New York: Industry News 11/20/17

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♦ Universal Theatrical Group (UTG), Universal Studios’ live theater division, has acquired the rights to the Bee Gees‘ life story with an eye towards developing a bio-musical based on the legendary band’s musical history. An agreement was reached with Yvonne Gibb (wife of the late Maurice Gibb), the estate of Robin Gibb, and surviving member Barry Gibb, who will also serve as executive producer on the as-yet untitled project. In a statement, Barry Gibb called the project a “wonderful opportunity” for his family. The Bee Gees, who formed in 1958, broke through commercially in the late Seventies when they established themselves as icons of the disco era. The new musical is expected to feature many Bee Gee’s hits, including “Stayin’ Alive,” “Night Fever” and “How Deep Is You Love,” all from the 1977 film “Saturday Night Fever.”

Rob Evan

♦ International sensation Rocktopia, a concert-format presentation which merges rock songs with classical music, has booked the Broadway Theatre for a six-week run this spring. Created by maestro Randall Craig Fleischer and stage veteran Rob Evan, the production showcases the music of Mozart, Queen, Beethoven, Journey, Handel, U2, Tchaikovsky, Pink Floyd, Heart, Rachmaninoff, Foreigner, Copland, The Who and many more. In addition to lead vocalists Evan, Tony Vincent, Chloe Lowery, Kimberly Nichole and Alyson Cambridge, Rocktopia features a five-piece rock band, a 20-piece orchestra and a 40-member choir. The limited engagement runs Mar. 20-Apr. 29. Additional cast, creative team and the New York orchestra and choirs that will join each performance will be announced at a later date.

♦ In an unusual turn of events, the Broadway production of 1984 has been deemed ineligible for this year’s Tony Awards due to the fact that one of the members of the nominating committee, journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, was denied access to a performance of the play. The play’s lead producer, Scott Rudin, did not explain why Mr. Vargas was denied access, and neither Mr. Rudin nor Mr. Vargas has offered any comment. While a Tonys spokeswoman would not confirm that Mr. Vargas was denied access to the play, saying only that the show “did not fulfill all of the eligibility requirements as outlined by the Tony Rules and Regulations,” several Broadway insiders confirmed that Mr. Vargas was the excluded nominator.

Bryan Cranston

♦ ACROSS THE POND: stellar reviews for the National Theatre production of Network starring Bryan Cranston could mean a Broadway transfer sometime next year; Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville will be joined by Matthew Beard and Rory Keenan in the West End revival of Long Day’s Journey Into Night, also set to play BAM May 8-27; David Eldridge‘s Beginning, a bit hit for the National Theatre, will get a 10-week run at the West End’s Ambassadors Theatre starting Jan. 15.

♦ Tony winner Casey Nicholaw will direct and choreograph new musical The Prom headed for Broadway in fall 2018. With music by Matthew Sklar, lyrics by Chad Beguelin and a book by Beguelin and Bob Martin, The Prom is set in a small Indiana town where a prom is cancelled after the high school forbids a female student from bringing her girlfriend as her date. The musical had its world premiere in 2016 at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre and will open on Nov. 15, 2018 at a Shubert theater to be announced. Although Broadway vets Beth Leavel and Christopher Sieber starred in the Atlanta production of the new musical, no word yet on the New York cast.

Maggie Gyllenhaal

♦ Roundabout Theatre Company will hold a special, one-night-only benefit concert reading of Damn Yankees starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Whoopi Goldberg and James Earl Jones to help fund the theater’s many programs and initiatives. The evening will feature Gyllenhaal as Lola, Goldberg as Applegate and Jones as Mr. Welch. Three-time Tony winner Kathleen Marshall will direct and choreograph. The benefit will take place the Stephen Sondheim Theatre on Dec. 11 at 7:30pm.

♦ IN BRIEF: Shaina Taub has been named the recipient of the Billie Burke Ziegfeld Award given annually to an emerging female composer of musical theater; Lindsay Mendez will play Carrie Pipperidge and Tony nominee John Douglas Thompson will play the role of Starkeeper in the upcoming Broadway revival of Carousel; Constantine Maroulis is set to play Robert Moses in the new musical Bulldozer: The Ballad of Robert Moses Nov. 24-Jan. 7 at the Theatre at St. Clement’s; performances for the world premiere of Susan Soon He Stanton’s Today Is My Birthday, directed by Kip Fagan, will begin Nov. 28 at the New Ohio Theatre; James Lecesne will star in Eve Ensler‘s Extraordinary Measures at the Abingdon Theatre Company Dec. 1-3 only; Irish Rep presents It’s A Wonderful Life with Haley Bond, Dewey Caddell, Orlagh Cassidy, Rory Duffy, Aaron Gaines and Ian Holcomb starting Nov. 29; Liz Smith, longtime NYC gossip columnist, has died at the age of 94.

Written by Richard Hart

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