Though David Merrick has essentially retired from Broadway producing, his organization is still active, headed by his longtime companion, executive producer Natalie Lloyd. One of her first projects was initiated in-house: the company's executive artistic director, Zack Manna, has been collaborating with David Levy on a stage adaptation of The Pirate, featuring songs by Cole Porter.
Scott Wise, a Tony winner for Jerome Robbins' Broadway and a Tony nominee for Fosse, is attached to the project as both an actor and, possibly, choreographer.
Manna, a first-time librettist, has lots of material to work with in creating the show. Not only is he adapting the 1948 Vincente Minnelli film but the 1942 S.N. Behrman play it was based on, as well as the Viennese play, by Ludwig Fulda, that started it all. Gene Kelly starred in the film as a circus clown mistaken for a Caribbean pirate.
Songs in the show are will include all the film tunes (e.g., "Be A Clown") plus Porter songs either not heard since the 1920s or never heard on Broadway at all. (Manna credited historian Robert Kimball with helping on that research.)
Co-librettist Levy is best known for penning the book and lyrics for the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde musical that played at NJ's Paper Mill Playhouse. The Merrick Organization will be the general partner in producing the show, which, at the moment, is "fifty-one percent Foundation, making it a non-profit venture," Manna noted. Hopes are for The Pirate to swashbuckle during the 2000-2001 Broadway season.
In June 1998, legendary producer Merrick and Lloyd reorganized his philanthropic endeavors -- geared to create a breeding ground for new musicals -- into the David Merrick Foundations Group, which encompasses three different foundations: The David Merrick & Natalie Lloyd Foundation, a public charity; The David Merrick Arts Foundation, Inc., a not-for-profit theatre production unit; and The New American Musical, Inc., dedicated to developing new musicals for theatre, film and television. The latter organization has promised to hold competitions for new works, with cash awards and further development as the prize.
On Oct. 27, the Daily News reported that Merrick's divorce from his third and fifth wife, Etan Merrick, had finally been settled. This would allow him to marry Lloyd, which Merrick's lawyer said would very likely occur.
Merrick, now 88, started his initial foundation in 1959 with profits from such hits as Gypsy and Look Back in Anger. Among Merrick shows later supported by the Fund were Marat/Sade, A Taste of Honey, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead and Loot. Merrick's biggest Broadway hits include Hello, Dolly! and 42nd Street. Other shows include Fanny, Carnival, Promises, Promises and the ill-fated Breakfast At Tiffany's.
-- By David Lefkowitz