He's 85 years old and his health has been perilous for years, due to a stroke he suffered in the mid 1980s, but -- according to a story in the New York Post (Oct. 13) -- David Merrick may be back.
The Post reported that Merrick, Broadway's most famous and infamous producer, hopes to revive 42nd Street and bring two new shows to Broadway in the 1998-99 season.
The Post article quotes Merrick's companion, Natalie Lloyd, as saying he's "in the best health and spirits I've seen him in in the last ten years. He's getting to be his old self again." Lloyd told the Post Merrick is working out details of the new productions with the playwrights, and that the production of 42nd Street, much like the actual street in Times Square, would be done "a whole new way."
Producing colleague Irving Welzer told the Post, "Merrick is a true giant, and you never know what he's going to do next, despite his health problems." Welzer then told Playbill On-Line he had no connection to the new Merrick shows, though he was in occasional contact with the legendary producer. Welzer said (Oct. 13), "I was sitting with [Merrick] at the Tonys, and somebody in his entourage was telling me he was getting interested in doing shows." As for Merrick's health, Welzer said, "I noticed that while we were sitting there, as people came over he recognized them right away. He couldn't speak, of course, but he opened his eyes."
NY Daily News theatre critic Howard Kissel told Playbill On-Line (Oct. 14) he found the NY Post article so sketchy, he's "skeptical there's anything really going on." Kissel did say Merrick keeps on top of new work being created for the theatre. "A couple of years ago someone was doing a musical version of Little Lord Fauntleroy and Merrick showed up. So he's constantly appearing at backer's auditions and workshops; he'd love to get his hand back in." Merrick's last Broadway production -- done after the stroke -- was the commercially unsuccessful Oh, Kay! (1991). He also put money into the Broadway mounting of State Fair.
Howard Kissel's unauthorized biography of Merrick, The Abominable Showman, is considered the prime source of biographical material on the producer, whose Broadway shows include Fanny, Carnival, Hello, Dolly! and the ill-fated Breakfast At Tiffany's.
--By David Lefkowitz