‘Masada’ tuner team eyes Chi, B’way bow

Story has seen resistance, but prod'n planned for 2004

NEW YORK — Jackie Mason has his Broadway musical (“Laughing Room Only”), and Barry Manilow has his (“Harmony”). Now comes word that Shuki Levy has one, too.

“It is ‘Aida’ crossed with ‘Norma’ crossed with ‘West Side Story,’ ” said Levy.

What else could that be but a musical called “Masada”?

Levy acknowledged that the ancient Jewish revolt and subsequent mass suicide is not a subject that most people would naturally associate with this composer’s most popular TV work. “It is a long way from ‘Power Rangers’ to ‘Masada,’ ” agreed Levy, who scored the kids series.

There has even been some resistance to bringing the Masada story to the stage as a musical. Levy recalled a few initial naysayers. “Some have thought it doesn’t make any sense, this story about 900 Jews who killed themselves on a mountain 2,000 years ago, but once they heard the music, they felt it,” he said.

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In Levy’s take, the daughter of the leader of the zealots takes it upon herself to come down from the mountain and assassinate the Roman general, who, unbeknownst to her, is the same guy she met and fell in love with years before while shopping in Jerusalem.

Levy presented an initial version of “Masada” at L.A.’s Shubert Theater in 1998, with Jon Voight and Rita Moreno performing. That benefit concert raised $1 million for D.A.R.E. If all goes as planned, Levy and his co-producer, Anita Mann, will take “Masada” to Chicago before coming to Gotham in 2004.

The creative team includes lyricist David Goldsmith and book writer Glenn Berenbeim, producer of “Touched by an Angel.” “Masada” marks their respective Broadway debuts. Director and design team are to be announced.

Broadway vets on the project are its executive producer, Barry Brown, and general manager, Alan Wasser.