Producer Jeffrey Finn (“On Golden Pond”) looks to turn Fannie Flagg‘s novel “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe” into a play. “It’s highly theatrical,” he says. “The women’s parallel stories can be told simultaneously on stage.” Which, of course, neither the book nor the film version could do.
Finn is looking for a scribe to work on the adaptation with Flagg, “who will be very involved,” he says.
Finn’s revival of “On Golden Pond” has had a slow build at the box office, starting with weekly grosses under $200,000.
At first glance, the nontraditional casting of James Earl Jones and Leslie Uggams looked like a B.O. boon. But it quickly posed a marketing challenge: Ernest Thompson‘s family drama had little resonance for black audiences, and white audiences familiar with the Henry Fonda/Katharine Hepburn movie envisioned stars like Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in the leads.
“That’s exactly correct,” says Finn. “A more traditional audience might have been confused by the casting. With an African-American audience, they associated the title with a white play.”
Word of mouth has kicked in, however. Upbeat reviews heralded Jones’ return as a genuine legit event, and he received a Tony nom. Starting with low grosses, the show has managed a B.O. uptick not seen elsewhere on Broadway this April/May: Receipts have increased each of the last four weeks.
“The Broadway playgoing audience is finite. And right now, there’s so much to choose from,” says Finn. “There’s got to be some shakedown.” “On Golden Pond” and “Glengarry Glen Ross” are on the upswing, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is coasting and “Steel Magnolias” and “The Glass Menagerie” continue to fade. Denzel Washington‘s “Julius Caesar” performs in that rare revival orb where reviews and Tony snubs mean nada.
There would appear to be no show more different from “Pond” than “All Shook Up.” But they share a similar dynamic in their marketing dilemma: Elvis fans aren’t into musicals, Gotham theatergoers aren’t into Elvis.
Right before the cruel announcement that saw “All Shook Up” shut out of the Tony noms, the show’s receipts fell under $500,000 for the first time.
Shortly before the tuner bowed, Variety wrote that the jukebox musical was at a “crossroads.” Since then, there has been a concerted effort to get rid of the genre. The Tony nominators and a few prominent crix found nothing to like about the show and, throwing out the Broadway babies with the bathwater, completely dismissed the show’s hot new performers, choreographers and designers.
Producer Jonathan Pollard is confident the show’s word of mouth will triumph over its lack of noms and the industry buzz about “the death knell of the jukebox musical.”
” ‘All Shook Up’ is at the Palace to stay,” he says. “Whether you’re ‘Oklahoma!’ and basing it on ‘Green Grow the Lilacs,’ or basing it on a movie or whatever, as a creative team you base something on something else because it works.”
Pollard is planning a big marketing drive for the summer as foreign tourists descend on the city.
“There are few words in the English language that translate across borders like E-L-V-I-S,” he says.
Cast album comes out in late May, and the show plans to use TV spots for the first time. Pollard says there will be a U.S. tour, probably beginning in the ’06 to ’07 timeframe,plus companies in Japan, the U.K. and elsewhere.
Boyz to Starz
While Tony noms put the spotlight on Broadway’s actors, there has been much star-making Off Broadway at “Altar Boyz.”
In recent weeks, the West Coast’s top agents have been flying to Gotham to find what Hollywood needs most: “the next Tom Cruise,” as one power agent describes Scott Porter, leader of Off Broadway’s first Christian boy band. (It’s a sendup.)
Porter landed the “Altar Boyz” gig after Cheyenne Jackson segued into “All Shook Up,” replacing Jarrod Emick, a last-minute departure there. After an Off Broadway stint in “Toxic Audio,” Porter went back to Florida for more work as Frankenstein and the Wolfman at Orlando’s Universal Studios.
Porter didn’t have an agent, and didn’t think he needed one when the “Altar Boyz” producers came calling with their favored-nations contract.
TV and the movie deals, of course, are different, and Porter signs with one of Hollywood’s top tenpercenteries this week. Translation: Broadway producers can forget about signing him any time soon.
Meanwhile, Jackson has wasted no time trying to further polish his star. Soon after making his Broadway debut in “All Shook Up,” he ankled Bauman, Redanty & Shaul, who discovered him three years ago, and signed with Endeavor.