“The Mambo Kings” may be dancing to a new beat with an emergency rescue team of creatives.
In talks to offer their help to the troubled Broadway-bound tuner are director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell, book writer David Ives and lyricist-composer Jason Robert Brown.
Earlier this month, “The Mambo Kings” opened to downbeat reviews in San Francisco, where it had its pre-Gotham run. The critics were largely unimpressed with the contributions of composer Carlos Franzetti and Arne Glimcher, who is director, lyricist and co-book writer with Oscar Hijuelos, author of the original “Mambo Kings” novel.
The Broadway veteran of this group is Sergio Trujillo, who received high marks from the West Coast critics for his choreography. If “The Mambo Kings” makes it to Broadway, it would be Trujillo’s sophomore effort; he took a terp credit on last season’s “All Shook Up.”
Even on paper, the original “Mambo” team looked like a risky proposition for Broadway. There were too many debutantes, and triple threats like Glimcher have a way of turning into big, singular threats to their shows. His major qualification for this tuner appears to be that he produced and directed the 1992 film version of Hijuelos’ novel. But movies aren’t stage musicals.
In 1977, even Martin Scorsese had difficulty with his Broadway debut directing Liza Minnelli in “The Act.” In the end, he got the credit, but legit veteran Gower Champion was brought in to overhaul the show.
As with Champion, the new “Mambo” trio of experienced help may opt not to take credit for their contributions. That’s all part of the current negotiations. Mitchell recently won the Tony for his choreography on “La Cage aux Folles.” Brown won a 1999 Tony for his “Parade” score. Ives is a frequent adapter of books for Encores! productions.
In San Francisco, Esai Morales and Jamie Camil played the “Mambo King” brothers who try to make it in the Latin music business. David Alan Grier also starred. Producers on the musical are the mother-and-son duo Daryl Roth and Jordan Roth.
A spokesman for the producers confirmed neither the new creative team nor a possible postponement for the musical.
The Roths will likely not make their Aug. 18 preem date and will have to give up the Broadway Theater. The Shuberts should have no problem filling the 1,752-seater, one of Gotham’s most sought-after venues at the moment. Several incoming musicals are currently homeless and need a large space, not only to show their stuff but to make economic sense in today’s world of $10 million-plus tuners.