Friday, November 25, 2011

Frank Wildhorn's Ups and Downs

Composer Frank Wildhorn has never has never gotten much love from the critics since his Broadway debut writing additional material for the stage version of Voctor/Victoria. Since then, Mr. Wildhorn has had six more forays onto the Broadway stage, including the musical adaptations of Jekyll & Hyde and The Scarlett Pimpernell, and received a 1999 Tony nomination for The Civil War. His most recent show, Wonderland, A New Alice, received terrible reviews and became a $16 million flop, lasting only 33 performances on Broadway. But his new show, a musical adaptation of the film Bonnie and Clyde, may be able to buck his trend.

There has been an odd dichotomy in getting investors to commit to Bonnie and Clyde. When potential investors heard the music and descriptions of the upcoming adaptations, before learning the identity of the score's composer, people were thrilled to invest. But, once they learned of Mr. Wildhorn's involvement, "a few pulled their money out of [the show], recalled one of its lead producers, Kathleen Raitt, while others dropped from a $250,000 to a $25,000 commitment," according to a New York Times report by Patrick Healy. Ms Raitt, who also produced The Civil War and The Scarlett Pimpernell continued that "Wonderland just kneecapped us, in a way I’d never seen spill over from one show to another."

The producing team includes some new investors, including a hedge fund manager who happens to coach Mr. Wildhorn's son's soccer team (and who also happens to have raised $250,000 towards the $6 million capitalization for Bonnie and Clyde). Ms. Raitt has hope that the show, which opens on December 1st, can succeed, saying “Now come the critics. I’m praying there’s an open mind about Frank.” And no one is hoping more than Mr. Wildhorn himself, who credits his father with giving him his resiliency. “My dad was a great athlete growing up, and his dream was to play baseball. But during the Korean War he was diagnosed with M.S. He had to give up a lot of his dreams. He went into magazine publishing and he provided a great life for my mom and me and my sister. He and my mom were always dancing, they loved it, though I could tell when he was hurting physically. But he never gave up on himself. I think from him I got my work ethic, and to never give up.”

After the show opens on Thursday night, I will post what the critics have said and we shall see what Mr. Wildhorn's fate will be.

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