In the 70s, a man’s swag and sexiness were measured by the width of the lapels on his maxi coat, the length of his sideburns, how far he could lean when he drove his custom Cadillac, and if his polyester bell bottoms were tight enough that you didn’t have to use your imagination. No one was more sexy or swaggy than “Youngblood Priest,” the hero in Gordon Parks’ 1972 Blaxploitation classic “Super Fly.” So when it was announced a few years ago that Tony Award-winning Fela! creator and famed choreographer Bill T. Jones was bringing Super Fly: The Musical to Broadway, there was palpable excitement among everyone who knew the movie and the music. But in the past few years, all talk and activity surrounding the show seems to have ceased.
It was announced that Jones, who was slated to direct and choreograph the production, would spend three weeks developing the musical in New York. “American Idol” Season 1 runner-up Justin Guarini was cast as “Priest” and a casting notice was sent out looking for a “woman to play ‘Georgia,’ a 20-something beauty with a fabulous voice who can match the ‘sexuality, fearlessness, and heart’ of ‘Priest,’ the college-educated cocaine dealer at the center of the show.” Music executive Tommy Mottola’s Mottola Group and the Dodgers were said to be backing the development of the show.
But after the casting announcements and several workshops, the last one in August 2013, we’ve heard no more news about the production.
Guarini, who appeared on Broadway in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and the 2013 revival of Romeo and Juliet, posted on his blog how through working on the show he “encountered the beautiful and at times haunting music of the era. Curtis Mayfield’s title track was, of course, the signature piece in the show. However, woven throughout the sonic tapestry were pieces from Issac Hayes, James Brown (‘Say it LOUD’), and even Bob Dylan.” Now, even his blog is silent, and the posts have been taken down.
“Super Fly” was one of the first and most successful films made and funded by African Americans. It followed the story of “Priest,” one of New York’s most successful drug dealers who is looking to get out of the dangerous drug life, played expertly by Ron O’Neal. When he tries to pull off one last large drug deal so that he can retire, he continues to run up against a variety of cops and other criminals who wish to stop him.
One of the highlights of the movie was the Curtis Mayfield-produced soundtrack that, arguably, is one of the best film scores ever produced. With hits like the title track, “Freddie’s Dead,” and “Pusherman,” the soundtrack was a classic and ranked number 69 on “Rolling Stone” magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
Is the production still happening? Has it been put on hold? If anyone has an answer, Broadway Black would like to know.