NEW YORK — It might not be unusual for a musical to be adapted from a comic book. But the new musical “!Hero” is itself the inspiration for a comic book and a graphic novel.
Both have a publication date of Sept. 2, two months before “!Hero,” the tuner, hits the road in November, playing 19 cities in an exhausting 24 days.
” ‘!Hero’ is ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ for the MTV generation,” claims Eddie DeGarmo, the show’s co-creator with Bob Ferrell. After a successful performing career in the 1970s, DeGarmo started his own label, Four Front, which he sold to EMI, where he now heads the company’s Christian music-publishing division.
Did we mention that “!Hero” is the first, the very first, theater production to be repped by that new behemoth of legit tenpercenteries, CAA?
Repping from CAA’s Nashville office, John Huie has known DeGarmo for 20 years, and when the EMI exec had the idea for this rock musical, a radical update of the New Testament, the agent had a few ideas of his own.
“Eddie and I had a dialogue on how to cast it,” Huie recalls. “He wanted to first approach rock ‘n’ roll talent, but I thought that was a harder bridge to cross. In the gospel world, everyone knows Eddie DeGarmo.”
CAA reps Christian-music star Michael Tait of dc Talk, who ended up with the role.
“It’s great to have this African-American with dreadlocks playing the Jesus character,” Huie says.
The son of God in this version is called Hero. Rounding out the new New Testament triumvirate are Christian-music stars (neither of them CAA clients) Rebecca St. James playing Maggie (think Mary Magdalene) and Mark Stuart of Audio Adrenaline playing Petrov (think Peter).
With Mel Gibson‘s “Passion” blazing the way, “!Hero” may set in motion some controversy of its own.
“That’s what I’m finding out,” says DeGarmo.
“!Hero” is set in the present, but one in which the Messiah has arrived about 2000 years late. He is Jewish, born in Bethlehem, Penn., and when he and his family flee to Brooklyn’s Jewish section, Hero speaks out against the “institutions of hate and injustice,” as the tuner’s website (herouniverse.com) describes it, all of which runs him afoul of “the chief of I.C.O.N. police Devlin & his secret informant Jewish leader & chief Rabbi Kai.”
Will musical aficionados weaned on “Oklahoma!” and “My Fair Lady” be able to relate?
DeGarmo explains his radical update: “I needed to create the political dynamic of 2000 years ago in today’s way. The Jewish people were an occupied country then, thus the tension of the story.
“There were some parallels between the African-American community in today’s culture to what there might have been (with Jews) 2000 years ago.”
Do Jews murder Hero/Jesus in his musical?
“I’m not laying that off on any group,” says DeGarmo. “Historically, it was everybody.”
Tour kicks off Nov. 1 in Wabash, Indiana and closes Nov. 23 in San Antonio. At well under $1 million, the capitalization on the touring production is definitely on the low side.
“We’re touring it like a rock show,” says Huie.
Goodbye to Berlin
Having played its 2,343th performance, “Cabaret” will close Nov. 2 at Studio 54.
The Roundabout staging of the famed Kander & Ebb show is the second-longest-running revival in Broadway history.
It follows the current production of Kander & Ebb’s “Chicago,” which shows no signs of stopping after having put in more than 2,800 perfs.
Legit is a small world. In addition to sharing the same famed composer-lyricist team, the two tuners have a helmer connection. “Cabaret” is credited as being “directed by Sam Mendes with Rob Marshall.” The latter director went on to helm the Oscar-winning movie “Chicago,” which rekindled public interest in the stage revival.
As for “Cabaret,” it is the show that bought Studio 54 for Roundabout. The not-for-profit company closed that real-estate deal earlier this summer. A year ago, the company’s artistic director, Todd Haimes, told Variety the longrunning revival had earned about $8.5 million for Roundabout. With its weekly break-even at $320,000, the show has dipped below that level only 12 sessions in the past 12 months. Last week, it grossed $330,692.
In the past, Haimes has indicated that the long-postponed revival of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s “Assassins” might follow “Cabaret” into Studio 54. A spokesman for Roundabout said no production had yet been scheduled for the venue.