- New Mario Lanza
Musical 'Be My Love'
- By Robert Simonson
- 16 Jan 2004
- Be My Love, a new musical about and employing the songs
of opera singer and film star Mario Lanza, will arrive on Broadway in spring
2004, it was announced. Charles Messina will direct the show, produced
by Sonny Grosso and Phil Ramone.
- Michael Amante will play Lanza, and Tony LoBianco will
portray gangster Lucky Luciano. Richard Vetere is penning the book.
- Lanza was a singing sensation in the early '50s. He possessed
what many esteemed the greatest operatic tenor of modern times. Upon auditioning
for conductor Serge Koussevitzky in 1942, he earned a music scholarship,
performed at the Berkshire Summer Music Festival and toured in concert.
After performing a single operatic role, he was discovered by Hollywood
and transformed into a romantic film and concert star, his tours and appearances
followed by legions of screaming fans. The 1951 film "The Great Caruso"
was a great box-office success, but by 1953 the volatile, hot-tempered
performer was through, fired from the set of MGM's "The Student Prince."
He was overtaken by his gargantuan appetites for alcohol, sex and barbiturates,
and spent his last years fighting weight gain and fleeing tax demands.
He died in Rome of a heart attack in 1959 at the age of 38. Some conspiracy
theories link his death to the Mafia.
- Since his death, Lanza has developed a cult following.
His recordings are still revered and he is cited as an influence by many
leading opera singers. Be My Love will include many Lanza hits, including
the title tune and "Because You're Mine."
- Amanta is a singer and recording artist who has been
compared by some to Lanza, due to his powerful tenors and striking looks.
Stage vet LoBianco won an Obie Award for Yanks-3, Detroit-0, Top of the
Seventh and a Tony nomination for the 1983 revival of Arthur Miller's A
View from the Bridge. He also starred in the one-man show Hizzoner! about
New York City mayor Fiorello La Guardia. On film, he is perhaps best remembered
for his performance as a hood in "The French Connection."
- The musical has another "French Connection"
connection in producer Grosso, whose adventures as a detective in the New
York Police Department were the inspiration behind that movie. (While still
on the Force, he worked as a technical advisor on the film.)
- Phil Ramone is the famous record producer, known for
his work with Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra,
Paul McCartney and Gloria Estefan, among other artists.
- Messina is the director of the Off-Broadway show Mercury:
The Afterlife and Times of a Rock God.
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