Friday, March 02, 2007

Toxic: Jersey Boys Will Be Boys

Toxic: Jersey Boys Will Be Boys

In an incendiary letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, Marshall Brickman defends his honor with a brilliant tongue-lashing of Jersey Boys' director/producer Des McAnuff. Brickman, of course, is one half of the duo responsible for writing the celebrated tuner's Tony-nominated book; Rick Elice is the other half.

At issue is a February 14 Chronicle story meant to celebrate the first, lengthy leg of Jersey Boys' national tour. McAnuff, clearly a legend in his own mind, is thus featured and quoted:

Director Des McAnuff explains why there are only three actresses playing so many roles. When writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice approached McAnuff with the idea for Jersey Boys, there was no script, just the idea.

"I didn't like it very much," McAnuff recalls by phone from San Diego, where he's in rehearsals for Aaron Sorkin's new play, The Farnsworth Invention, at the La Jolla Playhouse. "Marshall and Rick were very gracious about the rejection. And even after I turned them down twice, they were very persistent. So we came up with the outline together. I helped them with the structure.

"And at one point, they came up with a chorus of 16 Jersey girls. Frankly, I didn't think it worked. It was ridiculously extravagant considering the blue-collar nature of the group. So, simply put, the reason we have three girls is because I said we could have three girls -- and that's it."

Not so, says Brickman, who has been honored with Oscar nominations, even winning one for his screenplay of "Annie Hall." Apparently not one to sit idly by while being trashed by the director, Brickman fired back, in part:

We can finally put to rest any lingering doubts about who is responsible for the success of our little offering, Jersey Boys, currently at the Curran Theatre. It is, of course, the director. Le spectacle, c'est lui. I see him now, goose quill in hand, fingers raw, eyes bloodshot from his tireless restructuring of our 72-page "idea."

Would that I had known him years ago so he could have restructured the screenplays for "Sleeper" and "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan" and "Simon" and "Lovesick" and "The Manhattan Project" -- they might have won awards and gained some critical acclaim. Or instructed William Shawn in the proper restructuring of my New Yorker pieces.

But I was naive then and didn't know enough to be persistent. Twice we offered him the crown and twice he refused it, it says. Sheer modesty. We offered it to him 139 times. Only after we doused ourselves with gasoline and lit a match did he agree to interrupt his restructuring of the book for Dracula, The Musical to heed our pleas and, as a bonus, instruct us in the niceties of the musical theater: how to arrive fashionably late, how to humiliate the cast, how to create an atmosphere of collegiality rivaled only by a board meeting at Hewlett-Packard, how to give interviews that, for sheer fantastic invention, rival anything out of Lewis Carroll.

But why be churlish? I owe the man. He wrote our show, ate my dinner, married my wife and fathered my children. For all I know, he may have even written this letter.

Marshall Brickman
Co-author of
Jersey Boys
New York City

No word yet on whether McAnuff intends to claim songwriting credits for any of the Four Seasons' tunes used in the show.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.

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At 03 March, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Post Script:

According to a story in the March 3 issue of The New York Times, Rick Elice spoke on behalf of his collaborator:

Contacted by phone, Mr. Elice, who spoke on his collaborators’ behalf, said that Mr. McAnuff and Mr. Brickman spoke at length the day the letter ran and agreed that there had been a misunderstanding.

“We do not dispute nor have we ever disputed that Des was involved with the structure of the play, and he was involved in the outlining process of the show,” he said. “We celebrate that fundamental contribution.”

As for other issues raised by the letter, Mr. Elice said, they are working that out between themselves.


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