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An Insider Tells Stories About 'Music Biz'

July 19, 2002|JEFF LEEDS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"Music Biz: A Musical Comedy Without the Music," hits the stage at a curious moment--the real-life recording industry appears to be suffering from a lack of humor and music alike, not to mention plunging sales. But the extremely-off-Broadway production, which fires off one-liners on its way toward showing that it's hard to know who to trust in the rough-and-tumble of the music business, is likely to entertain those who get the jokes.

The radio promotion veterans and others who attended Wednesday's premiere treated it as if they'd discovered a hit single. Record label employees and aspiring rockers sipped champagne on a red carpet outside the small Century City Playhouse housing the performance. One person approached the show's creator, radio veteran Gerry Cagle, and announced, "I want to invest!" Even the program reads like one of the trade publications Cagle runs for Clear Channel Communications, with ads from the major labels congratulating the auteur and promoting their latest projects (RCA's Elvis compilation hits stores in September!).

"Music Biz" tells the story of various industry players struggling to obtain an audience with the newly seated president of fictional Legend Records. Each suitor who comes calling--an artist manager, a radio station programmer, a charity fund-raiser, a would-be rock star--falls prey to the whims of the new president and accompanying executive assistant. Wednesday's audience chuckled as if they were watching themselves in a fun-house mirror.

Cagle's publicist is promising cameo appearances at future performances by impresario David Geffen and artist management powerhouse Irving Azoff. Neither showed up Wednesday, but veteran radio promotion executive Burt Baumgartner did, drawing applause as he casually crossed the stage, dropped a roll of cash into an aspiring musician's guitar case and strolled past the handlers to see the boss.

Cagle co-wrote the play with Shannah Miller, a radio promotion executive at Arista Records, and independent filmmaker Rick Rose.

Like all aspiring playwrights, Cagle says he hopes to take his work to New York.

In this business, everybody has a dream.

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