Jenna Segal, a former production development exec at MTV, Nickelodeon and VH1, is pulling together her first Broadway project as a lead producer, tapping a team of creatives for a revival of Lerner and Loewe’s “Gigi” that’s targeting a run as early as next season.
“Chaplin,” one of the first offerings of the season, was shepherded by tyro leads Rich Entertainment Group, and soon thereafter came “Grace” from Debbie Bisno (also a producer on “Annie”) and “The Heiress” from Paula Wagner (who teamed with Bisno on “Grace”). The short-lived tuner “Scandalous” was backed by a raft of newbies including Betsy and David DeVos. Howard and Janet Kagan, on the team of “The Anarchist” earlier this season, also have taken on an increasing producing load, acting in a lead capacity on the current “Pippin.”
It’s a notable trend, but it’s seemingly impossible to peg on a single cause that makes now the right time for new names. Each of these arrivals lands in the lead post in a specifically personal way.
Segal, for instance, is one of a handful of new leads coming from film and television and long harboring a yen to come to (or make a return to) theater. The description applies to Wagner as well, just as it did in prior seasons to Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”) and, before that, to Bob Boyett, the former TV guy who’s now a Main Stem veteran (“The History Boys,” “One Man, Two Guvnors”).
Lead producers also often arrive with prior connections to a property itself. That’s true of the leads of upcoming Rialto tuner “Big Fish,” Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen. The duo produced the 2003 movie and are now shepherding the musical into its Chicago tryout in April ahead of a fall berth in Gotham.
Segal, too, has connections to “Gigi,” although they come from a more personal angle. As a child she fell in love with the title when she saw a VHS recording of the 1958 movie-musical, based on the Colette novel about a free-spirited woman in Paris at the turn of the century. A stage version showed up on Broadway in 1973 but proved a disappointment at the box office.
Segal’s always wanted to bring the musical back to Broadway, she said. About five years ago she was put in touch with the Lerner and Loewe estate and began working with them to secure the rights.
She did so with both sides agreeing the book would be retooled, a task for which she tapped Heidi Thomas, the Brit scribe whose femme-centric, historical work for U.K. television includes “Cranford,” “Upstairs Downstairs” and “Call the Midwife.” Helmer Eric Schaeffer, whose revival of “Follies” last season posted strong sales, will direct.
More often than not, tyro leads partner with more experienced producers on the way to the boards. Wagner had a producing team on “The Heiress” that included vet Roy Furman, the Kagans are working with Barry and Fran Weissler (“Chicago”) on “Pippin” and Jinks and Cohen are working with Euro legit giant Stage Entertainment (“Sister Act,” “Rocky”).
Segal hasn’t yet put together a team of producers, but she said she’s open to a partner. Still in its early stages of development, the production is envisioned as a large-scale Broadway musical revival to be capitalized in the neighborhood of $10 million to $15 million.
Tuner will have a developmental reading in New York next month ahead of a full production, which could include an out-of-town run prior to a Broadway stint aiming for a 2014 slot.
Like so many Rialto trends, then, the spate of new lead producers is likely just a matter of coincidental timing — one that reps not so much a changing of the Broadway guard, perhaps, but instead a bolstering of the ranks.