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Broadway Clash of the Early '80s - DREAMGIRLS vs NINE


In the early 1980s, despite their previously long-running friendship, Broadway director, producer and choreographer Michael Bennett and fellow jack-of-all-trades on the Great White Way Tommy Tune, entered into what many consider the greatest face-off in Tony Awards history.

Michael Riedel, writing for Vanity Fair, examines this rivalry between DREAMGIRLS and NINE in an adapted excerpt from his book RAZZLE DAZZLE for the magazine's October 2015 issue.

Read an excerpt below, and click here for the full piece!

"There was no money, however, for an out-of-town tryout. So [Nine] would have to open cold on Broadway. The cutoff date for Tony Award eligibility was May 9. Judy Jacksina, the show's press agent, had an idea: why not open Nine on the ninth? She knew the show had to make an eleventh-hour splash in a field dominated by Dreamgirls...

"Tune, exhausted from a marathon rehearsal, was about to climb into bed when the phone rang. 'Darling!,' Michael Bennett said. 'You have to go out of town with your show. That's what we do!'

"'I know. But, Michael, we don't have any money. We can't afford to go out of town,' Tune replied.

"'But, darling, you must go out of town,' Bennett insisted. 'You will go out of town, and I will help you, and you'll come in in the fall.'

"'It's not possible, Michael,' Tune said. 'We have no money. We have to open now.'

"'You will go out of town -- do you hear me?,' Bennett hissed. 'You will go out of town.'

"Bennett's tone frightened Tune. Years later he would remember it as 'black, the Devil -- it was Mafia-like. He had become the thing he feared.'

"Tune hung up the phone and stood in his kitchen, shaking."

DREAMGIRLS, with music by Henry Krieger and book and lyrics by Tom Eyen, premiered at Broadway's Imperial Theatre in 1981, helmed by Michael Bennett. It was nominated for 13 Tony Awards, including the Tony for Best Musical, and won six. Inspired by the lives of The Supremes, James Brown and more, the musical follows a singing trio from Chicago -- The Dreams -- and their journey to stardom. The show starred Sheryl Lee Ralph, Jennifer Holliday and Loretta Divine. DREAMGIRLS was adapted for the big screen in 2006.

NINE, with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston and book by Arthur Kopit, is based on Federico Fellini's film 8 1/2. The original Broadway production, directed by Tommy Tune, opened in 1982 and won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The story centers on film director Guido Contini, who is almost 40 and facing a midlife crisis, a creative void, and a messy romantic web in Venice in the 1960s. The cast included Raul Julia, Karen Akers, Liliane Montevecchi and more. NINE hit the silver screen in 2007, directed by Rob Marshall.

Riedel, one of Broadway's most respected (and feared) commentators pulls back the curtain on its stars, its producers, and its mega-hits to reveal all the shocking drama, intrigue, and power plays that happened off stage in his new memoir, RAZZLE DAZZLE (on sale October 6, 2015; Simon & Schuster; US $27.00).

RAZZLE DAZZLE is a provocative, no-holds-barred narrative account of the people and the money and the power that re-invented an iconic quarter of New York City, turning its gritty back alleys and sex-shops into the glitzy, dazzling Great White Way -- and bringing a crippled New York from the brink of bankruptcy to its glittering glory. Michael takes readers into what was at the time a seedy symbol of New York's economic decline, Times Square. Two men, Bernard Jacobs and Jerry Schoenfeld, transformed the collapsed theater district by taking over a crumbling theater company that became one of the most successful entertainment empires in the world and revitalized Times Square. Michael tells the stories of the Shubert Organization and the shows that re-built a city in grand style, revealing the backstage drama that often rivaled what transpired onstage, exposing bitter rivalries, unlikely alliances, and -- of course -- scintillating gossip. This is a great story, told with wit and passion.

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