Clients: Carmelo Anthony – Executive Producer; Asani Swann – Executive Producer
Carmelo Anthony has come on as an executive producer of “The Harder They Come,” a new stage musical that is about to finish a sold-out run at New York’s Public Theater. In addition, Anthony’s long-time business partner Asani Swann, who co-founded the basketball star’s production company Creative 7, will also serve as an executive producer on the show.
They are joining the production as it looks to find a regional theater where it hopes to fine-tune the show before possibly mounting a Broadway return. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, best known for “Topdog/Underdog,” penned the adaptation of the 1972 Jamaican crime film. That movie and now the show feature music from Reggae icon Jimmy Cliff. Also involved is Justine Henzell, whose father Perry Henzell co-wrote and directed the movie.
“Asani and I are excited to be part of ‘The Harder They Come’ as executive producers. As soon as I experienced the show, I felt this was something Creative 7 had to be part of because of the real power, depth, energy and heart it brought to the stage,” Anthony said in a statement. “At Creative 7, we aim to champion voices that have been silenced, and the story of Ivan, a dreamer trying to reach beyond his surroundings, overcome adversity and persevere, is one that so many of us can connect to.”
“We are proud to join as executive producers to ‘The Harder They Come,’” Swann added. “With Creative 7, we are always seeking out opportunities to amplify the stories of voices that have been silenced in the past and overcome adversity. Suzan-Lori Park’s adaptation of the film with the same title, ‘The Harder They Come’, truly exemplifies a story of human resilience and restoration and provides a refreshing perspective to the theatre.”
Anthony and Swann are admirers of the music, choreography and performances of the show and decided they wanted to be a part of its journey after seeing the production. They join producers Joshua Blum and Bruce Miller from Washington Square Films, who originated the project, bringing in Parks for the stage adaptation, and New York’s esteemed The Public Theater. In an interview, Blum and Miller said that they believed that the show, which received mixed reviews even as it enjoyed robust ticket sales, can be improved during a regional run. They cited “Next to Normal,” which earned lukewarm notices before its producers worked on the production in Washington, D.C., as a model of what they hope to accomplish. “Next to Normal” returned to Broadway for a triumphant, Tony Award-winning run.
“We learned a lot about the process and the critical response has given us a lot to think about and learn from,” Miller said. “Despite some of the mixed reviews, the audience experience has been joyous and overwhelming.”
“At the point we are starting to look forward,” said Blum. “As we were looking for partners, a friend invited Carmelo and he had such incredible enthusiasm for the project and he’s come in with a lot of ideas. It feels like the perfect match.”
Anthony is a 10-time NBA All-Star who played for the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks, among other teams. He is also a philanthropist and entrepreneur, who has launched several endeavors including the global wine estate brand, VII(N) – The Seventh Estate; the lifestyle apparel brand, STAY ME7O; and the private equity/venture capital firm, Isos7 Sports Capital.
Co-producers include Diane and Joseph Steinberg, Cheryl Wiesenfeld, Stephen and Ruth Hendel, Nnamdi Asomugha and Jonathan Baker, and Laurence Carty. The show was directed by Tony Taccone and co-directed by Sergio Trujillo.
For those unfamiliar with the movie classic, “The Harder They Come” tells the story of an aspiring singer, Ivan, played by Cliff in the original movie. He’s a “country boy” who arrives in Kingston driven to achieve his dream. There, he meets Elsa, falls in love and eventually makes a record. However, he’s constrained by a system that’s rigged against him, eventually becoming both an outlaw and a hero. Ivan’s music becomes a rallying cry for the common man, lifting the spirit of his island.
The show, which has been extended twice, will end its run at the Public on April 9.
“The nice thing is that we have a few more shows to get some VIPs in to see it,” Blum said. “Having Carmelo and his team join us gives us an opportunity to bring in additional producers and partners to take us to the next level.”