How did Ken get his first commercial production?
I had written a number of plays that were being performed, little by little, Off-Off-Broadway and at small regional theatres, when I met a wonderful English director named David Gilmore. He was interested in directing Sullivan & Gilbert, and one day, when he was about to fly home to England, he asked me what I had written lately so that he could get a better feel for my style of writing. I gave him a copy of Lend Me A Tenor, which I had recently finished writing and which had just been produced at a small summer theatre in New Hampshire called The American Stage Festival. (At the time the play was entitled Opera Buffa, which is Italian for “comic opera.”)
A few days later, David called me from England and said that he really liked the new play and would like to direct it – AND that he would like to show it to a producer-friend of his. Being a compete jerk, I wanted to sound important, so I said “Oh, I don’t know if you should. I do have some interest from some good producers here in the States.” Then, rather absently, I added, “What’s your producer-friend’s name?” And he answered “Andrew Lloyd Webber.” When I got off the floor, I said “Yeah. Go ahead and show him the play.”
Two days later I was sitting at home and had just starting the day’s writing, when the phone rang. It was Andrew Lloyd Webber. Honestly. And he said he wanted to produce my play in the West End. Two weeks later I was on a plane for London. And six months later the play opened at the Globe (now the Gielgud) Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue – directed by David Gilmore. Andrew then went on to produce the play in New York (with co-producer Marty Starger).
I’m proud of the fact that Andrew took such an interest in one of my early works; and I’m equally proud of the fact that I paid my dues by working my tail off and writing a number of plays before that.