Brooklyn — with Choreography and Direction By Jeff Calhoun — Is Headed for Broadway

News   Brooklyn — with Choreography and Direction By Jeff Calhoun — Is Headed for Broadway
Brooklyn, the five-person musical that premiered at the New Denver Civic Theatre last May, looks likely for a fall debut on Broadway.
Jeff Calhoun, with Marlee Matlin, at the opening night of Big River
Jeff Calhoun, with Marlee Matlin, at the opening night of Big River Photo by Aubrey Reuben

The Denver Post reports that Mark Schoenfeld and Barri McPherson's musical will open on Broadway Oct. 21 at a theatre-to-be-announced. Mitchell Maxwell, who was one of the co-producers of the Denver run, told the Denver paper, "When we came out of our Denver run, we were aggressively pursued by an organization . . . called [Producers Four] that said they would put up the entire $7 million investment."

Producer Benjamin Mordecai — part of Producers Four — told Playbill On-Line that Maxwell's information is not correct. "We are indeed working with Jeff Calhoun and John McDaniel," said Mordecai, "with an idea of co-producing Brooklyn [on Broadway]. But nothing is set at this time — there is no theatre, no cast has been contracted, no date set. We're definitely hoping to do it next season, but we don't have a budget yet. It's way too early. The only thing that is true is we are very excited about [bringing the show to Broadway]."

Jeff Calhoun, who directed and choreographed the Denver production, will handle the same duties on Broadway. Calhoun has been reworking parts of the show and hopes the entire Denver cast — including Wicked's Eden Espinosa in the title role, Lee Morgan, David Jennings, Ramona Keller and Karen Olivo — will open the Broadway production. "I think the reason we will do well on Broadway," Calhoun told the Denver Post, "is that we have music that is pertinent for today and has its finger on the pulse of young people. And that is going to encourage a lot of younger audiences to come to the theatre." A new song — "Magic Man" — was recently added to the score.

The creative team at the Denver Civic Theatre comprised Ray Klausen (scenic designer), Tobin Ost (costume designer/associate scenic designer), Michael Gilliam (lighting designer), Jonathan Deans (sound designer), Coy Middlebrook (associate director), Patti D’Beck (associate choreographer), John Miller (music coordinator) and Victor Simonson (music director). John McDaniel — of “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” fame — served as Brooklyn’s music supervisor and arranger.

Eden Espinosa starred in the title role in the workshop production of Brooklyn and recently made a guest appearance during John McDaniel’s nightclub performance at Joe’s Pub. She is currently the standby for Idina Menzel in Stephen Schwartz's Wicked. David Jennings was nominated for an Ovation Award for his performance as Jake in the West Coast premiere of Side Show and also appeared in the Broadway revival of Once Upon a Mattress. Ramona Keller co-starred in the recent production of Dreamgirls — with Jennifer Holliday — at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre, and Karen Olivo starred as Mimi in Broadway’s Rent. *

In an earlier PBOL interview, Jeff Calhoun discussed his love for Brooklyn. "I really believe I've been waiting and training my whole life for this project," he said. "It is that amazing mix of commerce with high artistry, and it's hard to find something that can deliver both."

Calhoun explained that the piece was initially brought to him by Paula Holt, who was the president and artistic director of Los Angeles' Tiffany Theatres. "It's written by this amazing man [Mark Schoenfeld] who was homeless, who survived on the kindness of strangers. That inspired him to write this story, and it's written from a homeless point of view about the homeless. [Schoenfeld] wrote everything — book, music and lyrics — [with his writing partner Barri McPherson]." Described as a morality tale of a "beautiful, young Parisian songstress, whose fame and fortune could not fill the emptiness of her soul," the new musical is set in Brooklyn, New York, and will transport audiences from the New York City borough to Paris and back.

An eclectic mix of soul and pop music with a bit of classic American tunes and opera thrown into the stew, Brooklyn possesses "the best score I've heard since Dreamgirls," Calhoun said. "It's a remarkable score, and I love when shows feel like they have their finger on the pulse of what's happening. I love the music of yesteryear, I really do, but I also like it when [there is music] you could actually listen to in your apartment and not have to be in the business to enjoy. I would love kids who do not live in New York and are not interested into going into show business to want to listen to this at home in their rooms. The music is just incredibly accessible. Certainly, my generation is going to love it, and I think younger people as well."

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