HELLO AMERICA!—When hearing the latest report concerning the opening of the Pre-Broadway play with music, “I Feel Sin Comin’ On,” it is reminiscent of one of MGM’s films that before the big opening, there were so many stumbling and surprising issues to face; it always turned out as a miracle why and how the show actually made on a stage. As with any studio plot, there was something or someone who manages to save the day. In this case it is Duke Mehal Rockefeller who flew in to Los Angeles from the other side of the world to do just that to save the day.
Having spent so many years working, preparing, experimenting in the wild merry go round of Hollywood life and tasting the bitter and the sweet of questionable success, my current experience with the pre-Broadway play, “I Feel Sin Comin’ On” has been one of great joys, as well as tears because of being forced to face certain levels of reality often not experienced on one’s journey.
When the play was first scheduled to open in Atlanta, national promotion hit the scene with photos, music and all the magical tricks of advertising; the general reaction from the public was like something from outer space was predicted to be hitting Earth head on. Calls from across the nation begged for news about the production based on the book “Hollywood Through the Back Door,” which was a best seller in many parts of the globe. It was a dream come true and high hopes rang like the liberty bell had come alive again.
A cast of film and theater notables were all set to ascend on the peach filled streets of Atlanta. Leon Isaac Kennedy, Wanda Lovejoy, Kirk Kelley Kahn, Coriano Harris, Richard Eick, Donna Allan and director Kirk Green were all set to take flight for the theatrical challenge only to find that the theater was not available. The pre-booking of the Rialto was not property completed, and the company was without a place for rehearsal or performance. The executive producer neglected to complete the deal which forced a delay of every aspect of the pre-Broadway production.
Upon learning of this, our Hollywood staff quickly attempted to assist the exec producer in raising funds for a theater and everything else when producing a show. Even though we were devastated by the forced delay, there was a general feeling of “That’s Show Biz!” as the saying goes.
Personally, I was fit to be tied, but tried to conserve my anger and disappointment by trying to assist the executive producer to get things on track again, not realizing that the guy was totally inexperienced and knew very little about theater production and had little or no realistic fund-raising experience on such a major scale necessary for our play with music being prepared for a Broadway opening.
Then it was decided we would try for a July opening. An attempt by the executive producer was made for fund raising and no matter how hard he tried there were no takers in Atlanta. Of course, he simply tried approaching the normal route via banks, friends and even Jesus which proved a dead end as well. In the meantime, the selected cast was waiting patiently for contracts, rehearsal schedule, music scores and arrangement, the entire scope of production and nothing was being focused on in a professional way. It was nightmare time and I was fighting feelings of hysteria, being laid up in Los Angeles attempting to get well from an illness. I refused to hear the damn violins supporting melodrama that was trying to push its way into an even more dramatic mode. Yes, my old pals at MGM possible would have enjoyed playing with this story dilemma with the appropriate music giving it the dramatic film urgency necessary.
It was obvious that we would not be having a July opening as well. Since the money was not there, the cast was scattered, the young male lead of the show had injured himself, he definitely would not be able to move properly on stage and again the booking of the theater venue was not set. There would be no show and suggestions were flying left and right, a mention of September or October was suggested and that’s when the final curtain of decisions were activated. There would not be a show opening in the great city of Atlanta.
Then my luck again was activated by a phone call from the one and only Duke Mehal Rockefeller who let us know that he was arriving in Los Angeles and would settle our problems; the Rockefellers would give us the financial support needed for “I Feel Sin Comin’ On” because he believed in what we were attempting to accomplish. It was a miracle, within two days we had the necessary financing for our play with music which would open in another city. Duke Mehal Rockefeller arrived as a shining knight with his magic money wand, resolving all the heartaches, disappointments and emotional distress, one experiences when left in a desert of pure desperation. We were extremely lucky to have a friend like Mehal Rockefeller!