Hackford to Direct 'Leap of Faith' Musical set for 07/08

By: Apr. 11, 2006

Award winning filmmaker Taylor Hackford will make his Broadway debut as director of the new musical, Leap of Faith, to premiere in the 2007-2008 season. Leap of Faith represents eight-time Academy Award-winner Alan Menken's latest score written for the Broadway stage. Menken is best known for such musicals as Beauty and the Beast, Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid and Pocahontas. The book is by Janus Cercone, author of the original screenplay for the 1992 Paramount Pictures' movie starring Steve Martin, Liam Neeson and Debra Winger. Lyrics are by Glenn Slater.

Leap of Faith is the story of Jonas Nightingale, a rock star in evangelist's clothing, who cons his way across the drought stricken farm belt. A consummate manipulator, Jonas meets his match in a beautiful young widow and her son who compel him to acknowledge forces beyond his control -- the power of love, human connection and hope. Through them, Jonas - the ultimate cynic -gets one last chance to believe in something.

Taylor Hackford is known for helming movies with strong musical elements; Leap of Faith represents his first legit musical. Nominated for Academy Awards for directing and producing Ray, Hackford's other directing credits include the films: An Officer and a Gentleman, Against All Odds, The Idolmaker, Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll, White Nights, Dolores Claiborne, Proof of Life, Everybody's All-American and The Devil's Advocate.

Leap of Faith is being produced by Michael Manheim (who also produced the 1992 picture), James D. Stern & Douglas L. Meyer and Steven Baruch, Richard Frankel, Marc Routh & Thomas Viertel.

Casting and venue to be announced.


Alan Menken (Composer), who has won more Academy Awards than any other living person, is world renowned as the composer of the songs and scores to The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Newsies, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Home On The Range as well as the songs to the stage and film versions of Little Shop of Horrors and the score for Disney's current film re-release of The Shaggy Dog. Currently running on Broadway, Beauty and the Beast; is entering its 13th year. Other work includes Madison Square Garden's stage and NBC film productions of A Christmas Carol plus the stage productions of King David, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, Real Life Funnies, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Weird Romance and Der Glöckner Von Notre Dame. His collaborators have included Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, Stephen Schwartz, Lynn Ahrens, David Zippel, Jack Feldman, David Spencer and, of course, Glenn Slater. In addition to winning 8 Oscars, he has been nominated 14 times. He has also won 7 Golden Globes, 10 Grammys as well as the London Evening Standard, Olivier, New York Drama Critics, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards. His other achievements include: Billboard's # 1 album (Pocahontas) and # 1 single (A Whole New World). Upcoming projects include stage versions of The Little Mermaid, Sister Act, The Snow Queen, an animated musical of The Frog Princess, and the upcoming Disney movie musical, Enchanted, currently in production.

Janus Cercone (Book) trained as a classical violinist, competing successfully at the state and national level, till her escape from Skidmore College. She then entered the music business, rising to the position of East Coast Director of Publicity for A&M Records where she toured extensively with acts ranging from singer-songwriters (very sensitive), to head-bangers (way more fun). Exiting A&M to pursue a career as a performer, studio musician and songwriter, Cercone contributed material to numerous records, series television and movies including Emmy winner, "Roe vs. Wade" and Golden Globe winner "Dirty Pictures". On a whim, Ms. Cercone took a screenwriting class, sold her first script and launched a career that continues to the present. Her produced credits include Paramount Pictures' "Leap of Faith" and Universal Pictures' "Ed". She recently completed "Django", based on the life of the legendary Gypsy guitarist, for Universal Pictures. Ms. Cercone's first play, Dead And In Person, which received one reading starring Jennifer Aniston and Robert Downey Jr. directed by Penny Marshall and another, at the Manhattan Theatre Club, starring Rosemary Harris, is slated for production at the Royal Theatre, Haymarket in London's West End, spring, 2007.

Glenn Slater (Lyricist) was the lyricist for Disney's animated Western, Home On The Range, with composer Alan Menken (April, 2004). Glenn's recent work also includes Manhattan Theatre Club's Obie Award-winning revue newyorkers (2001 Lucille Lortel, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle nominations). His songs have been recorded by Bonnie Raitt, k.d. Lang, and Tim McGraw, among others, and his lyrics have given extra sparkle to the world-renowned Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus for nearly a decade. Upcoming projects with composer Menken include the Broadway-bound musicals The Little Mermaid and Sister Act; the Disney animated film The Frog Prince; and The Snow Queen, an original stage musical for Tokyo DisneySeas. With composer Stephen Weiner, his collaborator on newyorkers, he is penning a musical adaptation of the Coen Brothers' film The Hudsucker Proxy. Glenn is the recipient of the prestigious Kleban Award for Lyrics, the ASCAP/Richard Rogers New Horizons Award, and the Jonathan Larson Award. He is an alumnus of the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop, and a member of both ASCAP and the Dramatists' Guild.

Taylor Hackford (Director) began his entertainment career in public broadcasting, where he pioneered the presentation of uninterrupted Rock n' Roll performances on American television. In addition to creating several award-winning documentaries for the KCET in Los Angeles, he also served as an investigative reporter in their news division where he received an Associated Press Award, a Peabody, and two Emmy awards for his journalism. In 1979, he won an Academy Award for Best Live-Action Short Film for his first dramatic effort, Teenage Father. He made his feature directorial debut in 1980 with The Idolmaker, starring Ray Sharkey and Peter Gallagher. His second film was the hit An Officer and a Gentleman (starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger), receiving five Academy Award nominations, and winning two (including Best Song***), as well as a Directors Guild of America nomination. On all his subsequent films, Taylor has functioned as both director and producer. His credits include Against All Odds, starring Jeff Bridges, Rachel Ward and James Woods; White Nights, starring Mikhail Baryshnikov, Gregory Hines, Helen Mirren and Isabella Rossellini; Everybody's All-American, starring Dennis Quaid, Jessica Lange, and John Goodman; and the acclaimed documentary Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock n' Roll, featuring Chuck Berry and Keith Richards. Hackford developed and produced La Bamba, the Richie Valens biography. Written and directed by Luis Valdez, La Bamba became a sleeper success, breaking new ground for Hispanic artists in Hollywood. It is still the most successful Latin themed feature film in history. Taylor also formed New Visions Pictures to produce modestly budgeted movies with other directors: producing credits include the lauded The Long Walk Home, directed by Richard Pierce and starring Sissy Spacek and Whoopi Goldberg; Mortal Thoughts, directed by Alan Rudolph and starring Demi Moore, Glenn Headley and Bruce Willis; Defenseless, directed by Martin Campbell and starring Barbara Hershey, Mary Beth Hurt, and Sam Shepard; and Queens Logic, directed by Steve Rash and featuring an ensemble cast which included John Malkovich, Kevin Bacon, Joe Mantegna, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Linda Fiorentino. He returned to directing after five years to helm the epic drama of East L.A., Blood In, Blood Out (Bound by Honor) -- Best Director at the 1993 Tokyo Film Festival. His next film, Dolores Claiborne, starred Kathy Bates and Jennifer Jason Leigh -- 1995 Venice, Deauville and Tokyo Film Festivals. In 1996 Taylor discovered some unreleased documentary footage of the legendary Muhammed Ali/George Foreman title fight in Zaire, Africa. He restructured this footage shot originally in 1974 by Leon Gast, conducted present-day interviews with Norman Mailer, George Plimpton and Spike Lee et al, and added footage of the original fight to create a feature length documentary that revealed the hype, politics and personalities that made up this larger-than-life event. The completed film, When We Were Kings, was a hit at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival and won the 1997 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Hackford then directed the worldwide hit The Devil's Advocate (1999), starring Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves. This film also introduced new comers, Charlize Theron and Connie Neilson. In 2001 he delivered Proof of Life, with Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe, and David Morse, based on William Prochnau's Vanity Fair article Adventures in the Ransom Trade, about the real?life kidnapping of American businessman Thomas Hargrove. For 15 years, Hackford struggled to make RAY, a dramatic film portrait of American musical icon, Ray Charles, starring Jamie Foxx. Receiving critical raves, RAY was nominated for most of the major film awards in 2005 (6 Academy Award Nominations, including Best Picture, Director. Mr. Foxx won for Best Actor). RAY grossed more than $130 million at the Box Office Worldwide and has sold nearly 10 million DVDs Worldwide.

*** "Up Where We Belong" was Hackford's first record to reach #1 on Bilboard's Singles Charts. During his career Taylor has had six #1 records from his films, plus three Gold and two Platinum Soundtrack Albums.

Michael Manheim (Producer). Golden Globe and Emmy Award winner Michael Manheim has produced 15 theatrical and television movies that have received 3 Emmys, 2 Golden Globes and over 35 other international awards and nominations. Educated at Verde Valley School and Harvard University, Manheim was a production executive for David Wolper and VP Creative Affairs, Embassy Pictures before forming, The Manheim Company. Manheim's productions have included: Roe vs. Wade starring Holly Hunter, Kathy Bates and Amy Madigan. The landmark drama won twenty international awards including Emmys for Manheim and Holly Hunter and a Golden Globe for Amy Madigan; the Jimmy Woods starrer Dirty Pictures, winner of eleven international awards including the 2000 Golden Globe for Best Television Movie; Emmy winner, I'll Be Home For Christmas, Emmy nominated, Last Flight Out; multiple award winners, Zooman from Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Fuller and Winnie, co-produced with Bette Midler; Paramount's theatrical film Leap Of Faith, starring Steve Martin, Liam Neeson & Debra Winger and, also for Paramount, Scott Frank's Plain Clothes. Upcoming projects include: Night Shyamalan's, Labor of Love at Fox, Universal Pictures' Django with Frank Marshall, Ota Benga from writer-director George C. Wolfe, and the Broadway musical of Leap of Faith. Manheim serves on the Board of Governors of the Producers Guild of America. In his spare time, he has designed and built seven houses and been an unpaid apprentice chef in two of LA's top Italian restaurants.

James D. Stern (Producer). On Broadway, Jim has co-produced Swing, The Weir, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Sound of Music, Redwood Curtain, and Twilight: Los Angeles 1992. Off-Broadway producing credits include STOMP, Communicating Doors, Bunny Bunny, Wild Men! In film, Jim has directed and produced It's the Rage starring Joan Allen and Gary Sinise and the IMAX film Michael Jordan to the Max. He is part owner of the Chicago Bulls and is married to novelist Kathryn Stern; their greatest co-production is their two children, Esmé and Satchel.

Douglas L. Meyer (Producer) fulfilled a dream by winning Tony Awards as co-producer of The Producers and Hairspray. Mr. Meyer's other credits include Little Shop of Horrors, Swing, Bunny Bunny and Wild Men! His most successful production is his son, David. Doug is the director of investments at Wachovia Securities.

The Baruch/ Frankel/ Routh/ Viertel Group (Producer). Steven Baruch, Richard Frankel, Marc Routh and Thomas Viertel have produced and general managed a wide range of plays and musicals on and off Broadway, in London and on tour for the past 20 years. Currently: Hairspray, The Producers, Sweeney Todd and STOMP. Previous productions include The Sound of Music, Swing, Smokey Joe's Cafe, The Weir, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Angels in America, Driving Miss Daisy, Penn & Teller, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, Oleanna, Mnemonic, The Cocktail Hour, Love Letters, Marvin's Room, The Mystery of Irma Vep, The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, Forever Tango, Little Shop of Horrors, Jeffrey, Song of Singapore, Later Life and others. Their shows have been awarded 31 Tonys, 27 Drama Desk Awards, 20 Outer Critics Awards, four Grammys, 3 Olivier Awards and two Pulitzer Prizes and have been featured in The New York Times crossword puzzle nine times.

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