NEW YORK — Showbiz watchers wondering what the next step would be for Edgar Bronfman Jr., who recently resigned as vice chairman of Vivendi Universal, now have an answer.
Last week, producer Jay Harris announced the Seagram heir would join the producing team of the musical “Never Gonna Dance,” skedded to open next season on Broadway.
Before legit types could start salivating over the prospect of a deep-pocketed producer entering the scene, Bronfman indicated that his 2002-03 foray may be a one-shot deal.
“I don’t think I’m going to be a producer full-time,” Bronfman says. “But ‘Never Gonna Dance’ is a show I believe in, and I look forward to getting back into live theater.”
In 1977, the then-21-year-old Bronfman produced Paul Zindel’s short-lived play “Ladies of the Alamo,” which closed at the Martin Beck Theater after 20 perfs, as well as Terrence McNally’s “Broadway, Broadway,” which shuttered in Philadelphia on its way to Gotham. (McNally later successfully reworked the show as “It’s Only a Play” at the Manhattan Theater Club in 1982.)
“I wouldn’t be returning now if not for Jay Harris and James Walsh,” he says of the two men who were, respectively, his lawyer and general manager on the Zindel and McNally projects.
There are even more recent legit connections, Bronfman is quick to point out.
“Don’t forget that ‘Mamma Mia!’ occurred during my watch at Universal,” he says of the company’s participation in the mega-tuner.
“Never Gonna Dance” also marks Walsh’s return to legit, his last Broadway season being 1991-92 when he co-produced “Conversations With My Father” as well as “A Streetcar Named Desire” with Jessica Lange and Alec Baldwin.
“I was tired, and it seemed like I hadn’t had a break in 32 years. So now I’m back,” Walsh says of his 10-year absence from the scene. “It’s strange, however. Nothing has changed.”
Up from Down Under
Catherine Martin nabbed double Oscar noms for “Moulin Rouge!” in costume and set design and has already nabbed the production design trophy from the Art Directors Guild. For the past month, however, she’s been rummaging through the deserted Broadway Theater, where Baz Luhrmann’s “La Boheme” opens in December. Martin, also Luhrmann’s wife, plans to remove 100 seats or so for the production (the theater, one of Broadway’s biggest, currently seats a hefty 1,752).
“We are trying to work a passerelle, a walkway that extends into the audience and goes around the orchestra and takes out the first two rows,” she says.
Martin worked on Luhrmann’s “La Boheme” at the Sydney Opera in 1990, which was staged for a mere $18,000 (in U.S. dollars). She puts the cost of their 2002 version between $5 million and $6 million.
“The theater is by nature low-tech,” she says. “So this ‘Boheme’ will be low-tech but with a high concept.”
The low-tech part: The sets are actor-manipulated. As for the high concept: “The lovers, the bohemians, wear the only real color,” Martin reveals. Everything else on stage will be evocative of Robert Doisneau’s black-and-white period photos.
“La Boheme” plays San Francisco’s Curran Theater this summer before making its way eastward.
Gleason takes the reins
Joanna Gleason makes her Gotham directorial debut on Christopher Gorman’s “A Letter From Ethel Kennedy,” opening May 8 at MCC.
Once a fixture of the New York stage, the Tony-winning actress (“Into the Woods”) left Broadway in 1992 after the debacle of “Nick and Nora”: “that dark mushroom cloud over the city,” as she puts it with tongue in cheek.
Thesp got her first shot at directing when writer-producer Diane English suggested she helm an episode of the CBS series “Love & War,” in which Gleason played a neurotic waitress. Around that time, Gorman, head of casting at CBS, walked into Gleason’s acting class in L.A. and the two soon started workshopping his play about a gay man whose parents get to know his lover in a series of meetings at a Joe Allen-style restaurant.
Unfortunately, the scribe died last April from complications with AIDS.
The Gorman preem coincides with the revival of “Into the Woods” on Broadway. “I look forward to going to a preview,” Gleason says of the Stephen Sondheim show that won her a Tony 14 years ago. “But not the opening night. I like to lie low at other people’s celebrations.”