GOOD MORNING: Wouldn’t this make a great showbiz story: It’s opening night on Broadway for the premiere of the Disney-financed $34 million facelift of the New Amsterdam Theater and the musical making its debut is –“When You Wish — The Story of Walt Disney”! I was on hand at the bottom rung of this ladder of hoped-for showbiz history Monday night at the modest Odyssey Theatre Ensemble on Sepulveda Boulevard in West L.A., where Pierre Cossette Prods. presented a first-time workshop read-through. The music, lyrics and book are by Dean McClure and it was directed by Greg Lee. Cossette made the enthusiastic introductions to an audience of interested showbiz friends. He’s had two meetings at Disney Studios with Roy Disney and Diane Disney (Mrs. Ron ) Miller, who read the book, which covers the drama from Walt’s beginnings, early Hollywood success and failures, family fights, romance. If the Disney family loves the show, it is, of course, hoped to incorporate actual Disney movie footage in the bio-musical. The potential is enormous, Cossette says, as a show for all ages — and to play for ages. Among those performing the initial reading/singing were Robert Patteri as Walt, Steven Memel as Roy, Therese Walden as Lillian Disney — all with excellent voices. And among those in the audience were Barbara and J.J. McMahon (she brought this show to Pierre’s attention originally). The McMahons and Cossettes are off to France to guest at the Bill Habers’ Loire Valley chateau. Cossette then heads to London, where he plans to debut his musicalized “Scarlet Pimpernel,” with music by Frank Wildhorn and book by Nan Nighton. It will break in in Houston and tour a year pre-Broadway as well. Also being readied by Cossette is a workshop in Nashville of the Broadway-bound musical “Hank Williams”; a musicalized “Swing Sisters” from Barbara Shottenfeld’s book is also in the works by Cossette’s legit arm. His “Will Rogers Follies,” which won seven Tonys plus other legit awards, has grossed $ 100 million-plus to date, with non-Equity companies still performing around the country. Lucky Pierre, whose showbiz career ranges mainly from music to TV, now admits of the theater, “I’m in love with this part of the bizness.”
“ABC WILL VERY CAREFULLY VIEW” the upcoming MTV special “Michael Jackson Changes HIStory,” before its airing this Friday, Ted Harbert, the web’s entertainment president, tells me. And he also says it will probably be shown “still wet” as last-minute work is being done. Let’s hope the aired special doesn’t alter the actual history of “They Don’t Care About Us.” While Harbert was quick to return my phone call and to respond candidly, Epic Records and the Jackson camp continue to evade my queries of the disposition of the original record now on the stalls … The sked of “Barb Wire” has been changed to Wednesday-Sunday to accommodate Pamela Anderson, who is paged back to work on “Baywatch.” Her bigscreen work was altered because of illness during the pregnancy, then the miscarriage … Brad Wyman, producer of Polygram’s “Barb Wire,” will have four features out this year –“and I work in a single office, one desk, one phone,” he reminds. The other pics are Kushner/Locke’s “Freeway” to star Kiefer Sutherland and Reese Witherspoon starting next week, Live Entertainment’s “Tree’s Lounge” starting Aug. 15, and the indie-financed “Red Ribbon Blues” already completed by director Charles Winkler … Victoria Rowell now co-starring in “Barb Wire,” is expecting a baby in early ’96. The father-to-be is classical/jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. Rowell also has two films completed, “The Last Set” and “Dr. Hugo.” And she’ll also return to work in CBS’ “Diagnosis Murder” and the CBSoap “The Young & the Restless”– which she certainly must be.
VANNA’S REAL WHEEL OF FORTUNE: This weekend, Vanna White’s off to the Home Shopping Network in Florida to introduce her new fragrance, Vanna’s Perfection, plus body lotion and lipstick. Her first fragrance sold 30,000 bottles in one weekend. And her Vanna’s Perfect Smile tooth whitener has sold $ 40 million in products to date …”It’s easier to work with a script — again,” says director-writer Linda Yellen after two improv pics. She’s just back from 122 -degree weather working in Toronto on Showtime’s “The End of Summer” starring Jacqueline Bisset, Peter Weller, Amy Locane and Julian Sands. It’s a turn-of-the century story co-written by Yellen and Jonathan Platnick. Yellen says it’s a tour de force for Bisset in the genre of Olivia de Havilland’s “The Heiress” and Katharine Hepburn’s “The African Queen.””And she gives the performance of a lifetime. Peter Weller’s in the classic leading-man tradition of Gable — and does most of his own stunts like Mel Gibson”… Beth Fowler sheds the porcelain persona of “Mrs. Potts,” which she plays nightly at the Shubert in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” to re-live some of her other memorable B’way roles at the Gardenia Aug. 7.