NEW YORK — Having made his debut as a Broadway producer last fall with “Hedda Gabler,” Bob Boyett has no fewer than seven shows opening on the Great White Way in the next two months. Granted, he is not lead producer on any of them. But wait until next season.
“I came back to really get into the Broadway scene and make it a learning opportunity for myself,” says the former ABC exec who became a top supplier of sitcoms to the network, including “Laverne & Shirley,” “Bosom Buddies” and “Step by Step.”
Although Boyett’s legit entry appears to be as intense as it is abrupt, he says the jump wasn’t made overnight. “Two and a half years ago, I started reading material and meeting people,” he recalls. “Some of the projects I’d been working on shifted or got delayed because of 9/11. It’s an odd coming together, actually.”
As for his recent theater binge, Boyett calls it his “burning desire” ever since he arrived in New York years ago to become a playwright. Instead, he ended up writing and directing TV commercials, as he puts it, “by default.”
Not that Boyett has abandoned the tube.
There’s a possible fall pilot as well as an ABC special, but they will have to be produced out of Gotham so he can keep his producer’s eye on “Dance of the Vampires” (November at the Minskoff) and a new children’s musical, “A Year With Frog and Toad” (January at the New Victory.)
He also promises at least two other legit projects for next season: “Developed from the scratch up, but I just can’t talk about them now.”
In addition to “Hedda Gabler,” Boyett’s 2001-02 producer credits include “The Crucible,” “The Elephant Man,” “Fortune’s Fool,” “The Goat,” “One Mo’ Time,” “Sweet Smell of Success,” “Topdog/Underdog” and the Off Broadway production of “Necessary Targets.” He also is consulting producer at New York Stage & Film.
After they’ve seen Broadway…
Mary Zimmerman, whose “Metamorphoses” opens on Broadway this week, is next readying an opera with Philip Glass, “Galileo, Galilei,” for a June world premiere at the Goodman Theater. An engagement at the Brooklyn Academy of Music will follow.
Zimmerman says she hasn’t checked out the Brecht play. “Not because I’m lazy. I’m afraid,” she says.
One major point of change: Glass and Zimmerman chronicle the Italian astronomer’s life in reverse, ending with baby Galileo watching an opera written by his father, Vicenzo.
In the fall, the director makes her European debut with Glass’ “Akhnaten” at Strasbourg. She is much less certain about her overseas debut as a scribe with the well-traveled “Metamorphoses.”
“Every stop has seemed like our last stop,” she says of the play’s many U.S. engagements, “but I’m pretty sure this company won’t want to continue after Broadway. And I don’t have a fondness to set my work on other actors.”
Second Stage and now the Broadway producers of “Metamorphoses” have incurred the sizable expense of lodging nine of the 10 actors in Gotham, some of whom have been with the show from its 1998 debut at Chicago’s Lookingglass Theater.
It’s more than just loyalty on Zimmerman’s part. “There’s no money in the theater, so you have to rely on each other. If I fire you today because I’m doing Broadway, how can I get you to come back for $200 a week on my next project?”
Walk on Wildhorn side
Frank Wildhorn and friends kicked off Riot Entertainment’s new Monday-night “Dark Night” concert series last week at Studio 54, with a repeat perf March 4.
In addition to familiar Wildhorn songs, tunes were heard from the Broadway-bound “Dracula” and his latest project, “Camille Claudel,” which the composer says is wife Linda Eder’s next show.
As for the new tuner’s due date, he tells Variety, “I’d say spring 2003, but you know how that goes.” The musical recently had a reading in Gotham, with “Dracula” getting a workshop last month under the auspices of the Dodgers and Clear Channel …
George C. Wolfe, Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori are in rehearsals for, respectively, “Topdog/Underdog” (Wolfe is directing), “Helen” (Kushner is directing) and “Thoroughly Modern Millie” (Tesori writes the music).
But as soon as those wildly dissimilar projects open, the three team up on the new musical “Caroline or Change,” about a Jewish boy and his black maid at around the time of the JFK assassination. Femme lead is Tonya Pinkins, a 1992 Tony winner for “Jelly’s Last Jam.” Tuner will feature score by Tesori and Kushner’s book, said to be autobiographical. Under Wolfe’s direction, the first act has already been performed in a reading at the Public.