The process is just beginning, but Eliot Ness...in Cleveland, which premiered in January 1998 at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, has its eye on Broadway. The Robert Lindsay Nassif-Nick Corley-Richard Ullian musical held three industry readings at New York's Directors Company Theatre Three, March 18-19.
The Denver Center and the Harold Prince Musical Theatre Program are nurturing the piece along, with Artie Masella, of the Prince office, serving as executive producer. Also helping Ness was the 1998 Gilman & Gonzalez-Falla Theatre Foundation Award (officially, the 1997 prize), which carried a cash award of $25,000 bestowed at a Sept. 14, 1998 ceremony at Lincoln Center.
The March readings featured John Dosset (Three Days of Rain, the current Father in Ragtime) as Ness, Ned Eisenberg (filmdom's "A Civil Action") as Al Capone, Walter Charles (Wit) as Mr. Stoneham, and Michelle Pawk (Cabaret).
Eliot Ness has a book by Ullian (which in turn is based on his play In the Shadow of the Terminal Tower), and additional material by Corley, who directed the Denver production and the New York readings.
"The readings, which went extremely well, came at the end of two weeks of workshops," composer Nassif told Playbill On-Line (March 30). "We were thrilled with the rewrites and the reception. While 12-13 year olds enjoyed it on a certain level, college age students went crazy over it. And it's really a musical for adults. There seems to be a lot of buzz in the industry about it." Eliot Ness...in Cleveland is set during the Depression. When a "mad butcher" turns the streets of downtown Cleveland into a minefield of limbs and body parts, Ness (who is referred to as "that Untouchable fella from Chicago") is called in to apprehend the criminal. The cast of characters includes Ness' long-suffering wife, a pair of bumbling detectives, a flirtatious reporter, and the mayor -- who wants the carnage to be stopped immediately, as the town is about to host the Republican National Convention.
Asked about the show's Broadway intentions, Nassif said, "We still have some fine-tuning to do, but we feel happy with the response. We're now trying to put a package together in the hopes of reaching Broadway." Nassif had few specific details about those plans, noting that Masella was handling the producing end of the project. (Masella could not be reached by PBOL at press time.)
Asked if he had other endeavors in the offing, Nassif said he'd just finished prepping his Honky Tonk Highway for publication by Samuel French, and he's embarking on a new project with Masella, though he said it was too early to discuss details.
For more information on Nassif's projects, check out his website at Robert Lindsey Nassif Official Website
-- By David Lefkowitz and Robert Simonson