By Kristi Casey Sanders
The Fox Theatre and Theater of the Stars (TOTS) are planning to bring Atlanta a little closer to Broadway by partnering with Elephant Eye Theatrical, a production company specializing in creating new works for Broadway.
“We were approached by major partners of Five Cent Productions, which is a group of not-for-profit performing arts centers that partially were the catalyst for Elephant Eye’s formation,” says Allan Vella, the Fox’s general manager. “The Five Cent theaters and Elephant Eye were interested in having a strategic relationship in this marketplace and looked to both of us to become members. Normally, they wouldn’t do that; they only have one member per market. But, because we have such a close relationship with TOTS, and because we’re both not-for-profit theaters, and because we both wish to further theatrical productions, it was a really good marriage for everyone.”
By joining Elephant Eye, TOTS and the Fox contribute to the pool of seed money the production company uses to create, workshop and produce original Broadway shows. In exchange, they are guaranteed first right of refusal when the new show leaves Broadway and begins touring. “When it … hits the road, it will play the Fox Theatre and nowhere else in the area,” Vella explains. “And the second go-round, we get first refusal again. It secures for the Fox first-run, top-notch Broadway entertainment.”
In 2005, producers Stuart Oken (The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Aida ), Michael Leavitt (Three Tall Women, Picasso at the Lapin Agile ; revivals of Death of a Salesman and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest ) and Five Cent Productions’ five regional, not-for-profit theaters formed Elephant Eye Theatrical. Currently, the company has three projects in development: Saved , The Addams Family and Bruce Lee: Journey to the West. The new musicals are helmed by all-star creative teams, featuring talents such as Tony Award-winning librettists Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice (2006 Best Musical for Jersey Boys ), Tony-nominated director Bartlett Sher (The Light in the Piazza ) and Tony Award-winning writer David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly ).
Saved , scheduled to open in spring 2008 at Playwright’s Horizons, is set at a Christian high school where people finds faith in unexpected places. The Addams Family , based on cartoonist Charles Addams’ characters and sketches (also inspiration for the wildly popular TV series and motion picture), will debut during the 2009-2010 Broadway season. Bruce Lee: Journey to the West , opening during the 2010-2011 Broadway season, puts the martial arts legend’s life to music and pits him against the Chinese warrior god, The Monkey King.
Vella says Elephant Eye’s production model is an innovative way to produce new work. “Instead of having to raise money for each show, they have a pool of money to work with,” he says. “So, if production A fails, it’s OK, because they’re on to production B. And, if production B fails, they’re working on production C. Instead of investing in one show, we’ve invested in a production company that can produce an infinite amount of titles, and we always have the rights to that.”