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Michel `Mike' Grilikhes, 83; produced arena spectacles

March 17, 2007|Valerie J. Nelson | Times Staff Writer

Michel M. "Mike" Grilikhes, a producer known for staging outsize theatrical productions in arenas across the country, died of kidney failure March 9 at Kindred Hospital in Los Angeles, said Dale Olson, his publicist. Grilikhes was 83.

Grilikhes got his first experience with arena shows in 1969 while he was a producer at NBC. The network asked him to rein in the production costs of "Disney on Parade," a show NBC co-produced. With 130 actors and 26 trucks of scenery, the production seemed certain to lose money. By redesigning it, he reduced the cast and stage by half.

Three more "Disney on Parade" shows followed over the next four years. One worldwide tour in 1976 made $60 million, People magazine reported in 1989.

In the 1970s, Grilikhes staged an arena adaptation of the 1954 musical "Peter Pan." Composer Jule Styne wrote two new songs for the show, which starred Olympic gymnast Cathy Rigby.

" 'Peter Pan' gave me credibility with the Broadway community," Grilikhes told the New York Times in 1989.

His next production was "The Wizard of Oz Live!" A cast of 40 actors lip-synced their way through the musical in 70 cities over 18 months beginning in 1989.

Grilikhes and his wife, actress Laraine Day, led the development of a permanent production in 1963 in Hawaii: the Polynesian Cultural Center, which became a tourist attraction on Oahu. He was a leader in the Mormon Church, which founded the center to help preserve the islands' past.

Born in New York City, he was the son of French artist and director Anatol Grilikhes and his wife, Blanche. She was a concert violinist and poet.

At 19, Grilikhes joined the Marines and was soon in charge of its motion picture production unit. He spent 20 years in the military, served in Korea and retired as a major in 1962.

He earned a bachelor's degree from New York University and studied drama at Yale University.

Early in his entertainment career, Grilikhes was a television producer and director, but he said he came to prefer developing lavish productions for an audience of thousands.

"I see it as an opportunity for families to do something together," he told People, "other than sitting at their television set."

In addition to his wife of 46 years, Grilikhes is survived by two daughters, a son, a stepson, a stepdaughter, two sisters and several grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. today at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 10740 Ohio Ave., Los Angeles.

The family suggests memorial donations to a charity that benefits the disabled: SHARE, P.O. Box 1342, Beverly Hills, CA 90213.


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