Noises Off: Movie maniacs

Weavering gushes about 'performance-oriented' movie

NEW YORK — “Flashdance” has been packaged as a legit vehicle by the touring division of WMA, which expects to have the show up and running for the 2002-03 season.

“The film is so performance-oriented,” says Susan Weaving, vice president of WMA’s touring division. “With ‘Flashdance,’ you’re not adapting a soundtrack to characters, which is always the challenge with movie-to-stage adaptations. The film is about live performance.”

In the 1983 film, Jennifer Beals played a blue-collar worker who moonlights as an exotic dancer but harbors ambitions of being a ballet dancer.

Considering the current vogue of stage musicals based on movies, it’s surprising that “Flashdance” has taken nearly 20 years to make the transition to legit.

“It was hard to follow the trail of rights,” Weaving says of the Paramount Pictures release, which spawned a Universal/Polygram soundtrack that sold 700,000 copies in its first two weeks. Two years ago, the VP discovered that Thomas Hedley Jr., who wrote the original story for “Flashdance,” was repped by Joni Evans in the agency’s lit division. “Once I found him, I found out the story on the rights.”

Giorgio Moroder, who composed the original score for “Flashdance,” is currently working with lyricist/book writer Michael Kunze on penning at least 10 new songs for the musical. Moroder says his “Flashdance, What a Feeling” would be used for the stage version, as well as Michael Sembello’s “Maniac,” the film’s other hit single. It marks the composer’s first foray into legit.

Kunze has been involved as book writer and lyricist on several European stage musicals, including the long-running “Elizabeth” and “Dance of the Vampires.”

Hedley shared screenplay credit with Joe Eszterhas on the movie “Flashdance.” Moroder explains, “This show will be based on Hedley’s original story, and he holds those rights.”

WMA also packaged the long-touring “Fame — the Musical” and “Barry Manilow’s Copacabana,” neither of which has played Gotham. The agency may take a different approach with “Flashdance,” and Weaving says Broadway remains a definite option.

Both she and Moroder mention a possible sit-down engagement for the show in Las Vegas.

‘Jailhouse rock’-ing

In yet another movie-to-stage segue, the red-hot screenwriting team of Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais is at work on a legit retelling of the 1957 Elvis Presley classic “Jailhouse Rock,” about a man who goes to jail on trumped-up charges of manslaughter and becomes a rock ‘n’ roll star in the process.

The duo penned “Stir Crazy” and the Irish rocker movie “The Commitments,” as well as the Jerry Bruckheimer/Michael Bay production “Pearl Harbor,” set for a May release.

Clement and La Frenais’ legit version of “Jailhouse Rock” will use the film’s famed Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller score, plus some new songs written especially for the stage. Rene Sheridan, lead producer on the project, expects the show to workshop this September in Los Angeles, with plans for a national tour to follow. Sheridan has teamed with Michael Coleman and Conwell Worthington, who were general managers on “The King and I” tour with Yul Brynner and Rudolf Nureyev, and Disney’s first national tour of “Beauty and the Beast.”

‘Mask’

Pop composers Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil are also going legit. Their score was featured March 23 in the first reading of their first tuner, “Mask,” based on the 1985 Cher/Eric Stoltz starrer about a boy with a massive facial deformity.

The husband-wife duo wrote such pop classics as “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and “Walking in the Rain,” as well as songs for the film “An American Tail,” with Weil providing lyrics for several tunes in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Record producer Phil Galdston and David Passick, Herbie Hancock’s manager, joined with legit producer Edgar Dobie (“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”) to produce the reading, which featured Robin Skye, Gavin Creel and Terrence Mann.

Katey Sagal of “Married … With Children” had been mentioned to reprise Cher’s mom role. “She is interested,” says Dobie. “But she had a conflict with one of the networks, and it didn’t work out for her to be here.”

The musical’s book is by Anna Hamilton Phelan, who wrote the screenplay.

Legit bits

Martin Markinson and David Richenthal both say it “sounds like a very good idea” — referring to current talk that the latter will take a two-year lease on the former’s theater, the Helen Hayes. Markinson says nothing will be decided with regard to the Helen Hayes until upcoming tenant “Gershwin Alone” is up and running.

* * *

Hal Luftig says “Thoroughly Modern Millie” will not have another out-of-town engagement prior to coming to Broadway in November. The tuner played La Jolla Playhouse in the fall, and a stop at St. Paul’s Ordway Center was discussed. “But financially we couldn’t do it for less than a million and a half,” he says of another pre-Broadway stop for the $9 million musical. Rehearsals begin late August with the first preview set for Oct. 15.

* * *

The NAACP may have booked a night at the world preem engagement of John Henry Redwood’s “No Niggers, No Jews, No Dogs” at the Philadelphia Theater Co., but here in New York, the production of Redwood’s play at Primary Stages has the Times and the News printing asterisks in place of the n-word. “It is a brash title for such a heartwarming play,” says Primary Stages’ Casey Childs. The play opens April 2.

* * *

“Everyone who gushes about how much they like ‘A Class Act,’ we ask if they’d gush on TV,” says producer Marty Bell, who recalled David Brown telling him that an on-camera rave from Liz Smith saved “A Few Good Men” on Broadway in 1989. Celeb testimonials aren’t commonplace in legit TV ads, but they will be in the following weeks as the “Class Act” producers rotate television spots featuring Brown, Donna McKechnie, Patti Lupone, Joan Rivers, Leonard Nimoy and John McDaniel of “The Rosie O’Donnell Show.” “And anyone else who tells us they love it,” says Bell, who expects the show to be at the weekly breakeven level in a fortnight.

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