What does the life of 1950s opera tenor and famous Hollywood actor Mario Lanza have in common with Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison?
They each were gifted with world-renowned talent and they all self-destructed.
The students of the Frost School of Music, together with Grammy Award-winning music producer Phil Ramone, will bring Lanza’s story to life with the premiere of the new musical “Lanza!- The Mario Lanza Story” at the Maurice Gusman Concert Hall next Monday and Tuesday at 8 p.m.
The play, free for UM students on Monday, will be presented as a reading in concert form, with a live orchestra.
According to Nicole Kosar, one of four graduate students in the Arts Presenting and Live Entertainment program who worked with Phil Ramone as associate producers on the play, the play will be focused on Lanza looking back on his life during his dying days, as well as the mistakes and shortcomings during it.
“Lanza really wanted to be a famous opera singer, but he got pushed into this Hollywood actor lifestyle,” Kosar said. “His life is a timeless story of self-destruction, one that ultimately ended at age 38 due to heavy drinking and overeating.”
Another compelling part of the story is Lanza’s mob connections, said Patterson Jones, another Arts Presenting graduate student and associate producer.
“Another major theme in the play is Lanza and his ties with the mafia, and whether or not he really knew about these ties, since his manager had the mafia setting up performances and business deals behind his back,” Jones said.
The play itself is a collaborative effort spanning multiple departments in the Frost School of Music.
The Henry Mancini Orchestra will perform the score, and vocalists in the musical theatre and opera majors will make up the cast. Also, several students from the UM School of Communication will film the making of the play and put together a behind-the-scenes documentary.
Shelly Berg, dean of the Frost School of Music, also contributed to the play by writing one of the songs and heading up UM’s side of the production.
In a press release for “Lanza,” Berg stated that he has high hopes for the play and praised the Frost School of Music for its ability to put on a show of this magnitude.
“There may not be another music school in the country that can pull together a project of this scope,” Berg said. “It is a fabulous, real-world experience for our students, working with one of popular music’s greatest icons, Phil Ramone. And the result will be a truly great show!”
“Lanza” marks Phil Ramone’s first foray into producing plays. He has produced a number of musicians, from Bob Dylan to Ray Charles, and his production studio, A&R Recording, was credited as the first studio to release music commercially on a CD with Billy Joel’s album “52nd Street.”
The showing of “Lanza” here at UM will serve as a test run for a potential Broadway hit, as several Broadway producers will be in attendance for the play.
Tickets for “Lanza” are free for students for the Monday showing and are available in increments of $15, $25 and $50 for the Tuesday show. For ticket information, call the Frost School of Music at 305-284-8289.
Anthony Scarpulla may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: “Lanza! -The Mario Lanza Story” a New Musical-Concert Reading with Orchestra
WHEN: Nov. 8 and 9 at 8 p.m.
WHERE: Maurice Gusman Concert Hall
COST: Free to students on Nov. 8 showing. For ticket information call 305-284-8289 (tickets available in $15, $25, $50 increments for Nov. 9 show, $50 ticket includes V.I.P after party “meet and greet” with cast members and Phil Ramone)