Avenue U

NEW YORK — Marc Platt, the movie exec who segued to Broadway with “Wicked,” is now going in the other direction, taking Broadway to Hollywood.

Universal Pictures has bought a screenplay pitch from Platt’s company for a new film musical by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx of “Avenue Q” fame.

Platt’s company has a first-look deal with U. He and partner Adam Siegel came up with the idea for a “star-driven, high-concept musical comedy,” which they presented to Lopez and Marx. Although Lopez and Marx are working on a series for VH1, the Platt project will be the team’s first screenplay.

“This is a case of the studio looking to Broadway community and bringing those creatives into the movie business,” Platt says.

No one involved with the new U tuner is talking plot just yet. Too high-concept.


Lion roars onto B’way

In the Hollywood-to-Broadway category, MGM could celebrate its 80th anniversary with no fewer than three new tuners on Broadway next spring: “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and “Marty,” with “The Night They Raided Minsky’s” a strong possibility for the Goodspeed.

And not to be overlooked: Hal Luftig continues to put together the creative team for his “Legally Blonde.”

In essence, these are licensed projects.

Since taking the reins at MGM on Stage, Darcie Denkert and Dean Stolber also have taken a decidedly pro-active approach. They’ve begun to assemble their own creative teams for such film-to-stage projects as “Heartbreakers,” “Those Lips, Those Eyes,” “The Thomas Crown Affair” and “Mermaids.” Those are the potential stage musicals.

Taking a tip from “The Graduate’s” success, the studio looks to turn “Rain Man,” “Benny and Joon” and “Midnight Cowboy” into plays.

“We have a small development fund to get things started,” Denkert says. If all goes well, producers will be added later.

No plans yet for James Bond on Broadway.

* * *

Producer Ben Sprecher was expecting “a rat, a rally and hundreds of pickets” at the Variety Arts for the first preview last week of his new musical “The Joys of Sex.”

Instead, he and the musicians union came to a last-minute agreement regarding the Sinfonia: Over the next 10 years, any use of the so-called “virtual orchestra” at the Variety Arts must get the approval of Local 802.

And so the show’s first preview went on April 13 without a hitch. That afternoon, the press showed up at the Variety Arts to preview the controversial Sinfonia, which had been at the center of last year’s musician strike on Broadway.

How did the Sinfonia perform in its belated debut? Actually, it didn’t go solo but had help from “The Joys of Sex” band, which includes drums, bass guitar and piano. The show’s creators, David Weinstein and Melissa Levis, offered up two songs, “I Need It Bad” and “The Vault.”

Their first selection began, “Sex, sex, sex, sex, sex … I need it bad.”

Listeners could clearly make out the drums, piano, bass guitar and what sounded like a synthesizer. Which makes sense. Jeffrey Lazarus of Real Time Music Solutions calls his Sinfonia “the next-generation synthesizer.”

Actually, it sounds like a pretty ordinary one. “Electronic” is the best word to describe its overall aural effect. The Sinfonia was especially good at replicating a human gurgling noise, which was appropriate considering the song’s subject matter.

“It has been a rocky road for the Sinfonia,” Weinstein says.

Those nonexistent picketers may be the least of it.


Keeping tabs

For those of you who’ve seen Tim Robbins‘ “Embedded,” be afraid, be very afraid. According to Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), your attendance at the leftist agitprop comedy could end up in the files of Attorney General John Ashcroft.

The congressman explains, “Because of the Patriot Act, you can now subpoena anybody’s business records.”

When Congress voted on the act, Nadler and other opponents raised the red flag over its intrusion into libraries: The government could go into the library records to see who checked out a controversial tome, for instance. Same holds true for theaters and their audiences, Nadler says.

“The Patriot Act says nothing about libraries, it just says ‘business records’ of a suspect,” he explains, referring to Section 215 of the act. “When we first objected to the Patriot Act, we made a big deal out of libraries because we were trying to show how ridiculously far-reaching it is. But it could be theaters, too.”

Fortunately, Section 215 has a “sunset” date of December 2005, unless Congress acts to extend or make it permanent.


Critic critiqued

Legit insiders were in a tizzy last week over Margo Jefferson‘s New York Times review of Lynn Nottage‘s “Intimate Apparel.” Here’s what the critic had to say about the play’s highly lauded director:

Daniel Sullivan is a mechanical director. His blocking is efficient, never organic, and props are always used predictably.” Jefferson went on to blame the merely “competent” level of performance on the helmer: “That is Mr. Sullivan’s fault.” Jefferson did praise actress Viola Davis: “Actors this good can direct themselves if they must. I suspect she does so here.”

Jefferson’s tenure has not won a lot of raves so far from the industry. The winner of a Pulitzer Prize for writing on books, Jefferson is accused by some of writing theater reviews that read like book reports.

In some cases, Broadway producers have petitioned the Times not to have the paper’s second-stringer review their shows, and so far first-stringer Ben Brantley has reviewed every Broadway offering since Jefferson took over from the respected Bruce Weber late last year.

Which isn’t much solace for most of the nonprofit world.

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