Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (left)
with Fran and Barry Weissler.
Actor Reveals Secret
Of Friendship on Bway

Story and Photo by Tim Boxer

RODUCERS Barry and Fran Weissler attracted a ballroomful of ardent friends and supporters at the Pierre Hotel in New York where they were honored by UJA-Federation. Two of their longtime professional friends led the applause.

James Earl Jones starred in the first show the Weisslers staged on Broadway 21 years ago. It was Othello and earned the producers their first of five Tony Awards.

“How this friendship survived is a miracle,” Jones said. “Maybe because we haven’t worked together since.”

Gerald Schoenfeld, head honcho of the Shubert Organization, presented the Weisslers with the Bernard Jacobs Award, named in memory of his partner of 39 years.

Over the years, the Weisslers earned five Tony Awards for producing Broadway hits such as Othello, Grease and the current Chicago. Upcoming projects include Pygmalion and The Royal Family of Broadway.

“The Weisslers,” Schoenfeld said, “have made significant contributions to the theater – most in Shubert theaters.”

Barry remarked that his plays “have been panned by the critics more than any other producer I can think of. But that’s okay because we have run shows for years. It’s the public that decides.”

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton praised the Weisslers as “two people who will keep us laughing, singing ad thinking.”

Clinton said that at the beginning of his career, Barry would ask his friend Fran to help him out with his productions of Shakespeare.

“Fran worked hour after hour until she decided to make it a 24-hour commitment. I think there’s a play in there.”

Barry gave credit to the late Bernard Jacobs for giving him a jumpstart in the business.

“In those early days,” he said, “we sat with Bernie at his Shubert offices, and he watched over us and helped us. It’s been such a great journey.”

A month later the Weisslers will celebrat again when their grandson, David Weller, will become bar mitzvah in New Jersey.

Another simcha in the theatrical community will take place in December when Jenny Rose Baker will mark her bat mitzvah at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan. She was featured in another Weissler show, Annie Get Your Gun, for two years on Broadway.

Jenny’s father, Norman Baker, executive managing director of Insignia/ESG real estate firm, said his daughter started singing at age four when she saw Grease 12 times.

Jenny and her parents, Norman and Janet, gave the Weisslers a standing ovation.

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