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‘If this musical adaptation works, it is likely headed for Broadway’

Mambo Italiano The Musical, by Concordia grad Steve Galluccio opens in Elmsford, N.Y.
August 7, 2019
By Richard Burnett

Richard Burnett, Steve Galluccio, Tranna Wintour Steve Galluccio, BA 82 (centre), headlined Concordia’s first Queer Homecoming in 2017. He is pictured with Richard Burnett, BA 88 (right) and Tranna Wintour, BA 10. | Photo: Concordia University.

“Ever since my days writing plays for the Montreal Fringe Festival, Broadway has always been my goal,” says Montreal playwright Steve Galluccio, BA 82 (translation), as the Broadway-bound Mambo Italiano The Musical has its world premiere at the Westchester Broadway Theatre, a 40-minute drive from Manhattan.

The musical is based on the 2003 film Mambo Italiano written by Galluccio and Émile Gaudreault, an international hit which sold in more than 50 countries. That film was based on Galluccio’s smash hit play Mambo Italiano, which became a cultural phenomenon in Quebec.

This musical adaptation features a book by Broadway and Off-Broadway producers Jean Cheever and Tom Polum, lyrics by Omri Schein and music by James Olmstead.

“One of the producers saw the movie on TV in the United States, thought it would make for a great musical and called my agent in 2008 to option the rights to the movie and the play to make it into a musical,” Galluccio explains.

Galluccio says this is the second time Mambo has been optioned for New York.

“The first time it fell through. Just because someone options your work doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. So I’ve been working constantly on different projects for 20 years. I‘ve been hired to write a lot of screenplays that have never been filmed,” says Galluccio, whose hit movies include Funkytown and Little Italy.

“My philosophy has always been until I see it on screen or onstage, just concentrate on what I am doing right now. It’s the nature of the business.”

Mambo Italiano The Musical - poster

Indeed, it has taken Mambo Italiano 19 years to make it to the Westchester Broadway Theatre.

When the play originally premiered at Montreal’s Théâtre Jean-Duceppe in February 2000, it was translated into French by none other than Quebec literary icon Michel Tremblay.

Mambo broke box-office records at both Duceppe and the English-language Centaur Theatre Company in Old Montreal before a hugely successful six-week run at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto in 2003. The play has since been mounted by theatre companies around the world.

The comedy-drama tells the story of two Italian young men who fall in love, except one isn’t ready to come out to his family. Hilarity ensues.

As Cheever and Polum adapted Mambo, Polum kept Galluccio in the loop. “They made changes to the story,” Galluccio explains. “They’d call me up and ask, ‘What do you think of this? What do you think of that?’ And I’d always basically say, ‘This is a whole other beast, this is an American musical destined for Broadway. You know best.’ So everything is cool with me.”

Galluccio adds, “If this musical adaptation works, it is likely headed for Broadway. I still say even if I am on Broadway for just one night, I’d be really happy just to see Mambo Italiano The Musical on a marquee on the Great White Way. I am now only 40 minutes away from Manhattan, so I’m getting closer!”

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