PIECE OF MY HEART: THE BERT BERNS STORY Aiming for 2016 Broadway Bow; All-Star Producers Join Team
Merged Work Productions (Lead Producers) and Jack Thomas (Executive Producer) have brought on music-world icons and television stars Steven Van Zandt and Paul Shaffer, along with Maureen Van Zandt and Joe Grano (Jersey Boys), for the Broadway-bound musical Piece of My Heart: The Bert Berns Story as lead producers. It was also announced that Mr. Van Zandt will serve as the show's musical director. Piece of My Heart will open on Broadway in 2016.
"This is a true passion project for us," Steven and Maureen Van Zandt said in a joint statement. "The incredible contributions that Bert Berns made to our culture have never had a real chance to be appreciated by the public or even been fully acknowledged by the music industry. It's time we celebrate his life and his work."
"When you take the toughest, most emotional songs in Rock and Roll, pair them with the glamorous, romantic story of the bad boy who wrote them, then bring in a team like this one, you've got combustible dynamite!" enthused Paul Shaffer.
"When I attended a reading of Piece of My Heart it had a deep emotional impact on me. The last time I had an experience like that was when I first encountered Jersey Boys," added Joe Grano. "This is an example of the rare magic that can only happen when great music intersects with a great story."
Featuring a book by Daniel Goldfarb, the stirring and legendary songbook of Bert Berns, and direction/choreography by Denis Jones, Piece of My Heart: The Bert Berns Story, opened Off-Broadway at the Irene Diamond Stage at the Pershing Square Signature Center on July 21, 2014 for a limited engagement that was extended by popular demand before ending its run on September 14, 2014. The production recently held two industry readings this past February, featuring members of the original Off-Broadway cast.
Bert Berns, whose life is also the subject of the recently released book Here Comes the Night, was born in New York in 1929 and died tragically of a heart attack at just 38 years of age. But in his short career, Berns left an indelible mark on popular music; he made fifty-one pop chart singles in seven years and became one of the most successful songwriters of the 1960s. Piece of My Heart: The Bert Berns Story tells his remarkable story, once dubbed by Rolling Stone "one of the great untold stories of rock and roll," through his hit songs, which include "Twist and Shout," "Tell Him," "I Want Candy," "Hang On Sloopy," "Cry Baby," "Piece of My Heart," and many more. Berns is #64 on Rolling Stone's recently released list of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time.
Steven Van Zandt is an acclaimed Musician, Producer, Songwriter, International DJ, Activist, Director, Actor, and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is a founding member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, Co-Producing the band's seminal albums "The River", and "Born in the U.S.A.", and is a well known musician in his own right. Along with recording and performing with his band Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul, he is also a critically acclaimed Producer for many artists. Steven has twice been honored by the United Nations for his political activism, most notably for his anti-apartheid project "Sun City" which led to the downfall of the South African apartheid regime and release of Nelson Mandela. In 1999, Van Zandt created Renegade Nation to oversee Content creation, Production, Management, Live Events, and Distribution. In 2001, he launched "Little Steven's Underground Garage", his internationally syndicated radio show. It is the most successful syndicated Rock music radio show in the past 40 years. Steven also created and produces the first two channels of original content on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, the Underground Garage (Channel 21) and Outlaw Country (Channel 60). He was a principal Actor in HBO's iconic series, "The Sopranos" as well as the star Co-Writer, Co-Executive producer, occasional Director, Music Supervisor, and scored the third and final season of the award winning series "Lilyhammer", which was the first original programming for Netflix. Van Zandt is also chairman of the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, a non-profit that has developed a History of Rock and Roll curriculum called "Rock and Roll: An American Story", an online educational resource offered free-of-charge to educators and individuals everywhere. Interdisciplinary in nature, it is geared toward middle and high school students but includes resources for learning at all levels.
Maureen Van Zandt has worked on Broadway and Off- Broadway as an actor, dancer, choreographer, director and producer. She is the co-artistic director of Renegade Theatre Company. In 2013, she co-produced and appeared in the acclaimed Broadway production of The Rascals: Once Upon a Dream. On TV, Maureen played Gabriella Dante on HBO's "The Sopranos" for six seasons, and Angelina Tagliano on "Lilyhammer" seasons 2 and 3. She served as Dance Supervisor on the David Chase film, Not Fade Away, and will appear in the upcoming feature Dan and Carla. In 2014, Maureen was honored as a recipient of the Count Basie Vanguard Award for lifetime contribution to the arts. She is currently directing Vincent Pastore's play Crazy Horse, and teaching acting for ballet dancers at the American Ballet Theatre School.
Joe Grano is also a Producer of the Tony Award-winning musical Jersey Boys and of the new musical The Twelve. He is the Chairman & CEO of root9B Technologies Inc., a cybersecurity and regulatory risk mitigation company, and Chairman & CEO of Centurion Holdings LLC,a company that advises private and public companies. From 1988-2001, Mr. Grano was President of PaineWebber and from 2001-2004, he was Chairman of UBS Financial Services Inc. (formerly PaineWebber). While at PaineWebber, he chaired the Board of Governors of the National Association of Security Dealers (NASD). In 2002, Mr. Grano was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as the Chairman of the Homeland Security Advisory Council. He proudly served his country as a captain in the U.S. Special Forces (Green Berets). Due to his commitment to education, Mr. Grano received the Corporate Leadership Award from the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund. Other awards include the USO Gold Medal for Distinguished Service and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. He is also a member of the Council for the United States and Italy, a member of both the City University of New York's Business Leadership Council and the Board of Directors at Lenox Hill Hospital.
Paul Shaffer For 33 years Paul Shaffer served as David Letterman's musical director and sidekick. Paul began his career in 1972 as musical director of the Toronto production of "Godspell." He played piano in "The Magic Show" on Broadway in 1974, then spent the next five years with the original "Saturday Night Live," where he played keyboards, composed special musical material and, in 1980, became a featured performer. In 1977, he took a brief break from the show to star in the CBS comedy series "A Year at the Top," produced by Norman Lear and Don Kirshner. After his return to "Saturday Night Live," he collaborated with Gilda Radner on the songs for her Broadway show, in which he also appeared. He served as musical director for the Blues Brothers - John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd - for their double platinum album and national tour. His guest starring television appearances include "Ed", "The Sopranos", "Law & Order: Criminal Intent", and "How I Met Your Mother". In addition to recording his own albums, Coast to Coast (1989) and The World's Most Dangerous Party (1993), Shaffer recorded with such diverse artists as Diana Ross, Yoko Ono and Robert Plant's Honeydrippers. He composed the LATE SHOW theme song and, with Paul Jabara, wrote the Number One '80s dance hit "It's Raining Men," performed by the Weather Girls and re-recorded by Geri Halliwell for the "Bridget Jones's Diary" soundtrack, topping the British pop charts in 2001. In 2002, he received his first GRAMMY Award, Best Country Instrumental, for the Earl Scruggs and Friends album. He co-produced an avant-garde jazz album for his mentor, Tsziji Munoz, released on Dreyfus Records. His feature film roles include Artie Fufkin in Rob Reiner's "This Is Spinal Tap." He also appeared in the Mike Nichols-directed "Gilda Live," the Bill Murray movie "Scrooged," and with John Travolta in "Look Who's Talking Too." He is heard as the voice of Hermes in Disney's animated feature "Hercules" and the television series based on the film. He produced the gold-selling soundtrack for and appeared in "Blues Brothers 2000", and composed original songs for the movie "Strangers with Candy." Shaffer has served as musical director and producer for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria since its inception in 1986. He led the band for the "We Are the World" finale of Live Aid. Shaffer hosted CBS's 1994 New Year's Eve special from New York's Times Square and was musical director of the closing concert at the 1996 Olympic Games. He appeared with the Blues Brothers at the 1996 Super Bowl halftime show and was musical director of the 1999 Concert of the Century at the White House, featuring Eric Clapton, B. B. King, Gloria Estefan, 'N Sync and others, to aid music programs in public schools. He was the musical director of Paul McCartney's "Concert for New York" and appeared with Faith Hill on the "America: A Tribute to Heroes" telethon, both of which honored and raised money for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. "Paul Shaffer's This Day in Rock," is a daily interstitial feature nationally syndicated by Envision Radio. Paul's best-selling memoir, published in October 2009 by Doubleday/Flying Dolphin, a division of Random House, is entitled We'll Be Here For The Rest of Our Lives. Shaffer holds two honorary doctorate degrees, was inducted into the National Black Sports and Entertainment Hall of Fame, and awarded a star on Canada's Walk of Fame. In 2008, Paul received the Order of Canada, Canada's highest civilian honor. He lives in the New York area with his wife and two children.