UPDATE 11:25 With exclusive interviews and information:
It’s been nearly four decades since tyro producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan were working for Joseph Papp when he moved A Chorus Line from the Public Theater to Broadway. That singular sensation revived an industry gasping for breath; the show went on to a make millions for everyone involved, including the Shubert Organization, in whose namesake theater A Chorus Line ran for 6,137 performances.
Storyline Entertainment, the Meron/Zadan partnership, went on to become enormously successful on the opposite coast, producing feature or TV films of Annie, Chicago, Hairspray and, in stunning defiance of prognostications, The Sound Of Music Live for NBCUniversal. Now in the final weeks of prepping the follow-up, Peter Pan Live, which will be broadcast December 4 with a cast led by Allison Williams and Christopher Walken, Meron and Zadan have signed a three year development and production deal with the Shuberts that will give Storyline an unprecedented home base in Times Square.
“We’ve always wanted a berth in the theater, and we’ve been looking for a partnership that made sense,,” Meron told Deadline in an exclusive interview with the longtime partners. “To be with people who got us, understood what we do and our ability to put together exciting projects with exciting people.”
Shubert has had development deals in the past, including one with indie producers Fred Zollo and Robert Cole as well as with writer/director James Lapine. But the new arrangement, which Meron and Zadan said is exclusive, extends deeper than previous pacts. Zadan said that producing revivals of Promises, Promises (2010) and How To Succeed In Business With0ut Really Trying (20111) prompted them to seek a more structured relationship. That led to meetings with Shubert chairman Philip J. Smith and president Robert Wankel.
“They said we should be doing more new plays and musicals, and revivals,” Zadan said. The partnersip will underwrite development from original commissions to workshops, “and if it’s ready to go to Broadway, we’ll finance it together,” Meron added.
“Everything we do we take to them,” Zadan said of the exclusive deal, adding that they did development work with Papp and that their work in Los Angeles has been all about development of projects for TV and feature films, including Smash. “”We know almost all the Broadway community and we’re friendly with all the new composers, lyricsts, writers and directors. We have relationships with everbody. We can call and say Do you have an idea for a show? We have some ideas as well. And once we put a creative team together, we can go to the Shuberts.”
With Peter Pan rehearsing in New York before moving out to Grumman Studios on Long Island for the telecast, it seemed natural to wonder whether a transfer of that show might be in the offing, given Broadway’s love affair with all brands revived. Zadan and Meron were slightly coy on the subject: “Right now our goal is to get it broadcast and then figure out if there are next steps,” Meron said. “The future is only right now about the broadcast.” Clap if you believe.