British plays eye New York

Lazar tapped as chief exec in the U.S.

London legit players Ambassador Theater Group and Sonia Friedman Prods. have tapped David Lazar as chief exec, New York, with the intention of expanding the companies’ presence in the U.S. and the international theater market.

The move follows last month’s appointment of Peter Kavanagh as business affairs director, driving international growth. Lazar’s office will be involved both in production in North America and in developing and sourcing ventures for other international markets.

Most recently, executive vice president, business affairs (theatrical division) for Live Nation in the U.S., Lazar has worked for Live Nation and its acquired companies, SFX Entertainment and PACE Entertainment, for the past nine years.

ATG is the largest theater group in the West End as well as the second- largest in the U.K. regions, with 24 venues. The company is represented by “The Rocky Horror Show” on international tour, by John Doyle’s revival of “Company” on Broadway and by Doyle’s hit staging of “Sweeney Todd,” which is about to go on the road in North America.

A wholly owned subsidiary of ATG, SFP has produced 14 shows in the West End and on Broadway in the past 14 months alone. These include “Faith Healer,” with Ralph Fiennes in New York; and “Donkeys’ Years,” “Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “Boeing-Boeing” in London. The latter two are being readied for Rialto transfers in the fall and spring, respectively.

“David Lazar will provide our first point of call for all work going in and out of New York,” Friedman told Daily Variety. “The office will strengthen and develop further relationships with American writers, directors and theater artists whom I’m eager to work with both at home and abroad.”

“We are a British and international company looking for good work,” said ATG managing director Howard Panter. “We see the New York office as an import-export gateway. In export terms, one of the purposes is to seek out and develop ventures from North America which can go to places as well as New York. On the import side, we are already involved in U.S. production.”

ATG will continue to work with other producers and managements on a case-by-case basis. Projects already lined up include 2008 Broadway and Sydney transfers for Michael Grandage’s hit revival of Frank Loesser’s tuner “Guys and Dolls.” Another Loesser property, “The Most Happy Fella,” is also readying for a London preem, with a so-far unannounced American director. The group also is developing further projects with Doyle.

Panter denied persistent rumors about an imminent early shuttering for ATG/Frankel Group’s “Porgy and Bess,” which opened at London’s Savoy Theater Nov. 9 and has been struggling at the box office. “A New York transfer is in the planning and casting stages,” he said.

He is on the brink of announcing four artistic associates to join the New York operation.

“They are creative talents like designers and choreographers who will be sourcing and developing projects,” Panter said. “These people tend to work in isolation. In the commercial sector, there are very few people working long term to develop projects within a coherent producing framework.”

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