The show closed Jan. 3 after just 91 performances, but a strong last-minute push by devoted fans -- self-styled "Freaks," after the show's opening number -- and a sense that the show had been under-advertised, prompted a "bring back Side Show" effort that occupied the show's creators and producers for much of January.
A week ago, it seemed almost a fait accomplit that the Nederlander Organization was bringing Side Show back to the Richard Rodgers Theatre for a Tony-time run. Two million dollars in investment money was lined up for the show's reanimation. But until the money was signed, sealed and delivered, the producers held off on making an announcement of Side Show's return.
Early in the day (Jan. 23), Playbill On-Line learned from an informed source that director Robert Longbottom had separated from the project. A few hours later, a Side Show cast-member told Playbill On-Line that offers to the actors had been rescinded, and the whole deal was off.
In a faxed press release at 4:15 PM, spokespersons at the Bill Evans office announced that the show will not reopen. No reason was given for the decision, though in a statement, the Evans office mentions reasons the first incarnation closed despite getting a number of good reviews: "Strong audience resistance seemed based on a wide perception that the production would be a 'freak show,' a forbidding, unsettling experience. Attempts to overcome this formidable marketing problem were not effective."
The statement added, "Side Show producers Emanuel Azenberg, Joseph Nederlander, Herschel Waxman, Janice McKenna and Scott Nederlander are committed to the future of this project and look forward to its next incarnation." There has been talk of a tour or a London production, but the Jan. 23 statement gave no further specifics.
The producers did express the hope the project would have a future, and thanked "every member of the Side Show family for their support and enthusiasm."
Here's the Side Show back-story:
The New York Times reported Jan. 23 that sufficient money to reopen the show April 13 at the Richard Rodgers had been promised, but that no official announcement could be made until the money is delivered.
Apparently, the producers found a backer willing to put up $2 million: half to finance the re-opening and half to pay off previous investors.
The Daily News reported that the $2 million dollar man was Ira Pittelman, a longtime friend of Henry Krieger. Reached Jan. 22, Pittelman told Playbill On-Line that money actually came from a group, comprising himself, attorney Jonathan Herzog and Scott Nederlander. He also said it was too soon to say whether the Side Show return would happen, because so many elements were involved.
Pittelman, president of Heartland Music, a TV mail-order record company, used to write songs with Krieger back in the 1960s and 70s. He's soon heading down to Washington DC to catch the opening night of Krieger's Dreamgirls. "Henry went to Broadway, I went into the music business," Pittelman said.
Side Show closed Jan. 3 after 31 previews and 91 regular performances. Producers said at the time that they were seeking additional financing to reopen the show in April or May to take advantage of possible Tony Award nominations.
The New York Post reported (Jan. 13) that the show was looking more and more likely to reopen, with unnamed inside sources quoted as saying, "It's a go!" The Post story asserted that the show's creators are strongly behind a reopening, but that investors who lost some $7 million on the show were not convinced to spend more money to reopen.
A spokesperson at Azenberg's office confirmed to Playbill On-Line an earlier New York Post story saying the show is considering reopening in time to cash in on possible Tony Award nominations.
One obstacle was removed when a booking for the Richard Rodgers Theatre (owned by the Nederlander Organziation), where Side Show played, was cancelled. Production spokesman Jonathan Schwartz said the sets and costumes for Side Show had not been removed from the theatre. The Times reported that the theater's owner (and the show's co-producer), the Nederlander Organization, was keeping the theatre free for Side Show.
Among remaining obstacles: Financing and advertising the reopening. Keeping the cast together. The Times story said the show would get a new logo and advertising campaign, and something the show's supporters have been clamoring for -- a TV commercial.
A spokesperson for Azenberg said the get-out-the-word effort by the "Freaks" -- devoted fans of the show -- had a definite effect on the box office during the show's final two weeks, with ticket sales rising from 50 percent of capacity to 85 percent in the show's final week.
One question for the Tony Awards committee: If the show had reopened, would it have been eligible for both Best Musical and Best Revival?