It was a West Coast hit during its spring engagement at the Canon Theatre in Beverly Hills, and a hot ticket at various venues in New York State, and even did well enough to stay open on Broadway, despite brutal reviews. But the Renee Taylor and Joe Bologna autobiographical duet, If You Ever Leave Me, I’m Going With You!, couldn't brave the tragedy which struck lower Manhattan on Sept. 11. After a week which included three canceled shows and disappointing box office, the show has posted a closing notice for Sept. 23.
Rumors have surfaced that the show may come back (as they have for almost every show that's closed in the wake of the World Trade Center attack), but a spokesperson at the Leonard Soloway Production office told Playbill On-Line that's only speculation at this point. "There's been no definite decision," the spokesperson said. "We're not really sure what the future holds. We're not loading out yet, because nothing's set to come into the Cort Theatre. But we're off sale and doing refunds. We made no money last week, a severe loss, and we're facing another severe loss this week... Renee and Joe want to continue, whether at the Cort Theatre or somewhere else. It's an expensive show to run for what it is, with only two characters. So it would need new budgets and cutbacks, which would be worked out between Renee and lead producer Martin Meltzer. But right now, we have to close."
In that respect, If You Ever Leave Me is not alone. The Rocky Horror Show, A Thousand Clowns and Blast have also decided to close on Sept. 23. Off-Broadway's Bat Boy also appeared defanged but on Sept. 21 reversed its decision to shutter.
If You Ever Leave Me... began previews July 17 and opens Aug. 6 at Broadway's Cort Theatre. The latter date is especially meaningful, as it was be the twosome's 36th wedding anniversary. It will have played 24 performances and 45 previews.
Produced by Martin Melzer, Renee Taylor, Joseph Bologna and Leonard Soloway, If You Ever... features design work by Alvin Colt (costumes), Ken Billington (lighting) and Kenneth Foy (set). Last fall, both Bologna and then-co-general manager Steven Levy confirmed that negotiations had begun in finding a theatre for the comedy, which covers the couple's romantic courtship, their first wedding reception on the Merv Griffin Show, their five marriage ceremonies, and the "near spouse-icides of the three decades of professional collaboration" (the latter phrase courtesy of a spokesperson at the Canon). The show, which employs film clips of the couple's many weddings (in varying religions) and stills to augment the live performances, also includes scenes from the couple's last duet, the Off Broadway hit, Bermuda Avenue Triangle, as well as It Had to Be You and their best-known pairing, Lovers and Other Strangers. Characters include an elderly residents of a retirement home trying to have a tryst and a couple whose bickering together helps them stay together.
“The show has developed more and more, to better and better response,” said Levy at the time (he's now in London and no longer with the project), “regardless of house size and configuration of theatre. These people are known from TV, film, Broadway, and there’s a tremendous audience for their comedy... Broadway has such greater exposure than when you’re tucked away in an Off Broadway theatre. That’s why they’re taking the plunge.”
Taylor and Bologna wrote, co-directed and star in the show, which was staged at a few regional theatres after having been briefly workshopped in L.A. two years ago. Venues have included the Helen Hayes Center in Nyack, NY as well as Queens Theatre in the Park and one-night gigs at Long Island's Westbury Music Fair.
For tickets and information on If You Ever Leave Me... at the Cort Theatre call (212) 239-6200.