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April 21, 2005 - Image 61

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2005-04-21

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Arts Life

The Angels of 'Hairspray'

Detroiters recoup investments in Broadway hit coming to Masonic Temple Theatre.

JP. Dougherty and Keala Settle with the "Hairspray" company

BILL CARROLL

Special to the Jewish News

T

he names of Rosalie Beer of
West Bloomfield and Ron Licht
of Bloomfield Hills won't be in
the playbill when the Broadway hit
musical Hairspray comes to Detroit's
Masonic Temple Theatre April 26-May
15.
That's because Beer and Licht aren't
singers, dancers or producers. They're
investors, sometimes known as "angels."
Without them — and about 50 of their
investor colleagues — the rollicking
review of life in the 1960s wouldn't be
coming to town at all. And it probably
never would have been launched on
Broadway in 2003, capturing the hearts
of reviewers and winning eight Tony
Awards, including Best Musical. It's still
the fifth-highest grossing show in New
York.
Hairspray has become well known for
reviving memories of the 1960s — an
era of the Vietnam War, assassinations,
the Civil Rights Act, the first man on
the moon and Beatles music.
The musical takes place in Baltimore
in 1962 as Tracy Turnblad, a big girl
with big hair and an even bigger heart,
wins a spot on a local television dance
program, The Corny Collins Show. She
becomes a celebrity as she attempts to be
a trendsetter in dance and in fashion;
win over heartthrob Link Larkin and,
most amazingly, integrate the TV show.
The film is based on the 1980s John
Waters cult classic film of the same
name.

The musical version has been
described as "a big fat gorgeous hit." The
score is by Jewish composer Marc
Shaiman, who has won TV Emmy
Awards, plus several Oscar nominations
for his songs for film. Lyrics are by
Shaiman and Scott Wittman. The musi-
cal's book is by Mark O'Donnell and
Thomas Meehan; the latter, a noted
"script doctor," collaborated with Mel
Brooks on The Producers. Jack O'Brien is
the director.

Getting Hooked

In 1962, Hairspray investor Rosalie
Beer was 9 years old, attending elemen-
tary school in Los Angeles, taking piano
and dancing lessons and buying dozens
of 45 rpm records containing "music full
of life and energy."
She was born Rosalie Grunwald in
Detroit, and her family had moved to
the West Coast.
In 1962, investor Ron Licht was 31
and starting to make a name for himself
as a real estate developer and investor.
He since has become a shopping strip-
mall mogul, developing such properties
as Royal Plaza in Oak Park, Boardwalk
in West Bloomfield and Sugar Tree
Square in Farmington Hills.
Beer became " just awestruck" by
musicals when she saw her first show,
My Fair Lady, and she got hooked on
show business.
When she was 14, the family moved
back to Michigan as her father, Sandor
Grunwald, became owner of Esquire
Delicatessen in Detroit, then Southfield.
She attended Pepper Elementary and

Frost Junior High in Oak Park and
Southfield High School. She married
Peter Beer, a real estate investor, when
she was 18.
Licht went to Detroit's Durfee
Intermediate and Central High School
while his father, Sam Licht, operated
Sam Licht's Men's and Boys' Store in
Detroit. "I began a realty career when
Benjamin Rich, who was a well-known
realtor at that time, sort of took me
under his wing," said Ron Licht.
He has been a show business buff
since his sister bought him a subscrip-
tion to Variety, the show business news-
paper, when he was 12. He and his wife,
Arlene, have four daughters and eight
grandchildren.

Investment Strategy

Jewish producer Steven Baruch of New
York got both Beer and Licht involved
in investing in musicals. Licht also cred-
its Ivan Bloch, the late Detroit-area busi-
nessman and Broadway show investor,
with whetting his interest in shoNv
investments.
Baruch uses a plan of obtaining large
musicals with big capitalization and
hundreds of little investors. He reasons
that's easier administratively, and no one
gets hurt badly if a show fails. Investors
usually put in the minimum of $10,000
per show, but sometimes more. To be
part of the road tours, that amount must
increase.
Investor checks, about $500, come in
every month. "I consider myself form-
nate when I get my investment back,"
said Beer. "I trust Steve so much that I
would give him a blank check if he
asked me."
For anticipated big hit shows, the
investors often have to be chosen by lot-
tery, and that's how Beer lucked out and
got into Hairspray. Besides that show,
she has invested in The Producers, A

Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the
Forum, Swing, Smokey Joe's CO,
Triumph of Love, The Weir, My Old Lady
and the 1998 revival of The Sound of
Music, which, mysteriously, never
returned anything to investors. She also
is involved in Hairspray road companies
in Toronto and Europe.
Beer has an interest in Little Shop of
Horrors, coming to Detroit's Fisher

HAIRSPRAY on page 62

Detroit Concert For A Cure II
The cast of Hairspray will host a
"Detroit Concert for a Cure II" at
Detroit's Gem Theatre 7 p.m.
Monday, May 9.
Hairspray cast members will be
joined by special guests — includ-
ing local celebrities, students from
Oakland University, Juliana's
Academy of Dance and local high
school students — in an evening
hosted by Broadway celebrity Scott
Nevins.
Ticket and silent auction pro-
ceeds will benefit Broadway
Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
BC/EFA (www.broadwaycares.org)
is the nation's leading industry-
based, not-for-profit AIDS fund-
raising and grant-making organiza-
tion.
Guests attending the "Detroit
Concert for a Cure II" fund-raiser
will enjoy an evening of music and
dance as the cast of Hairspray per-
forms some of their favorite num-
bers, including Broadway classics
and original compositions.
A silent auction (6 p.m. intermis-
sion), Midwest AIDS Prevention
Project benefit raffle and an after-
glow at the Century Grille with
appetizers and music by Dry Bone.,s
Jazz Band will also be part of the
festivities.
Tickets ($35) are now on sale and
may be purchased at the Gem
Theatre box office and all
Ticketmaster outlets. Tickets may
also be charged by phone at (248)
645-6666 or on-line at
WWW. ticketmastencom. A group
rate (for groups of 8 or more) also
is available through the Gem
Theatre box office, 333 Madison
Ave., in downtown Detroit. For
information, call (313) 963-9800
or go to vvww.gemtheatre.corn.

IN

4/21
2005

61

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