Network turns focus to stage

MTV Networks is getting into the legit biz: Old-school rock channel VH1 Classic has partnered on the upcoming ’80s-rock tuner “Rock of Ages,” aiming to open Off Broadway in the fall.

Division of Viacom will pony up promotional and marketing support, with an estimated value of about $1 million, in exchange for a piece of the producing pie.

Regular on-air national promotion — rare for any legit production, much less an Off Broadway one — will likely include specials and interstitials that air on VH1 Classic and possibly on other Viacom nets.

“It will feel like integrated programming,” said David Gale, MTV Networks exec veep of new media.

“Rock of Ages” weaves together hit tunes from the 1980s (by the likes of Journey, Pat Benatar and Whitesnake) into a tale of denizens of a Hollywood rock club circa 1986.

Show did strong biz during a four-week engagement in L.A. in early 2006, then went on to a weeklong run in Vegas in May.

Gale and VH1 Classic have come aboard with an eye toward growing the tuner into a nationally recognized property. “Down the line, what we really believe is it’ll be a really good national tour,” Gale said. He also anticipates the release of an album linked to the show.

“Rock” was originally planned to hit Gotham this month, but that sked was pushed back. Producers Matthew Weaver and Carl Levin have now set their sights on drumming up another New York producing partner, with private readings of the show set for this week.Capitalization of “Rock” will be “south of $2 million,” Weaver said.

“Rock” was the brainchild of Weaver and Levin, who are developing’80s movie musical “Time After Time” with their company Prospect Pictures.

“It got us thinking about how crazy people are for ’80s music,” Weaver said. “We started to look for the iconic emotional music of the era. We came up with stuff like ‘Sister Christian.’ ”

Weaver and Levin touted the show’s popularity, during its L.A. and Vegas runs, not only with traditional legit auds but also with straight men — usually a tough demo to drag into musical theater.

Written by Chris D’Arienzo and directed by Kristin Hanggi (“Bare,” “Pussycat Dolls on the Sunset Strip”), “Rock” doesn’t mock the era, the producers said. “We try to put the music on a pedestal,” Levin said.

Each audience member gets a disposable lighter to ignite and raise aloft at appropriate moments.

List of the show’s producers also includes music exec Janet Billig Rich, Hillary Weaver and Marcos Siega. Gale and concert producer John Scher are credited as exec producers.

VH1 Classic, which is in 45 million homes, will likely begin promotion of “Rock” during the production’s preview period.

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