to be the star of the brothers newest collaboration called "Busker Alley" --a property that they had started to develop years before and were writing with the classic Disney writer A.J. Carothers at the time. AJ of couse wrote the script for "The Happiest Millionaire" way back in 1966. But now, we ultimate Sherman fans were all excited about this new show. But fate had other plans! Because on this day, just prior to the performance at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center lead star Tommy Tune broke his foot for the second time in two years and was left with no choice but to only sing and act his part in Busker Alley. Two other people tried dancing for him in this show, but that didn't work. Instead, the Broadway opening for November 16 is called off. The production was plagued with bad reviews from the start, and the $6 million debt left over from the broken foot and opening cancellation is not covered by Tune's insurance, which is only $3.5 million. Of course, the real culprits were good old Barry and Fran Weisler who simply lost faith in the entire show. But the show did have a history afterwards. In retrospect, Busker Alley starred Tune and featured Darcie Roberts, Brent Barrett and Marcia Lewis. Jeff Calhoun directed and choreographed, and sets were by Tony Walton. The producers had planned to bring the production to Broadway later the same year at the St. James Theatre. In the big heartbreak department, artist LeRoy Neiman created a 40-foot mural for Busker Alley on the façade of the theater, and the cast performed a number from the show at the 1995 Tony Awards ceremony. The production suffered numerous setbacks during the tour as well as two more name changes including Stage Door Charley (unilaterally chosen by the Producer's wife). The show finished its pre-Broadway tour, however, as Buskers. In 2003 AJ Carothers and the Sherman Brothers revised their book and song score, changing the name back to Busker Alley. In 2003, the Shermans revised their song score and it was produced (and soundtrack recorded, thank God) for a one night benefit performance starring Jim Dale and Glenn Close in 2006 on November 13, 2006 at the York Theatre Company presented a one-night-only big benefit concert performance of Busker Alley at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College. Jim Dale starred as "Charlie Baxter". Glenn Close appeared in a cameo at the end of the show as "Dame Libby St. Albans". Also in the cast were: Jessica Grové, Simon Jones, Noah Racey, John Bolton, Robert Fitch, Anne Rogers, Michael Lane Trautman and Cristy Candler. Tony Walton directed the production, with Lisa Shriver as choreographer. Aaron Gandy was the conductor, and Mark York the pianist. The CD of the performance was recorded on Jay Records. Busker Alley had been announced for a Broadway production for the 2008-09 season, with Tony Walton as director and designer and Jim Dale to star. In December 2008, the producers announced that the musical would be delayed. On August 25, 2009, the producers announced that they all were leaving the production, and, in a statement said (in part), "We will be returning all of the money to our investors and release all of our sponsors from their obligations." One of the lame reasons these investors gave was that Bob Sherman was gravely ill. Now I know Bob and he may have had his traditional bout with gout (which plagued him years before) but he was not gravely ill in August 2009 and he made a phone call to all in the loop and the press confirming this. But now it looks like another of their shows has a pretty good chance and me the ultimate Sherman fan is rooting for it. It's Called "The Merry Go Round" So now it appears that producer and former William Moriss talent agent Jack Stein has acquired the Broadway rights to the Sherman's "MerryGoRound," with a book by Paul Butler and Fred Fox, Jr. The musical was conceived and will be directed by Andy Belling. The legendary costume designer, Bob Mackie has been set to design the costumes for the production. The musical "MerryGoRound" takes place in the moment between life and death. It's the story of a young man who, believing his existence is meaningless, attempts to end his life. He is saved by his estranged father who persuades him to travel back in his memories via a magic lantern to discover the truth behind various events in his past, to convince him to change his mind and “stay on board” the merry-go-round of life. It's sort of a modern day "It's A Wonderful Life type story. The new musical contains state-of-the-art video screen projection with live performers interacting with 3-D CGI animation. Additionally the show features breathtaking illusions, never before seen on a Broadway stage, all designed by John Gaughan, who created the magic for David Copperfield and the Broadway musicals, “Beauty and the Beast” and “Merlin".A workshop was completed in Los Angeles, and plans are now to commence production early next year. Bob and Dick Sherman are the foremost lyricist-composer team in all of family entertainment, and these two amzing writers are no strangers to the Broadway theatre, having written “Over Here” (1974) and recently the hugely successful "Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang" in London and New York, and "Mary Poppins,” currently one of the hottest tickets on Broadway. The musical "MerryGoRound" will be their third consecutive musical to run on Broadway in the last five years. Richard was quoted as saying "Bob and I, we learned from the master - Walt Disney," "He once told us, early on in our career, 'Don't insult the kid - don't write down to the kid. And don't write just for the adult.' So we write for grandpa and the 4-year-old and everyone in between - and all see it on a different level." They are without doubt among Hollywood's most popular songwriters ever, responsible for the scores for such movie musicals as "Mary Poppins," "101 Dalmatians," "Winnie the Pooh," "The Jungle Book," "The Aristocats" and "Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang." They are also the authors of the most-played song on Earth, "It's a Small World (After All)," Librettist Fred Fox, Jr., was a producer and writer of the hit television series "Laverne & Shirley," "Happy Days" and "Family Matters”. He also won an International Emmy for his show, “My Secret Identity". I am really rooting for "The Boys" this trip. As I used to tell Robert "I have been your fan long before there was a movie called "Mary Poppins". I started noticing the Shermans because I was such a big fan of Annette Funicello. One day a tune came along called "Mister Piano Man" recorded by Annette that was a pure sensation for me. This was the Sherman tune that made me the ultimate Sherman fan and from that day forward, I purchased every single record that had a Sherman tune on it. So now as I have my own shows produced, the latest being "Edgar, Alan and Poe" in Los Angeles starting November 1st at the Actors Garden Theatre, on Wilton Avenue, I appreciate the lessons I learned from Richard and Robert Sherman. I cried during the documentary "The Boys" when it had its premiere at the El Capitan Theatre in June of last year. Their music and lyrics will always have a honored place in my heart. And Richard's devotion to the Disney legacy is absolutely mind blowing. He attends every Disney sponsored event and movie premiere to honor Walt and to me that is the ultimate tribute. Lots of people owe allegiance to Walt Disney, but none "pay it back' as it were like the Shermans. God bless you both! And lets get this musical opened and long running
No more broken bones or lame excuses.

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