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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