Sunday, June 8, 2003

3 Cincinnati guys could share a Tony

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer



Look for three Cincinnati guys among the folks onstage tonight at the Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall (8 p.m., Channels 12, 7). They'll be standing behind lead producer Margo Lion when Hairspray is named best musical of 2003.

Rick Steiner, last seen holding a Tony Award as one of a mass of producers for The Producers, will be joined by lifelong pals (and Walnut Hills High School classmates) Fred Mayerson and John Osher.

"Ohmygod! Unbelievable!" says Mayerson about the prospects of his first Tony Award.

This would be Tony number three for Steiner, who holds his first for Big River. The 1985 show was his first foray into Broadway producing.

What he does, explains Steiner, "is like pick-up basketball. People choose you to be on their team."

He's been picked for some big-league teams - The Secret Garden, Smokey Joe's Cafe, and the biggest of them all, The Producers.

And he notes that he has "the luxury of saying I don't want to play. And most of the time, I don't."

But he's in the game with Hairspray, the odds-on favorite tonight to take the Tony Award for best musical.

Scoring with Hairspray has been "an incredible amount of fun. Everyone is really involved and cares. They're passionate. We all think alike."

Steiner first heard about the project in 2000. Smokey Joe's had just closed and his ad agency put him onto Hairspray. It was the right show for rock 'n' roll-lovin' Steiner.

He watched the cult movie the musical is based on, in which zaftig teen Tracy Turnblad becomes the dancing queen of an American Bandstand-style show in Baltimore and brings hope to the downtrodden all around her (while spiteful prom queens get their due).

Steiner says he knew when he heard the first four songs on a demo tape in fall 2001 that Hairspray had the makings of a hit.

These days, Steiner has a heavier schedule than the Cincinnati Reds. He's fresh back from the Los Angeles opening of The Producers. Hairspray is about to embark on a national tour starting, appropriately, in Baltimore. (It comes to Cincinnati Dec. 2-14.)

Later this month, the Toronto production of The Producers will be cast. Then a new national touring company begins in Boston.

There will also be London productions and Australian tours for both shows.

He has high hopes for an American Sign Language translation of Big River that he fell in love with last year. It will open at New York's Roundabout Theatre in July.

Last week, he was among the producers who announced that a planned revival of Little Shop of Horrors wouldn't have a summer opening on Broadway, as previously announced. (It's not dead, just resting.)


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