ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Planning a Disastrous New Year's Eve and Building Bridges With Jason Robert Brown

By Seth Rudetsky
30 Dec 2013

Jason Robert Brown
Jason also told us that years ago, MGM wanted to turn their films into musicals and offered their catalogue to producers. A producer approached Jason and asked him to pick a movie to musicalize and Jason decided on "Honeymoon in Vegas" because he's very comfortable writing about "neurotic Jews." Turns out, it was the only film MGM didn't have the stage rights for. Jason was sad because he had hoped to write it with Andrew Bergman, who had written and directed the film and was one of Jason's comedy heroes. (He also wrote films like "The Freshman" and "Blazing Saddles.") Years later, Jason found out through Lonny Price that Andrew Bergman got the stage rights to "Honeymoon in Vegas" to make a musical version! He was inspired because he saw how much money Mel Brooks was making with The Producers. Brava! Jason got in touch with him, they wrote the show, did it at Papermill Playhouse and recently got an amazing review in the New York Times! Here are some clips

Jason had just come from The Bridges of Madison County rehearsal, so I asked how that first came to be. He and Marsha Norman first worked together on a piece at The Kennedy Center and they both enjoyed it so much that they wanted to do something else together. Jason said he wanted to write "our Traviata," AKA a piece where people sing long, sweeping songs about love. Right around that time Marsha got a call from Robert James Waller's agent asking her if she was interested in writing a musical version of "The Bridges of Madison County." She immediately told Jason, "I've found our Traviata!"

I assumed they wrote it and then got producers on board. No, turns out, they wound up getting producers behind the show before it was even written by pitching it while accompanied by their secret weapon: Kelli O'Hara. She became attached to the project through Jason's agent and Jason told us that pitch meetings happened in the spring with a blonde, glowing Kelli looking gorgeous. He said that he and Marsha didn't even need to speak because the producers were all so enraptured just being in the same room as Kelli that they basically all said yes, and he and Marsha went with the best one.

Once they got the producer, they still needed to write it and one day Marsha happened to be at an auction and bid on the "rock star" villa in St. Bart's. Not only did was it beautiful and had its own servants but it also featured a recording studio (!) in the basement. She won the auction with some other people but none of them were able to make the date they chose. So, she called Jason, he flew down with his wife and the bulk of the show was written while living in luxury! They really wanted Steven Pasquale for the male lead, but he wasn't available because he was starring in a TV show. Marsah and Jason were disappointed, but when they heard that the TV show got the "lowest ratings in the history of anything" they were like "score"! They called Steven and he was available! I'm so excited that he's about to originate a singing role on Broadway... he's so good! Take a gander. Jason sang a great song from the show, and you can hear it and watch the whole interview on SethTV.com.

Happy New Year everyone! And come see Disaster!... We're finally adding Thursday nights! DisasterMusical.com.

(Seth Rudetsky is the afternoon Broadway host on SiriusXM. He has played piano for over 15 Broadway shows, was Grammy-nominated for his concert CD of Hair and Emmy-nominated for being a comedy writer on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." He has written two novels, "Broadway Nights" and "My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan," which are also available at Audible.com. He recently launched SethTV.com, where you can contact him and view all of his videos and his sassy new reality show.)

Kelli O'Hara, Steven Pasquale, Hunter Foster and Cast Offer Sneak Peek at The Bridges of Madison County

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Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN