Prod'n based on graffiti artist Haring's life

NEW YORK — With deep-pocketed friends like this, a show can get to Broadway.

DreamWorks is helping to bankroll the Public Theater’s production of the new musical “Radiant Baby.”

Based on the life of graffiti artist Keith Haring, the disco-accented bio tuner is now in rehearsals at the Public under the direction of the company’s producer George C. Wolfe. “Radiant Baby” begins previews Friday, with its world preem set for late February.

Wolfe’s work has a way of getting from downtown to Broadway. Last season, his Public stagings of Suzan Lori-Park’s “Topdog/Underdog” and the one-woman show “Elaine Stritch at Liberty” both made the commercial transfer to the big time. Lead commercial producers on those two shows were, respectively, Carole Shorenstein Hays and John Schreiber.

As for “Radiant Baby,” its connection to DreamWorks came about the old-fashioned way.

“David Geffen is a friend of a friend of a friend,” said Debra Barsha, the composer and co-lyricist of the bio tuner. “He was told about ‘Radiant Baby,’ so George Wolfe sent him a CD and he got very excited about the project.”

Co-lyricists on the project are Ira Gasman and Stuart Ross, who also wrote the book of “Radiant Baby.” The title refers to one of Haring’s most famous illustrations.

In the 1980s, Geffen joined the producer team on several Broadway shows, including “Cats” and “M. Butterfly.” In addition, his Geffen Records was a producer of “Dreamgirls.”

Public spokeswoman Carole Fineman said DreamWorks’ enhancement money for the new Haring musical “gives them the option to be the producer on a commercial production” of the musical.

If “Radiant Baby” proves to be transfer-worthy, it would seem to be Broadway or bust. The show’s 21-person ensemble makes it commercially unviable for Off Broadway, where few shows can sustain a cast half that size.

Next month, the Public’s production of “Take Me Out” opens on Broadway. Richard Greenberg’s play focuses on a homosexual baseball player who comes out of the closet at a press conference.

As a follow-up, “Radiant Baby” would certainly be the gayest musical ever to grace the Great White Way. Much of the show is set in Manhattan’s gay discos of the early 1980s.

Newcomer Daniel Reichard, a Haring lookalike, plays the graffiti artist who died in 1990, at age 31, from AIDS.

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