He Feels … ‘Marvelous’


When Mike, the character in "A Chorus Line," first saw dancers go through their paces in auditions, he confidently stepped up to the challenge with "I can do that."

When David Elzer read the script of the shoo-be-do-bop musical "The Marvelous Wonderettes," he marveled and sha-boomed: "I can sell that."

Both got their wishes. These days, it's also anniversary wishes producer Elzer is receiving for the musical, celebrating its first year at off-Broadway's Upstairs at the Westside Theatre, where this memory lane of a musical created by Roger Bean, has been bringing them in and back in time with a score of 1950s and '60s standards set to the backbeat of a girl group going from bobby sox to stockings.

Sure, the Everly Brothers sang that all they had to do was dream. But it's Elzer who helped bring that dream to the stage with Bean's book musical that begins with "Mr. Sandman," includes some Everly Brothers, and stops in its tracks with "Stop! In the Name of Love."

Leader of the pack? When he first read this script, admits Elzer, the whole show — and its bubble-gum banter — just sang out to him at once.

Good thing he was listening; "The Marvelous Wonderettes" had a two-year run in Los Angeles and a blast of the past in Milwaukee prior to that. Future editions are being staged and planned for a national rollout.

Moneymaker as utopia for a producer?

Not the first time; after all, "I was producer of 'Jewtopia,' " says Elzer of the off-Broadway smash that also was off and running at the Westside for a number of years.

Déjà vu all over again? It couldn't hurt.

"When I find a project, I go with my gut" — and "Jewtopia" stuck in his kishkes the moment he read it, he says. Elzer had been responsible for its marketing and advertising with such bon mots as "Just Jew It."

The show flew off the marketing shelf faster than a pair of autographed Nikes with gold-plated heels. But then, Elzer elevates the game; he is his own best public relations.

In fact, he is public relations, as president of DEMAND PR.

Elzer's met the demands of theater after serving time in Hollywood, where executive positions at movie studios couldn't sate his own need for quality theater time, which he's found, on the public-relations side, representing a number of prominent companies, as well as the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle.

The lion's share of theater work got roaring once he was named publicity director for the Los Angeles premiere of "The Lion King."

He's earned his producer's hat legitimately — lock, non-Bialystock and barrel. Is it any wonder, then, that the "Wonderettes" producer has re-teamed with Bean to come up with another show, which just generated delightful notices in Los Angeles?

Bean there, done that: "Life Could Be a Dream" is a sequel of sorts to "Wonderettes," dealing as it does with the Crooning Crabcakes — the boy band banished from their prom date in "Wonderettes," where the girl group stole the footlights.

Meant to be that Elzer has teamed with a Mr. Bean? After all, it was the producer's grandfather, Ben Oakland, who, with Milton Drake, made a star out of coffee beans way before Starbucks attracted latte interest. It all got perking with the hit number "Java Jive" ("I love coffee/I love tea … "), popularly recorded by the Ink Spots nearly 70 years ago and later covered by the Manhattan Transfer, "whom I remember visiting my grandfather before they made it big."

Genetic transference? "No," replies Elzer. "I can't play any instruments, but I love music. I was brought up listening to classic songs, listening to my grandfather at the piano," he says of being taken with his talented granddad, who himself wrote the music for "I'll Take Romance."

Take a trend — please! Actually, the Jewish duke of the juke-box musical has outlasted many another genre generator; mamma mia — has he got a track record!

Speaking of which … Is Elzer afflicted with "Mamma Mia!" syndrome?

"I don't think the music," as great as it is, "works to move the story along in 'Mamma Mia!' as our music does our story," he says. "Of course, we should all be that successful."

Is he getting there? On track for another go with maybe the go-go sounds of another decade? Since "The Marvelous Wonderettes" begins in 1958, segues to a class reunion 10 years later. … can a 78 of their '78 reunion be far behind?

"Roger and I have joked about doing that," says Elzer with what suspiciously sounded like a shooby-dooby-do, wah, wah, wah wah in his voice.


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