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May 25, 1984 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-05-25

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14 Friday, Maj/25, 1984

V3 11!1 - 1(1


Continued from Page 1

The first movie he ever co-
produced is one of 1984's critical hits
and he's got more in the works.
Although he runs a $100 million
real estate equity investment busi-
ness, he keeps a JNF blue box at the
side of his office telephone and no
one, regardless of their name, status
or financial balance sheet can make
an outgoing call without first drop-
ping a dollar bill in the slot.
The general public doesn't know
his name, and that's just fine • with
him. In fact, he may be one of De-
troit's best-kept secrets. But if you've
ever belonged to any of a dozen
Jewish communal organizations, you
know him as a tireless worker on be-
half of a multitude of Jewish con-
You guessed right. He's Ivan
Bloch, Broadway producer, Detroit
real estate entrepreneur, and most
important, deeply-committed Jew.
The 43-year-old Detroit-born
Bloch is the talk of New York's Great
White Way. His two highly-
acclaimed plays, Baby (a musical)
and The Real Thing, are the latest in
a string of hits unequaled since the
prime of David Merrick — and maybe
even the legendary Jed Harris.
But Bloch is no millionare busi-
nessman bitten in midlife by the
show business bug. "I was originally
in the business as a kid," explained
Bloch during an interview in his spa-
cious Birmingham office, "although I
was on the other side of the footlights.
During the late 1950s I sang in
nightclubs all across the country,of-
ten appearing on the screen bill with
big acts like Phyllis Diller and
Henny Youngman. And I used to pal
around with guys like Bobby Darin
and Jack Jones.
"I had a record, Your Photo-
graph,' out on the Decca label in 1962
and it sold quite well in Detroit. But I
quit singing in 1964 and came back
here to go into the real estate busi-
ness — first as a broker, and later as a
dealer in real estate equity. I always
knew I wanted to get back into show
business. I was just waiting for the
right time and the opportunity to do
Opportunity came knocking at

Bloch's door in 1980 when Richmond
Crinkley, the then-executive director
of New York's Vivian Beaumont
Theater, asked whether Bloch would
be interested in co-producing a play
Crinkley wanted to do on Broadway.
That play was Tintypes, and it had
far more than just Bloch's beginner's
luck working on its behalf. Tintypes
was nominated for three Tony
awards in the 1980-1981 Broadway
season, and it won the honors as best
musical of the year. The show is still
on the road today — last week, it sur-
faced in a presentation in Cannes,
After the success of Tintypes,
Bloch was starting to feel confident.
He recalls the night "I saw a show
called Master Harold . . . and the boys
(by South African playwright Athol
Fugard) at the Repertory Theater
and knew that I wanted to do the
show in New York. I have a good
friend, Emanuel Azenberg, who is
Neil Simon's producer, and who has
great clout with the Schuberts. After
a lot of negotiating, I got the go
ahead, and that show too was even-
tually nominated for thg Tony
awards (it won in the best actor cate-
gory) and was also honored by the
Outer Critics Circle and the New
York Drama Desk, both of which are
prestigious awards."
Last summer, Bloch, produced
his first movie, the enthusiastically
hailed The Stone Boy. The film star-
red Oscar winner Robert Duvall and
actress Glenn Close, and was re-
leased by 20th Century Fox.
And then came Baby. Over-
subscribed upon initial announce-
ment (a number of Detroiters are.
among the lucky investors), Baby
opened on Broadway last December.
It is a contender for seven Tonys, in-
cluding best musical.
This January, Bloch co-produced
The Real Thing, a drama by British
playwright Tom Stoppard. It also re-
ceived seven Tony nominations in-
cluding those for best play, outstand-
ing performance by an actor (Jeremy
Irons and Glenn Close respectively),
and outstanding direction (Mike
What will Bloch bring to Broad-

way next? First comes a powerful
new play, Hurly Burly, which opens
on June 21 with Mike Nichols at the
directional helm. The cast includes
stellar attractions like William Hurt,
Christopher Walken, Sigourney
Weaver, Jerry Stiller and Harvey
Keitel. The script is by playwright
David Rabe, author of Streamers and
a past Tony winner for Sticks and
It is hardly surprising that Bloch
calls Hurly Burly "a very hot play,"
especially with that lineup. Bloch de-
-scribes it as being "about four guys
who are in the film business in Hol-
lywood. A couple are casting agents,
one is a writer, the other is an actor.
They've always been on the edge but
have never quite made it.
"The play covers two or three
days in their lives. They're getting
divorces, getting married, having all
kinds of problems. Most importantly,
they have real difficulties dealing
with their failures and with each
"William Hurt — he plays the
actor — has the most difficult part I
have ever seen performed on stage in
my life. It is an absolutely brutal per-
formance because you see him
change before you — at first you
think he's one person but then you
realize that he's another person
entirely. He plays the son of a born-
again Christian minister who has
been taken into the woods and beaten
whenever he's done something
wrong. He's had this awful childhood
and just can't relate to anybody — he
just can't deal with it. The play is
very brutal, but it can also be funny
in parts."
After Hurly Burly, Bloch goes
back to the movies. "I've got two
other films in the works," he ex-
plains, one with 20th Century Fox
and the other with MGM. The first, a
teenage film called Traffic School, is
a comedy that I will film in Detroit
around August or Septeniber. The
other is a biography, and Robert De
Niro has already signed to do it if we
can get it (the project) ok'd." (Bloch
has also recently been appointed to
Michigan's Film Commission, the
government agency which

encourages filming of movies and
television shows in the state.)
Bloch has even more on hi,
production schedule. "Right now," h
says, "I'm looking at three shows
(theatrical) that look like go projects.
One, which we'd probably do off-
Broadway, is calledLegs. It's a script
set in the 1950s about three girls who
came to New York and try to make it.
The playwright is Mel Marvin, who
was musical director of Tintypes.
"Another is The Prince of Cen-
tral Park which will open Aug. 1 at
Goodspeed's Theater in New York.
It's based on a famous book and was
once a made-for-television movie. It
is my next musical and is a spectacu-
lar project. We're talking to several
directors now: Richard Maltby (up for
a Tony for his direction of Baby),
Michael Stewart (of Chorus Line
fame), and 'Tommy Tune. We'll cast
in late June and go into rehearsal in
July. The script and the music are all
done so it only takes about a month to
get the production ready. When we
open, we'll call it a work-in-progress,
so we can work on a lot of changes at
that time.
And I've just agreed to do a
show out-of-town called Windy City.
It's a musical version of the old Ben
Hecht-Charles MacArthur news-
paper classic, The Front Page."
Does this mean Hildy Johnson
now sings?
"Sure does," Bloch replied, and
he sings great, too. It was originally
done in London. I saw it in Chicago
and have just met with the people
concerned. We'll be staging it some-
time in the fall, and we're looking for
a director now."
Does Bloch have a formula for
finding successful plays or movies?
"Really, I don't," he replied. "It's just
a lot of intuition — a lot of feeling.
But it is also group effort. After read-
ing a piece I like, I'll talk with an-
other producer or a director, deter-
mine who I might cast in it and, espe-
cially if it's a movie, think about how
it would look visually.
"Sometimes I read a piece and
just automatically know that it will
work — although it could be a bomb,

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