Saturday, April 20, 2024

Broadway: Producer of Proposed Stax Records Musical Has Dicey Track Record from Ray Charles Show


A Stax Records musical on Broadway? Great idea. Produced by Stuart Benjamin? That’s another story. Four years ago, Benjamin tried to shepherd a Ray Charles musical to Broadway called “Unchain my Heart.” He’d already had a producer credit on Taylor Hackford’s “Ray” movie starring Jamie Foxx.

But “Unchain My Heart” never happened.Benjamin wound up suing his man investor for $20 million after checks didn’t clear and payments didn’t show up. “Unchain My Heart” is dead, although it did play briefly at the Pasadena Playhouse. The LA Times said the musical seemed “square, dull and suburban, like one of those embarrassing PBS specials celebrating the groovy sounds of yesteryear.”

That’s not good.

A big part of Benjamin’s bio is that was he was the producer of Sam Moore’s brilliant 2006 album called Overnight Sensational. Uh, not he wasn’t. Randy Jackson was the music producer. Joyce Moore was Executive Producer. Benjamin was listed as an Executive Producer for Rhino Records because he helped make some connections with Rhino. Valerie Ervin, head of the Ray Charles Foundation, and yours truly were associate executive producers. Benjamin had nothing to do with the making of the album.

A Stax musical is going to require all the artists/estates agreeing to participate, the same as with Motown: The Musical. It’s also going to require investors. I wouldn’t start whistling “Soul Man” or “Mr. Big Stuff” so quickly down Shubert Alley.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

Read more

In Other News