John Breglio, one of the toughest and savviest theatrical attorneys on Broadway, decided to take down his shingle a decade ago to become, of all things, a Broadway producer.
A man who once sat behind the creators at the table on shows including A Chorus Line, Nine, Fences, Dreamgirls, The Elephant Man and Sunset Boulevard, to name just a few, now sits at the head of the table.
In life, he says, “You have to be willing to take that leap.” He must firmly believe that, as he is leaping once again into uncertain waters as a first-time author. His book, I Wanna Be A Producer: How to Make a Killing on Broadway… or Get Killed, is equal parts autobiography, textbook and showbiz tell-all.
Those who get bitten by the theatre bug generally remember the precise moment that its mandibles sank in. For Breglio, the moment came at age nine, when he was hypnotized by Gwen Verdon in her Tony-winning role as Lola in Damn Yankees, singing the erotically charged “Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets.”
The electricity of that moment carried him through law school and into his entertainment law career. There are so many things that people speculate about in show business, like what really happened between Patti LuPone and Andrew Lloyd Webber during the fateful transfer of the musical Sunset Boulevard from London to Broadway. Or what exactly was the deal Michael Bennett struck to give members of the original cast of A Chorus Line a share of the profits. Breglio helped craft those deals, and is able to pull back the curtain on their mysteries, setting the record straight.
The backbone of the book is Breglio’s relationship with director and choreographer Michael Bennett, who left Breglio in charge of his estate when he died in 1987.
Anyone who wants to mount a production of one of Bennett’s shows—including the masterpieces A Chorus Line and Dreamgirls—needs to go through Breglio. He, along with original A Chorus Line co-choreographer Bob Avian and actress Baayork Lee, are the keepers of the Bennett flame.
The whole book is, ultimately, a look at why Breglio switched career tracks so dramatically in midstream. Why someone would trade a steady income of billable hours for the rocky road of workshops, demanding investors and nail-biting opening nights?
“I was sitting in a run-through of [the 2006 revival of] A Chorus Line, and Cassie was doing her number,” Breglio says. “I must have seen the scene a million times but I never focused on one line which is, ‘I’m tired of teaching others what I want to do myself. What I should be doing myself.’ And I thought, ‘That’s what I should be doing. I can’t continue to do this work for other people. Many of whom have a great big checkbook and not much else. I was tired of that. So, it really rang out. And I said, ‘I’m going to stop doing it for others and I’m going to start doing it for myself.’”
Among his upcoming projects is a 50th anniversary revival of A Chorus Line in 2025. The 2005 revival followed the original very closely, but he says he is willing to grant permission for a new director with vision to reimagine the great classic this time.
“It’s a living, breathing piece,” he says, adding, “I hope that we can keep our minds open to something else.”