Even regular theatregoers can be forgiven for having trouble recalling a Broadway musical called The Prince of Central Park. After a hit run in Florida, the 1989 tuner, which starred Jo Anne Worley as a pampered Manhattanite befriending a homeless boy, ran only four performances at the Belasco Theatre. Some critics were kinder than others, but the Tony Tanner-directed musical didn't exactly set Central Park -- or any part of New York -- ablaze in a year that saw City of Angels and Grand Hotel go head-to-head at awards time.
All the more surprising, then, that the story -- if not the music -- has made the movies. "Prince of Central Park," a Lion's Gate film release, premieres in New York Sept. 21 at the Cinema One Theatre on Third Avenue.
Even though the Broadway musical was based on a novel (by Evan H. Rhodes), and the movie has dispensed with the score, press materials for the film note that the movie is based on both the novel and the musical, which had music by Don Sebesky and lyrics by Gloria Nissenson.
"Central Park" the film tells of a 14-year-old orphan (Frankie Nasso) emotionally abused by his foster mother. The child ends up "living" in a tree-house in Manhattan's Central Park, where he's befriended by a kind shop-a-holic lady. Written and directed by John Leekley, the independently-shot film stars Kathleen Turner (in the Worley role), Danny Aiello, Cathy Moriarty (as the foster mother) and Harvey Keitel.
The film's premiere party, Sept. 21, is hosted by actress Turner and Childhelp USA, a non-profit organization devoted to preventing child abuse. Their programs include counseling for educators and families and a Child Abuse Hotline (800) 4-A-CHILD. According to spokespersons at the Max Eisen press office, Turner has been a longtime supporter of Childhelp USA. After the premiere screening, "Central Park" will see limited release in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island, NY. An Eisen company spokesperson told Playbill On-Line (Sept. 21) the film's reception in its initial weeks would likely determine whether further screenings outside New York will follow.
-- By David Lefkowitz