Among the many theatres and theatre-related businesses affected by the July 21 Times Square construction accident, none has felt the paralyzing reverberations of the disaster more than the Roundabout Theatre Company. Three of the Roundabout's four productions have canceled performances and the theatre itself has suspended operations until further notice.
Productions of Cabaret, playing at the Kit Kat Klub on 43rd Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue, and You Never Can Tell and Side Man, both at the Criterion Center at Broadway and 45th Street, were forced to cancel the evening performance on July 21 and the matinee performance on July 22. Cabaret, located just yards from the site of the accident, announced Wednesday afternoon that it has now canceled all performances through Sunday, July 26.
Side Man and You Never Can Tell have cancelled all performances Wednesday July 22 and Thursday July 23. A View From the Bridge, a fourth Roundabout show, now playing at the Neil Simon Theatre on W. 52nd Street, has not been affected.
Roundabout publicist Adrian Bryan-Brown stated there was enough flexibility in the runs of You Never Can Tell and Side Man to accommodate the canceled performances. Cabaret, however, is a trickier question. Tony-winner Natasha Richardson, who plays Sally Bowles, is leaving the show on Aug. 2, and Bryan-Brown said that disappointed tickets holders' chances of still catching her performance in the sold-out hit were virtually nil. For information on Roundabout ticket refunds, call (212) 719-1300.
Also canceled were the July 21, 22 and 23 performances of the Off-Broadway musical Smoke on the Mountain, which is housed in the W. 44th Street Lamb's Theatre. Town Hall and Broadway's Belasco Theatre have also been closed to business, though the latter theatre is currently dark. All other Broadway theatres and the TKTS discount ticket booth remain open. But because most of Times Square and some side streets remain closed to vehicular traffic Thursday, July 23, theatregoers to any of the surrounding theatres should plan for delays.
The calamity has disrupted operations at businesses throughout Times Square, including many theatre-related organizations. The 1501 Broadway building, which is situated on Seventh Avenue between 43rd and 44th streets, is home to several theatrical agencies and The Dramatist Guild. Occupants were being allowed to enter the building only by way of a wooden construction tunnel which opens up on 44th Street. John Hammond of In Theater magazine, which has offices on the 26th floor, said they have been instructed to stay clear of windows facing onto Times Square, in the event that debris from the Conde Nast building could somehow pierce the glass. Hammond said the periodical was able to meet its Tuesday deadline, though the printer was forced to pick up the materials at an eatery on Restaurant Row.
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The trouble began just before 8:30 AM (ET) July 21 when a construction elevator on a high floor of the half-erected 48-story Conde Nast building on Broadway between 42nd and 43rd streets collapsed, causing some 20 floors worth of scaffolding on the outside of the elevator tower to bend outward and downward, and then cascade toward the ground. A section of the scaffolding crashed through the roof of The Hotel Woodstock across 43rd Street, damaging the top two floors and killing one elderly tenant, Thereza Feliconio. A total of 12 people were hurt by the falling steel and masonry.
According to a July 22 account in The New York Times, the catastrophe was the result of either the loosening of bolts securing the elevator tower or the tower being struck by a crane. Shortly before the accident, workers exited the elevator after noticing strange vibrations in the structure. They then radioed down to the ground that danger was imminent, allowing other workmen to frantically waive pedestrians and cars away from the immediate area.
West 41st, 42nd, 43rd and 44th streets between Broadway and Fifth Avenue were barred to car and foot traffic during the day, snarling traffic throughout midtown Manhattan. The downtown end of Times Square was closed to motor traffic, but the TKTS discount ticket booth at the uptown end of Times Square was open Tuesday. It will remain open Wednesday, said Theatre Development Fund President Jack Goldstein.
At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, NY Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said the cleanup will begin immediately, but 42nd, 43rd and 44th streets between Broadway and the Avenue of the Americas will remain closed to traffic for several days.
Ragtime and The Lion King, which play on West 42nd Street on the far side of Broadway, have been giving performances as scheduled, as did The Scarlet Pimpernel on the west side of Times Square at 44th Street. The 43rd Street entrance to the Ford Center was closed, however, and Ragtime audiences were being asked to enter on the 42nd Street side. All other Broadway theatre are operating as usual
Cabaret plays at the Kit Kat Klub on West 43rd Street, directly next to the building where the collapse occurred. Wreckage on the Conde Nast building reportedly shifted during the night of July 22, so the block (and theatre) will remain closed to pedestrians Wednesday. Mayor Giuliani said the Kit Kat Klub (formerly Henry Miller's Theatre) is not damaged. Side Man and You Never Can Tell play at the Criterion Center on Broadway near 44th Street. The only other Broadway theatre located on the closed streets is the Belasco, which is currently dark.
The multi-story building, one of many which has gone up in the Times Square area in the past two years, has been under construction for more than a year. Built by the Durst Organization, it is to be the new headquarters of publisher Conde Nast. The accident is the third the site has seen in the past seven months, including an incident in which a worker was crushed by the elevator while working in the shaft. Calls to the Durst Organization were not returned.
A spokesman for Tishman Construction said the clean-up procedure would involve the wrapping of the remaining scaffolding on the building. The scaffolding itself in no longer in danger of falling, he said, but the various work materials on the structures many levels may become loose and drop to the ground. Workers will then bring in a crane and remove the materials.
Visitors to the Roundabout Theatre Company's production of Cabaret are familiar with the Durst development. For months, audience members have had to travel under wooden construction tunnels to reach the Kit Kat Klub, the 43rd Street theatre where the show is performed.
The accident is not the first Broadway has seen since the Times Square development boom began a few years ago. At the end of 1997, hours before the traditional Time Square New Year's Eve celebration, the old Selwyn Building on 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues suddenly collapsed into a heap of rubble. The debris was quickly hauled off before the holiday crowds descended on the area.