General News

BUZZ/SAW: Listen Up, Broadway (And Broadway.com)!

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Aug 28, 2001 | 11:01am EDT

No one knows this yet but there's a new musical that will land on Broadway very soon and it will be a huge, huge hit.

How can we be so sure? Yes, the spankin' new musical comedy version of the smash indie "The Full Monty" opened last Thursday at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre to great reviews, including one in Monday's Variety, but this column has always been a little, uh, skeptical of critics.

But one of the theater world's most seasoned professionals (now a major force on the West Coast after having cut his teeth in New York for years) caught a preview early last week and declared "The Full Monty" an "unequivocal smash" and "howlingly commercial."

Yes, playwright Terrence McNally ("The Kiss of the Spider Woman," "Master Class," "Love! Valour! Compassion!") uncharacteristically breaks no new ground here, but he and novice musical comedy composer/lyricist David Yazbek deliver the kind of tuneful and funny traditional Broadway musical entertainment that is the high quality stuff of classics like "Damn Yankees" or "My Fair Lady," says our expert.

McNally adapted "The Full Monty" from Fox Searchlight's 1997 surprise megahit about a bunch of of unemployed and loveable losers from Sheffield, England. McNally wisely moved his story to blue collar Buffalo, New York. The film, which garnered an Oscar and received an additional three nominations, reportedly cost about $3.4 million but grossed about $256 million worldwide, including almost $50 million of that in the U.S.

Considering the potential revenues that the current musical version will generate, there's a good chance that 20th Century Fox -- footing most of the bill for the Broadway run -- could reap the largest profit ever for a motion picture film, as measured against its actual production cost. The feat may even eclipse the amazing "cross-platform" success of France's runaway hit play-turned-into film smash "La Cage aux Folles," which subsequently triumphed on Broadway as a musical comedy.

The six leads in the new "Monty" aren't exactly household names but Broadway could change all that.

What upbeat but shy critics of the "Full Monty" stage version have neglected to mention is that, like its cinematic counterpart, this new "Monty" offers beaucoup nudity in its finale. But whereas the film delivered derrieres, this musical version has the stars face the audience stark naked. However (and we credit a crafty lighting designer for this one), the actors are so brightly backlit, their, ahem, parts are spared.

And here's a little Broadway postscript. Geographically-challenged fans who are fond of great acting but can't get to Broadway's "The Real Thing" to see just-crowned Tony winner Stephen Dillane should be able to strike gold at their video store. Dillane delivered a brilliant performance in Miramax's underrated "Welcome to Sarajevo," in which he plays a British TV journalist of immense sensitivity and passion covering the violent fighting in the war-torn town in 1992. Trust us.The Miramax Home Entertainment release is proof that, when it comes to acting, Dillane is "the real thing."

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YOU CAN GET THERE FROM HERE: No doubt, U.S. attendees at New York's just-wrapped International Network 2000 (TIN2000) three-day conference covering Internet and new economy trends overseas were relieved to learn that the mind-boggling changes and uncertainties wrought by the new mass medium are every bit as mind-boggling to players beyond our shores.

Fortunately, attendees, reminded at every turn that this new medium is global, were able to mine nuggets of information and insight, perhaps affording some much-needed dot-calm as we all navigate the eye of this new media storm.

On the content side, we were reminded that, although dot-coms have a global reach, the best strategy is to customize content for local use and have local management in place to exploit it and serve local customers. Indeed, Amazon was chastised for being a global brand yet not having local operations.

Advertisers as "broad-brand" as Coca Cola will jump at global opportunities while other advertisers will appreciate reaching local markets. And let's not forget the hints that Internet portals eventually may serve as our desktops.

On the technology side, the U.S. remains the innovator for proprietary technology. But watch out for countries like Israel or France that want a piece of that action. A French group, for instance, is developing a promising (and very secret) wireless technology for B2B transactions.

Also on the technology front, wireless transmission is the coming monster, although it will be data services (quotes, short messaging and paging) – not multimedia – and the WAP platform standard that initially take hold.

Star Media's Fernando Espuelas characterized the new media changes in South America as a "revolution" fueled by free ISPs and wireless penetration.

On the business side, attendees shaken by the recent paroxysms on Wall Street were warned to "retain cash."

And TIN2000 offered its share of aphorisms like "it's not the idea; it's the execution" advice to entrepreneurs seeking financing for start-ups.

The unimaginable growth of the Internet was excellently conveyed by Chinadotcom's U.S. president Andrew Miller, who reminded attendees that there are about 25,000 Chinese language Web sites and dozens of new ones emerging every day.

On the how-is-this-territory-different front, Miller told the audience that credit cards are virtually non-existent in China, thus setting minds to ponder how one billion Chinese might one day efficiently engage in e-commerce. And how is the U.S. different? In wireless, we're way behind a lot of markets like Japan, Scandinavia, and other European markets.

On the copycat front, overseas companies tend to look to the U.S. for business models.

And on the ego-building, power-to-the-little-people front, attendees – cowed by the new media giants and their mega-buck, mega-deals -- were relieved to be reminded that, in spite of a billion spent, AOL couldn't build a real content company and Time Warner couldn't create a real online business.

The three-day session was a richly-informative combo of keynote speeches from the likes of preternaturally charismatic Star Media CEO Fernando Espuelas and linguistically-gifted Chinadotcom U.S. president Andrew Miller; think tank panels focusing on individual overseas territories like France, the U.K. and Latin America; Fireside Chats between TIN2000 co-chair and resident gadfly Jason McCabe Calacanis and important mucky-mucks like Lycos CEO Bob Davis; and sponsor presentations from Net and technology giants like IBM and Real Media.

May we suggest for the immediate future a new media conference, or at least a panel, from anyone that will address – How To Manage Sooooo Much Information?

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THE STREETS OF NEW YORK: They've been romanticized to death in films noir and otherwise and in plays, books, etc. but sometimes these "mean streets" just mean death.

Last week, New York media extensively covered the tragic death of Randolph Walker, a 71 year-old journeyman stage and commercials actor, known for his generosity, tenacity, and ability to survive in one of the world's toughest professions.

Walker was struck down and killed near Times Square by a double-decker tour bus, on his way back from an audition for the indie film "Dummy." (Disclosure: "Buzz/Saw's" reporter brought the two producers of "Dummy" together.)

Well-known stage and film character actor Marilyn Cooper, currently seen in a small role in "Keeping the Faith," was at the "Dummy" audition with Walker, whom she called "a lovely person an friend."

Producers Bob Fagan and Richard Temtchine and writer/director Greg Pritikin were so shaken by the news, they have vowed to somehow honor the memory of Walker in their film.

Set to roll this Saturday, "Dummy" stars Adrien Brody, Milla Jovovich, Vera Farmiga, and Illeana Douglas. It's a wry comedy about some colorful and charmingly quirky characters who triumph over adversity, ultimately finding happiness as fullfilled players in their respective, "nichey" worlds. The terrible irony is that Randolph Walker, before his tragic death, had managed to do just that.

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BUZZ CUTS: Coke Gets Hip: Gulp! We just learned a bit about the new teen Coca-Cola-sponsored soaper series "Young Americans," that the WB net will begin airing in July. According to our spy, the pilot installment, set at a prestigious boarding school in a typical New England town, serves up both "cross-dressing and sublimated incest" amidst its blueblood and blue collar young characters. "Young Americans" is the concoction of Steven Antin, a former David Geffen protege when he (Antin) was of a tender age. "It's 'Cruel Intentions' meets 'Dawson's Creek' and it's juicy," says our guy. But does it go with Coke?, ask we, also sensing a bit of "Peyton Place" and "The Skulls" thrown into the spicy hot stew...Biz-y Couples: Variety Editor Peter Bart and his wife, bedecked in an unforgettable hat, stepped out Sunday to attend the downtown New York wedding of Variety New York reporter Paula Bernstein and Anthony Orkin. The Barts noshed on caviar, lox and sushi hors-d'oeuvres at the reception, then attended the ceremony, but skipped the sumptuous dinner. And warring spouses Rudy Giuliani, New York City Mayor, and his broadcast personality and actress wife Donna Hanover are together again, at least as nominal co-hosts of New York City's annual Crystal Apple Awards party for the city's entertainment community. Their two names grace the invitation to the upcoming June 14 lawn event at the Mayor's home as if their nasty dust-up never landed on the front pages of the city's tabloids...We Can Still Trust Him: Mark Wahlberg ("Boogie Nights," "Three Kings") can be trusted since he hasn't turned 30 yet. In fact, Wahlberg celebrated his 29th birthday June 5 at a Seattle birthday party tossed by his fellow cast members and crew on the rock 'n' roll film "Metal God." Appropriately, the rock film moved to rock mecca Seattle this past weekend for the final days of shooting. For the party, Mark's pals booked The Painted Table, the restaurant at the Alexis Hotel, where everyone is boarding. Coincidentally, the always successful Seattle International Film Festival, like "Metal God," wraps later this week (Sunday, to be exact). Already Festival buzz is about what they're calling the very hilarious "Sordid Lives," a soon-to-be-picked up comedy about an unusual Texas family that stars Olivia Newton-John, Beau Bridges, Bonnie Bedelia, and Delta Burke...King and Cook: Sadly, Mary Jenkins Langston, Elvis Presley's longtime cook, died this week. Langston was captured in the wonderful BBC/Cinemax documentary "The Burger and the King," based on "The Life and Cuisine of Elvis Presley," David Adler's book about Elvis and his eating proclivities. Adler, who also served as associate producer of the documentary, remembers Langston telling him that besides the King's penchant for rich foods, he was especially fond of breakfasts and had them served to him in bed. Since Presley was a nocturnal person, his fatty breakfasts were delivered towards evening. Unfortunately for fans of Presley and good docs, the critically-acclaimed "The Burger and the King" has not been cleared for video. Apparently, but not definitely, this media "artery" was "blocked" by the Elvis Presley estate...Speaking of Docs: A surefire hit on the horizon has emerged from New York's about to wrap third annual "docfest." It's a 55 minute show from Britain's Jane Treays called "One Man, Six Wives and Twenty-Nine Children." The doc focuses on religious Mormon Tom Green and his many wives and offspring who live in their own isolated trailer park-like spread in the Utah desert. This one will rock audiences and rattle long-held notions about polygymy. Stay tuned for more on this, especially because Green is about to lock horns with the state of Utah, which is prosecuting him on charges of child rape and bigamy. Treays hopes to cover the trial and incorporate that material into a revised feature-length version of the film. Look for a fast sale of the current version to U.S. television...USA Films begins screenings this week in New York of Neil LaBute's comedy "Nurse Betty," starring Renee Zellweger, Greg Kinnear, Chris Rock and Morgan Freeman. The film marks the first that LaBute ("In the Company of Men," "Your Friends and Neighbors") directed but did not write (LaBute did do a rewrite). A lucky choice it was since the screenplay by James Flamberg and John Richards was a recent Cannes Film Fest winner.

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