Landesman, Rocco

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LANDESMAN, ROCCO (1948– ), U.S. theatrical producer. Born in St. Louis to a Bohemian German-Jewish family that liked things Italian and owned a cabaret where Lenny *Bruce and Mike *Nichols and Elaine *May performed, Landesman went to Colby College and then to the University of Wisconsin, where he earned his undergraduate degree, and the Yale School of Drama, where he earned a master's degree. For three years he taught dramatic literature and criticism there as a protégé of Robert Brustein. After founding a mutual fund, the Cardinal Fund, and assembling a barn of thoroughbred race horses, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he turned to theater production with Big River, a musical based on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Before that production, Landesman was known in the theater as the husband of heidi ettinger landesman (1951– ), a producer and designer he had met at the drama school. She designed the sets and costumes for 'night Mother (1983), a two-character play involving a daughter caring for a dying mother. Big River developed out of a combination of Rocco Landesman's love for the Mark Twain novel and for the music of Roger Miller, who became the show's composer. The show won the Tony Award for best musical in 1985. It was performed in a theater run by the Jujamcyn organization and when the Landesmans two years later sought to produce another musical, Into the Woods, a Stephen *Sondheim creation, they opted again for a Jujamcyn theater on Broadway. The show again was a success, and in 1987 Landesman was asked to take over the Jujamcyn organization, then a fairly consistent money loser. Landesman turned it into a success as the third-largest theatrical organization on Broadway. By 1990 shows in which Jujamcyn had been involved garnered the largest number of Tony nominations that year. At the time, Jujamcyn's theaters housed City of Angels, a hit revival of Gypsy, Kathleen Turner in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the musical Grand Hotel, and The Piano Lesson by August Wilson. Since that time, Landesman has been a producer of some of the most important hit shows: Tony *Kushner's Angels in America (1993), Mel *Brooks' The Producers (2000), Doubt (2004), Urinetown (2003), and Caroline, or Change (2004). Heidi Ettinger, who resumed her maiden name after the Landesmans' divorce, was active in the theater as a scenic designer and/or producer of such shows as The Secret Garden (1991), Smokey Joe's Café (1995–2000), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (2001), and Dracula, the Musical (2004).

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]