Sound of Musicals
Musicians like Elton John are bound for Broadway
The Lion King
Paul Simon’s “The Capeman” closed last Saturday with a loss of some $11 million, making it the biggest Broadway flop in history. But when it comes to musicals, the shows must go on: At least seven other pop writers, including Elton John, Jimmy Buffett and Donna Summer, are gearing up for runs at the Great White Way. And investors are optimistic. “I think audiences want to sit through things they grew up with and are comfortable seeing,” says Michael David, who co-produced the “The Who’s Tommy” in 1993. For disco doyenne Summer, the allure of her autobiographical show, “Ordinary Girl,” is personal. “My mother’s greatest wish for me before she died was that I would write this musical,” says Summer.
Here’s a look at the shows that could end up sharing Summer’s spotlight on Broadway later this year:
Who’s behind it: Songs from the movie — written by Kenny Loggins, Sammy Hagar and Meat Loaf writer Jim Steinman — will be supplemented by others from Tom Snow and Dean Pitchford (“Fame”).
Going for it:An August tryout at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. (where “Les Miserables” hit America) and the producer whizzes who floated “Titanic” to the top of the Tonys last spring.
Going against it: The 1984 movie is a cheesy classic on its own, so a stage version will be pure Velveeta. And, what, no Kevin Bacon?
Who’s behind it: Elton John and Tim Rice.
Going for it: One word: Disney. “The Lion King,” which was produced by Disney with music by John and Rice, earned the plaudits — and the megabucks — that Simon’s “Capeman” couldn’t. This new show (based on Verdi’s classic opera “Aida,” about an Egyptian soldier who falls for a slave) premieres at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre on September 11.
Going against it: Critics cite the duo’s “Lion King” songs as the show’s weak link. And another pedigreed Disney/Rice project, the Biblical epic “King David,” flopped at a Broadway concert last May. Worst of all, audiences will be unfamiliar with the subject.
Who’s behind it: Donna Summer, aided by two-time Oscar-winning songwriter Al Kasha (“The Poseidon Adventure”).
Going for it: Summer, who began as a performer in musicals, is hot again now that her dance smash “Carry On” earned her a Grammy. She’s working hard for the money, too, recording an album version and committing to star on stage for a year.
Going against it: A possible case of Simon-itis: Good songs are one thing, but how will they play as drama?
Who’s behind it:“Margaritaville” singer Jimmy Buffett
Going for it: The comedy, about a jaded professional who moves to a Caribbean island, is vintage Buffett. And novelist Herman Wouk co-wrote it.
Going against it: Since the show’s debut in Miami last May, Buffett has been trying to hook investors — even releasing an album version. So far, no dice.
Who’s behind it: Barry Manilow.
Going for it: Manilow’s no stranger to the stage. He co-wrote the ’70s off-Broadway farce “The Drunkard.” This one, about a 1930s singing group persecuted by the Nazis, is rumored to be a five-hanky show.
Going against it:Manilow, whose musical version of “Copacabana” tanked in London, may be too corny even for Broadway.
Who’s behind it: Michael Jackson, who would also co-produce.
Going for it: Jacko reportedly wants to play Prince Charming in this update of the Cinderella fable, which may preview this fall in L.A. before attempting Broadway.
Going against it: The curtain failed to rise on many of Jackson’s recent projects — remember that Polish amusement park?
“What the World Needs Now”
Who’s behind it: The shagalicious Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
Going for it: “Austin Powers” made their songs oh-so “with it” again. This retrospective opens Thursday at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre with a view to New York.
Going against it: Not much. It’s cheap to produce, timely and will please young and old alike. Yeah, baby, yeah!
The Lion King