When singer-songwriter-politician Sonny Bono died Jan. 5 in a skiing accident, pop music fans couldn't help but remember his catchiest songs ("I Got You Babe," "Little Man," "The Beat Goes On."). Apparently, Broadway hasn't forgotten them either, because, as Variety and the New York Post reported, even before Bono died, work was afoot on a musical about his life and career with former marital and showbiz partner, Cher.
Producer Manny Kladitis told the Post (Jan. 8), "Sonny himself approved of the project. He did not want to perform, but he was absolutely gung-ho about it. He was going to be a consultant, and we were going to use his music." Kladitis told the Post the project was "a year away from Broadway" but was temporarily on hold due to the tragedy.
Reached Feb. 26, Kladitis told Playbill On-Line plans were still on hold because Bono's will was in probate. "We have a request for the material, but it hasn't been responded to yet. The heirs may want to change direction on the project, we don't know. The earliest the show would happen would be in the 1999-2000 season."
Back in January, Kladitis told Playbill On-Line the storyline was worked out but the show was still "very much in the developmental stage." Songs in the show would be early hits as well as trunk songs Bono penned during the "Sonny & Cher Show" years.
How did the project germinate? "About a year ago I first met with Sonny," said Kladitis. "He had been talking to Tony Pantozzi (a William Morris agent at the time). Tony brought it to me; I liked the idea. Then Chris Beard and Alan Blye were brought in for the book and to write new lyrics to some of the songs." Beard & Blye were head writers on "The Sonny & Cher Show," as well as for "Laugh-In." Asked if Cher had given her approval for the project, Kladitis said, "It was way too early, so there was no reason for Cher's approval. And mostly, the show is through the eyes of Sonny."
"I'd like to see it go forward, it's an interesting project," said Kladitis, "especially since it covers the Viet Nam war in the 1970s."
Asked his opinion of Bono as a man and an artist, Kladitis said, "I thought he was a very gentle, soft man. Not soft in a bad way -- he was a good businessman, obviously. But he wasn't harsh or difficult ...always smiling. And he had a lot of input and ideas and was very excited about the project."
"Reports talk about Sonny being a joke," continued Kladitis, "but his music withstood time. It still works. That's the best test of a good song."
-- By David Lefkowitz