Go to main content

Investors Are All Shook Up

September 14, 2005 | Other
A pair of big investors in "All Shook Up," starring Cheyenne Jackson (center), could've used a hunk, a hunk of burnin' love from the lead producer.

"I Got Stung" never made its way into the Elvis Presley musical "All Shook Up." But it's the perfect song for backers of a show that had enormous potential but, because of mismanagement, behind-the-scenes feuds and an arrogant and inexperienced lead producer, has turned out to be one of last season's costliest flops.

One person involved in the production calls "All Shook Up," which will likely lose more than $10 million, "a massive missed opportunity." Two principal investors - Miramax Films and Clear Channel Entertainment - are so disgusted with the way things have been run by Jonathan Pollard, the lead producer, that they've withdrawn from the production. The two companies have written off the money they've already sunk into the show and are refusing to put up any more. "We're gone," says a source at one of the companies. "The thing is a disaster."

While other shows posted recorded numbers at the box office this summer, "All Shook Up" barely held its head above water. It's expected to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in the next month. The picture wasn't always so bleak for "All Shook Up." While in development last year, it generated good word of mouth. "People were lining up to give us money," says a production source. "It was fresh and exciting and fun." It was also Pollard's first Broadway show.

Having made a fortune as the producer of the long-running off-Broadway revue, "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," he was ready to enter the big time. He was so sure of the success of "All Shook Up" - and of his own producing skills - that he told potential investors, "If you want to be in this game, you are going to have to follow my guidelines." The only problem was, Pollard (who refused to comment for this column) really didn't know what he was doing. The show's budget ballooned during its out-of-town tryout in Chicago last winter as Pollard butted heads with the creative team. He also fought bitterly with Miramax founder Harvey Weinstein, who, sources say, had good ideas on how to improve and market the show.

"The problem with Jonathan is that unless it's his idea, he won't listen to it," a person involved in the show says. Pollard tried to market "All Shook Up," a $10 million Broadway musical, the same way he marketed "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," which was produced on a shoestring. He resisted spending money on television ads in the spring - a key time, since so much attention is focused on the Tony Awards - preferring instead to pass out flyers and CDs at the half-price ticket booth. "Flyers and CDs are not going to change your fate," says a production source.

He eventually shot a TV commercial but waited too long to air it, many of his investors believe. Says one, "We got a lot of good reviews, but he never capitalized on them." His arrogance also alienated many people.

"He would sit there at marketing meetings in front of a hundred people and pontificate for hours," says a person who attended the meetings. "He produced a little off-Broadway show, and he thought he was Cameron Mackintosh."

The mood backstage at "All Shook Up" these days is grim. The cast shows up for work every day expecting a closing notice. But Pollard is vowing to keep the show open at least until the end of the year and has raised some additional money from new investors.

As wise men say, only fools rush in.