This weekend in Los Angeles, film director Stephen Herek will be testing a new work before audiences -- but it won't be a big budget Hollywood movie. Instead, it's a new stage musical by the heretofore unknown composing team of Mark Schoenfeld and Barri McPherson. Titled Brooklyn, the piece will get its first public readings June 25-26 at the Los Angeles Theatre Center on Spring Street in L.A.
Herek began his Hollywood career with "Critters" in 1986 and followed it with such box office winners as "Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure," "The Mighty Ducks," "Mr. Holland's Opus," and "101 Dalmatians." Schoenfeld and McPherson, who hoped to see Brooklyn in film form, were brought to his attention by a music editor on the Walt Disney studio lot. After an hour-long pitch by Schoenfeld, the trio made a development deal -- for a show -- and Herek's wife, Lori, was brought in as producer. As such, Brooklyn falls under the Hereks' Ivory Tower Productions, which is designed to work on "more innovative" and smaller-scale projects than Hollywood films.
In a statement, Mrs. Herek recalled the pitch session: "They came to our hotel room in New York, this guy who acts like Woody Allen and this beautiful woman. She handed out lyric sheets...and pushed the buttons on a boom box wrapped in masking tape while he narrated the story... I had no idea what I'd just seen, but I knew it was brilliant."
"Brooklyn is a whole different venue and form for me as a director," the director said in a statement. "It's a little dangerous, a bit like those Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney movies of `I have a barn, let's put on a show.' On the other hand, there isn't a $60 million budget hanging over my head."
One of the more surprising things about Brooklyn is that it's not exactly about Brooklyn, New York. Instead, it's about a Parisian girl who's never met her father, who named her after the New York borough. Songs in the show include "Natalie," "Super Lover," "Christmas Makes Me Cry," "Culture Shock" and "Love Me Where I Live." Cat Stevens' "Wild World" and Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" are also interpolated into the score. Starring in the June readings of Brooklyn are Tammy Townsend (as the title), Arnetia Walker, Clinton Derricks-Carroll and Anthony Crivello (Kiss of the Spider Woman, The News). Chorus roles will be sung by Terron Brooks, Michelle Strickland, Christa Jackson, Michele Mais, Sean Smith and William Thomas Jr. A five-piece band will back the cast at the reading.
Admission to the reading is free but must be reserved. Call (818) 560 4760 for information.
-- By David Lefkowitz