American Pop Anth-ology means two slightly different things.
First off, it is Floyd Mutrux’s legit production company, one of the five producing entities that brought the Tony-nommed “Million Dollar Quartet” to Broadway. Second, American Pop Anthology is Mutrux’s umbrella moniker for four more stage musicals that he plans to follow in the wake of “MDQ.”
“With American Pop Anthology, I’ve written a series of stories about the people who made the music that changed the culture of our country from the 1950s to 1980s, which ended with MTV,” he claims. “MTV took all the mystery out of rock ‘n’ roll. The record companies spent the money making videos and they stopped putting money into groups touring.”
Mutrux was one of rock’s biggest pre-musicvideo advocates — he helmed the 1978 movie “American Hot Wax” and later directed the 1994 rock-themed “There Goes My Baby” — and now he’s ready to bring some of those vintage music stories to Broadway.
Five tuners on the same subject might seem overly ambitious, but then Mutrux already has weathered the storm of “Million Dollar Quartet” — complete with a successful arbitration regarding “MDQ,” reinstating his 25% position in the show, which he co-authored with Colin Escott.
Plus, his second show in the American Pop Anthology series, “Baby, It’s You,” looks ready to bow on Broadway in winter 2011. Like “MDQ,” which first opened under his direction four years ago at Daytona’s Seaside Music Theater, “Baby” started small, at the 99-seat Coast Playhouse in West Hollywood, then traveled to the Pasadena Playhouse, where it picked up its new director, Sheldon Epps, who will co-helm with Mutrux on Broadway.
Mutrux sees a similar tiny-to-big trajectory for his other three rock jukeboxers. And who knows? He’s already delivered two out of five. Just for background: “MDQ” replicates, with great invention, the historic 1956 Sun Records session that saw Elvis Presley jamming with Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. “Baby” is the biography of Florence Greenberg, the New Jersey housewife-producer-composer behind the Shirelles.
Mutrux’s three other shows jump around the rock firmament with some familiar and not-so-familiar names.
“Heartbreak Hotel” is the Elvis Presley and Col. Parker story. Or, as Mutrux describes it, “the prequel to ‘Million Dollar Quartet.’?”
“The Boy From New York City” tells the love story of a real-life Latina, whom Mutrux is calling “Maria,” and record producer George Goldner, who popularized, if not created, the practice of payola.
“He was Jewish, she’s Catholic. He was the most successful record producer in the golden age of rock ‘n’ roll, and they were the king and queen of New York City.”
Tito Puente, the Shangri-Las and Little Richard were just a few of the talents Goldner handled. “It’s a ‘Goodfellas’ for rock ‘n’ roll.”
Most adventurous of Mutrux’s future shows is “Lonesome Town,” a rock fantasy set in “a halfway station between heaven and hell,” in which Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, Ricky Nelson and a few others gather on New Year’s Eve 1958 to play their past and future hits and tell their life story.
“It’s ‘A Chorus Line’ for rock ‘n’ roll,” says Mutrux, who, in true Hollywood style, likes to reference other people’s past projects to describe his future projects.
Despite his vast film resume as helmer and screenwriter, Mutrux insists, “I’m not interested in the movie business. I’m not interested in the aftermath of these shows. Everything that I’m doing is Broadway shows.”
The big selling point of his legit projects is that auds go into them air-guitaring all the songs. Surprisingly, Mutrux says it’s not that hard to put together a couple dozen hit songs for each show.
As he explains it, “If someone is licensing the catalog, would you rather be in a hit show … or sit on the shelf?”