“And how many of you are about to see your first Broadway show?”

Of the 110 kids in the room, about 75% raise their hands. They’re rewarded with a lovely smile from questioner Rachel Lee. She’s the Program Coordinator of Inspire Change, the arts program that provides schools and communities with subsidized tickets – which she’s done for this Saturday matinee of Allegiance.

When Lee sees the many kids’ hands raised high, her smile seems to say that she remembers her First Broadway Show and the pleasure it brought her. She’s happy that these New Jersey students from Cumberland Regional High School in Bridgeton and The Woodruff School in Seabrook have that treat in store.

It’ll be a sobering experience, too. Allegiance tells of Japanese-Americans, who, following the Pearl Harbor attack, were ripped from their homes, stripped off their assets — and dignity — and sent to internment camps in the middle of nowhere. The treatment they received there caused some to buckle under pressure and others to rebel.

Allegiance will be of more than moderate interest to eight of the kids, for they too come from Japanese-American ancestry and will now learn how their brave ancestors survived a terrible indignity and injustice. Much of the public may think of Broadway musicals as mindless entertainment with no redeeming features, but Allegiance is here to provoke questions and provide answers.

Spencer Lau is here, too. Lau, a 2013 winner of MTI’s The Freddie G Experience – which awarded him a week of workshops and theatergoing in New York City – is a music teacher at Woodruff who also staged Disney’s The Lion King JR. earlier this year.

Lau, a Chinese-American, says “Soon after I was hired in Seabrook, I learned that there was a large Japanese population here. Because my grand-uncle was a Pearl Harbor survivor, I was curious about this. I found out that many grandparents and great-grandparents of my students were in the internment camps in California, Arizona and Wyoming. When Charles Seabrook needed workers for his frozen food company, he paid the U.S. government to allow Japanese-Americans to work and live in the community. He not only had housing built for them, but also a temple — the Seabrook Buddhist Temple, one of the largest temples on the East Coast.”

So there’s plenty of backstory and history for these kids. But they won’t be going to Allegiance for three-and-half more hours. Now it’s only 10:30 a.m., and for the next 90 minutes, they’ll avail themselves of another opportunity that Inspire Change and MTI proudly offer: a workshop to hone their musical theater skills.

For these Cumberland kids belong to the school’s Dramatic Arts Academy while the Woodruff middle-schoolers are members of the ACE Music Department. Joey Monda, an Allegiance associate producer aligned with lead-producer Sing Out Louise! Productions, says “We’ll split them up into two groups, send them to different rooms and teach them the actual dance combination that choreographer Andrew Palermo created for the show. Then, after they’ve been well-rehearsed, both groups will be brought together so that each one can see what the other has accomplished.”

The middle-schoolers will learn “Get in the Game,” in which those interned Japanese-Americans want to prove their patriotism by enlisting have to settle for proving their Americanism by embracing baseball. The high-schoolers will tackle “442 Victory Swing,” the boogie-woogie production number that celebrates the Japanese-Americans who went to war and became the most decorated unit in World War II – and yet still weren’t appreciated by some of the American public.

But just as you must walk before you can run, you must warm up before you can sing and dance. Lee starts the high-schoolers with a few questions. “Tell me if you love to sing,” she says.

Every kid raises a hand.

“Tell me if you love to dance.”

Fewer hands go up.

“Tell me if you’re excited to be here.”

Now the hands shoot up faster and higher than before — and Freddie Gershon, MTI’S CEO, and his wife Myrna use their hands to wipe tears from their eyes; they love seeing this kind of enthusiasm. This is paradise for any kid with an interest in Broadway. This workshop does not make them feel as if they’d died and gone to heaven; this is going to heaven without dying.

So when Lee and Kevin Munhall – a performer from Allegiance — ask the high-schoolers to jump, the kids don’t ask “How high?” They instinctively leap as high as an elephant’s eye. When asked to clap in rhythm, they’re so loud that – well, let’s put it this way: if Manhattan’s electricity were at the mercy of The Clapper, even in this second-floor studio, the sound would be loud enough to cause a citywide blackout.

“Hands! Knees! Jump! Clap!” Lee barks, and the concentration on the kids’ faces show they’re intent on following every command and can’t wait for the next one. As the instructions increasingly become more complicated, the kids – well, most of them, anyway – rise to the occasion and rise high on their heels. Many have slight smiles on the faces that say “I was able to do that one right. Give me another so I can see if I can do that one, too.”

Now it’s time for singing. Sheet music is passed out, and the pianist gives them a line of music to which they must sing – “Right besides our boys there was a special crew” – which they sing a couple of times before going on to the next line: “The bravest of the brave called the 442” which they repeat as well.

“The next lines may not seem the nicest,” Lee cautions. “But it happened.” The students bravely tackle “They might seem kinda yellow but they sure can fight. Take a moment, get to know ‘em cause it’s like they’re white.

The kids are clever; are smart; they read music – or so it seems, for when they’re asked to put all four lines together, most do it in lickety-split, no-problem fashion. Perhaps they have good memories to that allow them to retain each melody line after only a scant few hearings, but the way some look at their sheet music, I say they’re sight-reading. John Stephan and Elisabeth Campbell, their drama club teachers, look on with I-knew-they-could-do-it pride.

“While their families were in a stew,” the kids continue to sing, “they fought for Uncle Sam and for me and you.” Would 110,000 Japanese-Americans who were – let’s face it – imprisoned during World War II have ever believed that the day would come when actors would be singing about their struggles?

And dancing, too. “This is the number by which we all auditioned,” says Munhall, making them feel more professional. “Hop, hop, over, out!” he instructs. Easier said than done. One girl puts her hands to her face in embarrassment because she was slow to spin around. Other kids spin beautifully, but counter-clockwise instead of clockwise. Oh, well; nobody’s perfect. Some clench their fists in I’ll-get-it-next-time frustration, while others now wish they hadn’t worn heavy boots.

But their doing the moves over and over again reveals how involved Palermo’s choreography is. In the midst of dancing, the kids are asked to give a “thumbs-up” gesture. Yes, hands are part of choreography too, aren’t they?

I decide to go upstairs to see how Lau’s kids are doing. He looks on with pride as his kids metaphorically and literally “Get in the Game,” with a little help from their friends Darren Lee, another Allegiance cast member and Matt Freeman, the Director of Education for Inspire Change.

It’s a rousing number, and while musical theater boys aren’t always known for distinguishing themselves on a baseball diamond, here they crouch in front of imaginary plates and swing phantom bats with abandon. I thought I’d be spending much more time with them as they perfected the number, but they were rarin’ to go only minutes after I arrived.

Now they go downstairs to perform for the high-schoolers. What cheers each group gives the other for its achievement! The hard work has paid off, but both Darren Lee and Munhall point out that during rehearsals and previews they received eight – count ‘em, eight – different version of each song. The students’ eyes widen at the thought of learning a number cold, only to have it changed – and changed many more times.

Now it’s off to the theater. Imagine how excited they’ll be when they’re in the theater and actually see the professionals – including their teachers Darren Lee and Kevin Munhall — doing the same choreography that they’d learned here. Won’t the kids have fun spotting them on stage? And won’t some of them be dreaming of the day they’re up there, too?

You may e-mail Peter at pfilichia@aol.com. Check out his weekly column each Monday at www.broadwayselect.com, Tuesday at www.masterworksbroadway.com and Friday at www.kritzerland.com. His book The Great Parade: Broadway’s Astonishing, Never-To-Be Forgotten 1963-1964 Season is now available at www.amazon.com.

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    Do Broadway musicals suffer the baseball phenomenon of “The Sophomore Jinx?”

    Many major league rookies who’ve had sensational years follow them with dismal seasons. And although many on Broadway may never have heard of the sophomore jinx, 65 years ago longtime theatrical observers were wondering if two producers and one composer-lyricist who had had a hit their first time out would flop their next time out.

    Producers Cy Feuer and Ernest Martin opened WHERE’S CHARLEY? with a score by Frank Loesser on Oct. 11, 1948, and saw it get split-down-the-middle mixed reviews. So how did it wind up as the sixth-longest-running book musical in Broadway history?

    Long before the show’s Philadelphia tryout, Feuer had a demo record of Loesser’s score, which he played quite a bit at home. His five-year-old son Bobby was much taken with one of its songs: “Once in Love with Amy.” So by the time the show reached the St. James Theatre and the kid went to see his daddy’s co-creation, he knew every word of the song. And to prove it, when star Ray Bolger began singing it, Bobby unabashedly and loudly sang it along with him.

    Instead of being unnerved, Bolger was enchanted. He brought the kid on stage, duetted with him and then invited the audience to sing with both of them, too. Of course Bolger had to quickly feed the theatergoers each lyric line in advance, but everyone seemed to remember the melody at first hearing and had no trouble joining in.

    Bolger had had such a good time that afternoon that he decided to have an audience sing-a-long each night. The sequence became part of the WHERE’S CHARLEY? mystique – and success. So the show that had the song called “Make a Miracle” had actually made one of its own.

    “Fine,” Broadway nay-sayers droned. “Those guys got lucky their first time out. They probably won’t be so lucky this time. Notice that George Abbott – better known as ‘Mr. Broadway’ – isn’t directing this time. Sure, they got George S. Kaufman instead, and he’s a great writer, but the six shows he’s directed – dating back to 1922, mind you – haven’t been smash-hits. So what makes anyone think he’s going to score this time out? Besides, WHERE’S CHARLEY? was based on a play, which is always easier to adapt because the dialogue is already in place. This new show was going to be based on short stories, which makes musicalizing harder.”

    Those dire predictions looked good after Feuer and Martin fired their bookwriter. He’d had more experience than they, for he’d worked on the screenplays of It’s a Wonderful Life, The Pride of the Yankees, Lifeboat and even Gone with the Wind. But his work wasn’t apparently good enough for Feuer and Martin, who replaced him with a radio writer with no Broadway experience.

    No one had much confidence in the cast. The leading man had never done a Broadway musical, although he had played George Gershwin in a biopic. But since then, he’d made movies with such titles as The Beast with Five Fingers and the upcoming Tarzan and the Slave Girl.

    The closest the leading lady and featured leading lady had come to Broadway was from buying tickets to shows. But at least the show’s male second banana had had plenty of experience: Sam Levene had been on Broadway since 1927, had graced such long-runners as Three Men on a Horse and Room Service (playing the role that Groucho Marx would do in the film version). But he’d now had three flops in a row.

    So had the choreographer after his nice hit with FINIAN’S RAINBOW.

    None of these potential liabilities wound up mattering at all, for the new effort, GUYS AND DOLLS, became a much bigger hit than WHERE’S CHARLEY?

    The reviews on Nov. 25, 1950 had something to do with that. “I did not want to leave the theater.” — Chapman, News. “It has everything.” – Coleman, Mirror. “Love for the new musical spread faster last night than fire through grass in a high wind.” – Hawkins, World Telegram & Sun. “It’s a pleasure to all beholders.” – Watts, Post. Meanwhile, John McClain of the Journal American wasn’t above writing the hoariest, most clichéd  line that critics used when they rave: “Run, don’t walk, to the nearest ticket broker.”

    The 2009 Revival of Guys and Dolls (Photo © Carol Rosegg).

    Whether some ran or walked – of if another hundred people just got off of the train to buy tickets – GUYS AND DOLLS wound up running a year longer than WHERE’S CHARLEY? to become the third-longest running book musical in Broadway history.

    Not bad for a show that had troubles early on. Jo Swerling wrote the first script, which Feuer and Martin replaced with an Abe Burrows rewrite. Feuer went to his grave saying that although Swerling was legally entitled to book credit – and top billing at that – the scribe didn’t wind up “having one word in the show.” (I’m sure Swerling had a few “ands” and “thes” that stayed in, but we all know what Feuer means.)

    Dumping Swerling did cost Feuer and Martin one significant investment. Billy Rose – the director, producer, theater owner, songwriter, and, as we all know from Funny Lady, Fanny Brice’s second husband – had given the producers $10,000, but demanded it back when he learned that Burrows was taking over. Not that Rose needed the money – when he died 16 years later, he left $30 million – but he probably kicked himself for bailing out of what became one of Broadway’s most beloved and popular musicals.

    We often hear that today’s producers aren’t the idea-men that their forebears were. Feuer certainly is Exhibit-A, for with WHERE’S CHARLEY? he decided that Brandon Thomas’ play CHARLEY’S AUNT could be double the fun if Ray Bolger not only played Charley Wickham but also his aunt. For GUYS AND DOLLS, he suggested that the plot include the time-honored plot device of a bet, which wasn’t found in the Damon Runyon short stories.

    And so, Nathan Detroit (Sam Levene), desperate to get $1,000 to stage a crap game, bets Sky Masterson (Robert Alda) that he can’t take “the doll” of his choosing to Havana. The one Nathan picks is Sarah Brown (Isabel Bigley), a Salvation Army straight-arrow who would seem most unlikely to travel 1,320 miles with a man she barely knows.

    But Sky is very clever and soon Nathan is worrying that he’ll lose the bet – and his fiancée of 14 years, Miss Adelaide (Vivian Blaine), a night club chanteuse who wants him out of the gambling business.

    GUYS AND DOLLS wound up winning five Tony Awards, for Alda, Bigley, Kaufman, choreographer Michael Kidd and, last but hardly least, Best Musical.

    And Best Score, you’re saying. No – that went to Irving Berlin for Call Me Madam.  Not it’s time for my bet: if voters could be reassembled (or resurrected) today, they’d vote instead for Frank Loesser’s music and lyrics, which has far better endured the test of time. No one needed Bobby Feuer to plug one of the songs. The entire nation was soon humming, whistling and singing “A Bushel and a Peck,” Miss Adelaide’s on-stage number; “I’ve Never Been in Love Before,” Sky and Sarah’s proclamation of their deepening feelings; and “Luck Be a Lady,” Sky’s hope that he can win a crap game – and not because he wants to pick up a few bucks.

    And while few if any vocalists covered “Adelaide’s Lament” – often chummily known as “A Person Can Develop a Cold” – it is considered to be one of the greatest comedy songs in Broadway history. “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” which has a gambler “testifying” for his sins, is often cited as the best eleven o’clock number of all time, too. Granted, some put it in second place behind “Brotherhood of Man” from HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING. The irony is both were written by Frank Loesser.

    The 2009 Revival of Guys and Dolls (Photo © Carol Rosegg).

    That GUYS AND DOLLS was sold to Hollywood at such a big price was trumpeted in the film’s preview (which is what “a trailer” was called then). It started with a shot of a check made out for $1 million that was summarily signed by legendary producer Samuel Goldwyn. Well, that’s the kind of money – “a lotta lettuce,” as Ed Sullivan said in the preview — a stage musical gets when it’s grossed $12 million. The film did even better, taking in $13 million, which made it the highest grossing picture of 1955. All told, that’s enough for 2,500 Nathan Detroit crap games.

    That same year, City Center revived GUYS AND DOLLS with one of its trademarked revivals with Walter Matthau as Nathan. Ten years later, City Center staged it again, and while its performers were rarely considered for Tony Awards – the enormous theatre on 55th Street wasn’t a true Broadway house – Jerry Orbach was so good as Sky Masterson that the committee just had to give him a Best Actor in a Musical nomination.

    When GUYS AND DOLLS had its first-ever-official Broadway revival in 1976, it was done with a black cast. Robert Guillaume as Nathan and Ernestine Jackson as Sarah got Tony nominations, as did the production itself as Best Revival.

    But GUYS AND DOLLS was headed for greater glory in 1992, when it won Tonys for Best Revival, Actress (Faith Prince as Miss Adelaide), Best Director (Jerry Zaks) and Best Sets (Tony Walton). It only wound up running 57 fewer performances than the original.

    A 2009 revival didn’t fare so well, because the director had “a concept” that made the show darker – which made the show go dark after a mere 121 performances. Broadway wags shook their heads, saying “Why mess around with a good thing? GUYS AND DOLLS is perfect as it is.”

    And if it weren’t, would it currently have 159 productions on tap through August, 2016 – not to mention 97 productions of GUYS AND DOLLS, JR. through March, 2017? Maybe ballplayers get the sophomore jinx, but GUYS AND DOLLS sure didn’t.

    You may e-mail Peter at pfilichia@aol.com. Check out his weekly column each Monday at www.broadwayselect.com, Tuesday at www.masterworksbroadway.com and Friday at www.kritzerland.com. His book The Great Parade: Broadway’s Astonishing, Never-To-Be Forgotten 1963-1964 Season is now available at www.amazon.com.

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      Who was the original Petra in A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC before she left the show in Boston? In what atypical city did Love Match – a Maltby-Shire musical about Queen Victoria – have its world premiere? What label would have recorded Prettybelle had it come to New York and run even a little while?

      Thursday at six in Langan’s Pub & Restaurant on West 47th Street you’ll find a table filled with musical theater enthusiasts who can easily tell you the answers. (Garn Stephens, Phoenix and Metromedia, in case you can’t make it.)

      And why, you ask, do I bring this up? To stress that earlier this year, these expert aficionados all agreed on something else: IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU scored a bull’s eye on every target it aimed to hit. It was a fine artistic success that fully deserved to run and run.

      To a man (and one woman), we all agreed that this original musical would bring a great deal of pleasure to a vast number of people. Never mind what some critics and nominating committees thought; IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU, we insist, shoulda been appreciated for the audience pleaser that it was.

      Michael Hamilton and Jack Lane aren’t part of our group, but only because the former is the artistic director and the latter the executive producer of Stages St. Louis. An 870-mile, three-hour flight each way wouldn’t give them much time to talk shop with us, let alone finish Langan’s specialty: Shepherd’s Pie (which presumably isn’t peppered with actual shepherd on top).

      But Hamilton and Lane have already proved their theatrical mettle and savvy by deciding to open their 2016 season with IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU. I’ll gladly predict that it will be a box-office smash and that their theatergoers, after applauding wildly at the curtain call, will exit saying “I loved it!” after they catch their collective breaths from laughing so much.

      I suspect this will happen at your theater too when you produce IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU.

      To be sure, bookwriter-lyricist Brian Hargrove’s set-up seems overly familiar: Jewish girl – Rebecca Steinberg – is marrying Catholic boy – Brian Howard. All four parents have myriad opinions about the wedding and – need we add? — the reception.

      In this corner, we have Judy and Murray Steinberg, the parents of the bride, and in that one we have George and Georgette Howard, who represent the groom. As they say in sports, “These two teams don’t like each other.”

      The only one keeping cool is Rebecca’s sister Jenny, although this day isn’t easy for her. After all, she’s the older sibling, so her parents naturally assumed that she’d “go first.”

      “But a wedding is a great place to meet men,” Judy tells her. “I’m sure you’ll have your own wedding one day.” This is not what Jenny wants to hear, but it’s better than the fat-shaming that Judy often employs.

      Yes, Judy often tartly says what’s on her mind. So when she promises Jenny, Rebecca and the latter’s good friend Annie that “I’m just going to be my usual self today,” the three others shriek out a “No!”

      Luckily, Tyne Daly, who originated the role, ameliorated each zinger with her trademark smile, easily one of the most endearing in show business. Make certain that your Judy can do the same.

      In the face of such criticism over her weight, Jenny shows excellent self-esteem. She believes that she’s “sorta pretty, kinda sexy.” But she’s got a sense of humor about herself, too. Just one look at the dress she’s asked to wear causes her to remark “I wouldn’t fit into this if I were cremated.”

      John Waters has often said one of the most fulfilling aspects of seeing his film HAIRSPRAY turned into a musical is that a heavy-set teen girl will now get a leading role in her high school musical. IT SHOULDA offers a similar opportunity for older plus-sized actresses who can play “thirty-two-ish and Jewish.”

      Daly, you’ll recall, won a Tony for portraying Rose in Gypsy, so she’s no stranger to strong-willed mothers. But Harriet Harris was awarded a Tony, too, for playing a supposedly motherly (but hardly maternal) character in THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE. So if you need proof that Judy and Georgette are great roles for mature actresses, just ask yourself if two Tony-winners would want these parts if they weren’t good ones.

      Harris was superb as Georgette, the dipsomaniac whose lines are as dry as the martini she’d like to have right now. George tries to glad-hand her to no avail – although he fares better than Murray, who battles his wife at every turn, although he knows full well from the outset that he’ll never win.

      And then there’s Albert, the wedding planner, which is a delicious part for an actor who can play fussy and pseudo-obsequious. Also on the scene is Marty Kaufman, Rebecca’s old beau who shows up to stop the nuptials. If you think that Judy and Murray want him ousted, you’re wrong; they’d prefer him to be their son-in-law. “It shoulda been you,” they insist (as do meddlesome Uncle Morty and Aunt Sheila).

      Jenny isn’t as pleased with Marty. He’s been her good friend since childhood, so why didn’t he call to tell her that he and Rebecca broke up? But what’s really bothering Jenny? Is it that the now-free Marty might choose someone else – someone thin — as his girlfriend/fiancée/wife?

      Hargrove short-circuits the clichés by offering a twist: Rebecca and Brian never planned to marry. She’s in love with Annie and he’s crazy for his best man Greg, and the whole wedding is a ruse to keep the parents quiet and get presents and inheritances. Judy, Murray and George need some time to adjust to the turn of events, but Georgette always felt that Brian was gay and is glad that he’ll now be in a relationship that will better suit him.

      This theatrical curve-ball may not amuse ultra-conservatives. But the Broadway performance I caught (my third visit to the show) was during the height of tourist season, and out-of-towners roared with delight when the truth was revealed.

      They also went with Hargrove when he dispensed with the hi-octane jokes and introduced plenty of heart, soul and feeling. What started out as a gagfest turned into a genuinely emotional experience. Barbara Anselmi’s music serves Hargrove’s lyrics well and is right for the characters. Jenny gets a great second-act aria, which you already know if you saw Lisa Howard knock out the Tony attendees at this year’s broadcast.

      For costumes, you’ll need formal finery, including two wedding dresses. (Did I just give something away? And I don’t mean the bride.) Anyone who’s been a bridesmaid or maid-of-honor is always told the great canard that “You’ll wear that dress again.” IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU can make the lie into a reality.

      So if the show is this splendid, why couldn’t it last more than a mere five months on Broadway? In addition to the withheld admiration from critics and committee, there was a unit set.

      Oh, set designer Anna Louizos did as well as she could with the budget she was given, but every Broadway musical that uses a one-size-fits-all set does itself a disservice. Louizos provided a hotel lobby, although so much of the action took place in specific rooms. One scene, in fact, occurred in a ladies room where important information was overheard by women inside the stalls. Alas, you’d have never assumed from the doors hastily brought onto the unit set that they were anything but regular doors leading to regular rooms.

      Theatergoers need to know where they are as soon as a scene starts, but those who attended IT SHOULDA often didn’t get their bearings until the scene was nearly over. So while employing a unit set may seem cost-effective, it winds up a false economy. If theatergoers get lost while watching a show, the money used to produce the show will be lost, too.

      You needn’t do a production where you lug on one heavy realistic set after another. Let low-cost projections do the work for you. Had IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU used this option, it might still be on Broadway.

      For the show winds up saying that dreams can come true, which many of the best musicals do. Because almost every character goes home happy, so will most every theatergoer.

      As a result, I prophesize that St. Louis will be just the start of a healthy international career for IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU. St. Maarten’s, Saint Augustine, Santa Monica, San Francisco and other blessed places won’t be far behind. Just include in your budget enough money for a bouquet that can be thrown into the audience at every performance’s curtain call.

      You may e-mail Peter at pfilichia@aol.com. Check out his weekly column each Monday at www.broadwayselect.com, Tuesday at www.masterworksbroadway.com and Friday at www.kritzerland.com. His book The Great Parade: Broadway’s Astonishing, Never-To-Be Forgotten 1963-1964 Season is now available at www.amazon.com.


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        New York, November 5, 2015 – Bert Fink will join Music Theatre International (MTI) as Chief Creative Officer for MTI Europe, it was announced today by Drew Cohen, President and Chief Operating Officer of MTI Worldwide.

        MTI, already the largest musical theatre licensing agency in America, recently announced a global expansion with new offices in London (MTI Europe, shared with its long-standing agent Josef Weinberger Ltd.), and Melbourne (MTI Australasia, continuing its close relationship with Hal Leonard Australia Pty Ltd).

        Fink will join MTI Europe Managing Director Seán Gray and his team in early 2016.

        MTI, co-founded by legendary composer Frank Loesser and orchestrator Don Walker, today represents the world’s greatest collection of musicals, encompassing over 400 titles and servicing more than 100,000 clients worldwide.  MTI’s catalogue includes Broadway classics (Guys and Dolls, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, The Music Man, Annie); the ground-breaking works of Stephen Sondheim (Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, Follies, A Little Night Music); global titles such as Mamma Mia!, Hairspray, and Billy Elliot; Cameron Mackintosh-produced hits Les Misérables and Miss Saigon; Disney’s  Newsies and Beauty and the Beast; and the Mackintosh and Disney-produced Mary Poppins.

        Drew Cohen said:  “We are thrilled to welcome Bert Fink to the MTI family. Bert’s world-class reputation throughout the theatre community, along with his talent for connecting producers with the right shows for their stages, will benefit not only MTI but all of the authors whom we represent, and all of the customers we serve.  Few people in our industry have Bert’s wealth of experience, and our teams in London as well as in New York and Melbourne are eager to work collaboratively with Bert.”

        Seán Gray said:  “I have known and enjoyed working with Bert for many years, through Josef Weinberger’s long representation of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization.  I have great respect for his knowledge and ability, and he will be a wonderful addition to the new MTI Europe office.  We are all looking forward to welcoming him on board in the New Year and to doing great things together for our authors’ shows.”

        Fink will join MTI Europe after having served for three years in London as Senior Vice President/Europe for Rodgers & Hammerstein: An Imagem Company. Prior to his London transfer, Fink served in R&H’s New York office for nearly a quarter century in a variety of publicity, promotion and production capacities.  “It has been my privilege to work on a remarkable catalogue with [R&H President] Ted Chapin and my extraordinary colleagues in New York, London and Berlin,” says Fink. “But I am excited by the opportunity Cameron, Freddie, Drew and Seán have offered me at MTI Europe – a chance to promote an astonishingly rich and varied collection of musicals across the vibrant British and European markets.”

        Freddie Gershon, partner in, and CEO of, MTI, also conceived the Company’s Educational Division and its acclaimed Broadway Junior Collection for Young Students. Gershon said: “Bert’s presence at MTI serves all of us well, and particularly the Junior and Kids programs. His passion and creativity brings us a fresh talent planting seeds for new performers and, ultimately, for a new audience enjoying the magic of live musical theatre. I’ve known Bert for many years, and I am genuinely delighted, and feel validated, that my vision of 20 years ago will be carried on in his capable hands alongside that of the great team he joins at MTI Europe.”

        Sir Cameron Mackintosh, co-owner of MTI said:  “As Music Theatre International expands its worldwide operations I’m delighted, on both a personal and professional level, that Bert Fink is joining our management team, adding his vast experience of the secondary licensing market to ours and ensuring that MTI will remain the pre-eminent and most innovative library of great musicals in the world.  I first met Bert in 1982 when he was working in the press office for Cats in New York.  I could see from the start that he loved the musical theatre and, like the show he was working on,  he was a curious cat fascinated by all aspects of its production.  He gained great insight into the process of creating a musical and that, coupled with his boundless enthusiasm, is the reason that during his time with Rodgers & Hammerstein he became one of the great ambassadors of promoting both amateur and professional productions of musicals around the world.  Everyone at MTI have known and admired Bert for many years so we are all delighted that he has now decided to settle in Europe and have a new adventure with us, working with our extraordinary stable of authors and shows.  An exciting new chapter in MTI’s illustrious 60 years history is about to begin.”

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          Filichia Features: A Little on A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC

          October 30, 2015

          So was it true? So many people who’d been in Boston to see the Huntington Theatre Company’s production of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC had warned me. “You won’t believe it!” they cried. “Madame Armfeldt actually comes on to Frid!” Well, that would be on the scandalous side. Madame Armfeldt was originally played on Broadway by [...]

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            Billy Elliot The Musical Now Available For Licensing

            October 29, 2015

            License Billy Elliot The Musical Today!*  An inspiring celebration of one boy’s journey who hangs up his boxing gloves for ballet shoes. Millions of fans…Thousands of standing ovations…Ten Tony Awards including Best Musical…this is Billy Elliot The Musical the spectacular show with the heart, humor and passion to be named Time Magazine’s “Best Musical of the Decade!” Based [...]

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              The Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards Nominations Now Accepted

              October 26, 2015

              $10,000 Awards Named for Broadway Legend Honoring Teachers in all Fields of Education The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is seeking nominations for the 2016 Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Awards—a series of annual grants that recognize inspiring teachers in any field of education across the United States. Now entering their sixth [...]

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                Filichia Features: When Funny Thing Was Starting Out

                October 23, 2015

                That production I mentioned last week of A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM made me return to its roots – meaning the demo. Do you know the term “demo”? It’s short for “demonstration record.” For musical theater purposes, it’s meant to demonstrate the score of an upcoming show for both would-be [...]

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                  Filichia Features: The FUNNY Indestructible Musical

                  October 16, 2015

                  As soon as the lights came up for intermission, my buddy Jay Clark immediately snapped, “Listen, I know you have to stay – but I don’t. I’ll wait in the car.” Actually, the recent production of A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM at The Stoneham (Massachusetts) Theatre didn’t hit me the [...]

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                    Music Theatre International Secures Worldwide Licensing Rights To Bullets Over Broadway

                    October 14, 2015

                    Theatrical licensor Music Theatre International (MTI) has secured worldwide licensing rights to Broadway’s Tony® nominated hit Bullets Over Broadway. The show is the musical adaptation of Woody Allen’s Academy Award® winning 1994 film of the same name and is about a playwright whose first taste of success comes with mobsters and a domineering diva attached. [...]

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