Breaking Up Is Easy To Do

NAME: John Scher

DESCRIPTION: Co-producer with Blake Edwards of “Victor/Victoria” on Broadway.

WHAT THE’RE SAYING: After splitting with Polygram’s Alain Levy, Seher will be escorting Julie Andrews back to the Great White Way.

In October 1990, Polygram bought a 40% stake in John Scher and Jim Koplik’s Metropolitan Theatrical Entertainment, at the time a 20-year-old rock promotion and tour management firm most notable for its connections with the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band. As part of the deal, Scher was tapped president of the freshly minted Polygram Diversified Entertainment. He had two goals: to expand Metropolitan into the very lucrative amphitheater markets dominated by Houston-based Pace, and to get involved in producing big-scale Broadway musicals.

Four years later, with at least half of those goals accomplished and his little division “way ahead of the learning curve,” Scher says, he and Polygram head Alain Levy came to a friendly parting of the ways. The breakup nearly left an $8.5 million musical wreckage in its wake. Instead, Scher will return to Broadway in the fall as co-producer of the long-awaited, oft-postponed “Victor/Victoria,” a musical adaptation of the 1982 Blake Edwards movie that will mark Julie Andrews’ return to the Street after more than 30 years.

And these days, back in his Montclair, N.J., office facing the Gotham skyline, Scher has no regrets about his brief encounter with a global body.

“What happened to me was that four years into it, while I was real proud of the accomplishments of Polygram Diversified, I just couldn’t interest senior management into expanding Metropolitan. The legal obligations were kept, but the promise went unfulfilled. It was clear to me that I had to make a move. Alain simply didn’t share my vision.”

Under Scher, PDE never broke into the amphitheater business. But it did get involved as producer or investor in three Broadway shows: the ground-breaking, risky “Jelly’s Last Jam,” the revival of “Damn Yankees” that is about to give Jerry Lewis his Broadway debut, and the $8.5 million “Victor/Victoria,” slated to begin a tryout tour in St. Paul in May before opening Oct. 18 at Broadway’s Marquis.

Despite the break-up – which involved the dissolution of the Polygram Diversified Entertainment banner – Polygram has retained both its minority ownership of Metropolitan and its $1.5 million stake in “Victor/Victoria,” which recently began a massive advertising blitz featuring pictures of Andrews snapped by Francesco Scavullo. And Scher emerged as a general partner on the show with Edwards and his longtime partner Tony Adams. The musical features music by the late Henry Mancini, lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and a book by Edwards.

Indeed, whatever its shortcomings, Polygram Diversified gave Scher a high profile. Laurels for PDE productions included a Grammy last year for “Zappa’s Universe,” and plenty of Tony nominations for “Jelly” and “Damn Yankees.” The most ambitious venture, of course, was last summer’s Woodstock II, with Polygram one of the major backers of the event. “Victor/Victoria” already has advance sales approaching $8 million, and Scher believes the sky’s the limit.

“I think there’s an enormous opportunity on Broadway and the road,” he says. “In Toronto, in Chicago, in Los Angeles, there are more properties out there waiting to be developed than you can imagine.”

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