Contract Switch May Mean Curtains for Broadway's Nuremberg

News   Contract Switch May Mean Curtains for Broadway's Nuremberg On April 22, the League of Repertory Theatres (LORT) contract governing Broadway's Judgment at Nuremberg will end. At that point, the producers will have two choices: to close the show or keep it going under a standard (and more expensive) Actor's Equity contract. Cast members recently received a letter informing them of the situation, which could be dire for Nuremberg's chances of continuing on Broadway.

On April 22, the League of Repertory Theatres (LORT) contract governing Broadway's Judgment at Nuremberg will end. At that point, the producers will have two choices: to close the show or keep it going under a standard (and more expensive) Actor's Equity contract. Cast members recently received a letter informing them of the situation, which could be dire for Nuremberg's chances of continuing on Broadway.

An adaptation of Abby Mann's teleplay and screenplay about war guilt and responsibility, Nuremberg has been a tough sell for National Actors Theatre. Though such veteran cast-members as Robert Foxworth, Joseph Wiseman, George Grizzard, Marthe Keller and Maximilan Schell have marquee value, the somber courtroom drama must compete against a bevy of glitzy spring openings, such as The Producers, Follies, Blast! and The Invention of Love. Mann's play received generally good reviews, though nearly all of them said that the stage show lacked the power of the famous film version — not something a consumer paying $75 for a top ticket at the Longacre vs. Blockbuster prices might want to hear.

National Actors Theatre spokesperson Gary Springer told Playbill On-Line he couldn't give an exact figure of what the weekly box-office break-even point was for Nuremberg, but recent weeks have seen the show in the $150,000 range, at least $50,000 lower than it needs to be to cover costs. As such, said Springer April 17, "No closing notice is going up this week, but if business doesn't do great in the next week, there's a good chance something will go up next Tuesday." Asked what steps were being taken to push Nuremberg forward, Springer said, "We're taking out more ads than usual. Tony [Randall] and Max [Schell] are doing TV things. We're trying to keep it out there. With Easter and tourists, I think we're doing okay this week."

Judgment at Nuremberg opened at Broadway's Longacre Theatre March 26. Previews began Feb. 15 for the drama, which is currently scheduled to run through early June.

The full cast of Nuremberg includes Maximilian Schell as Ernst, George Grizzard as Judge Haywood, Robert Foxworth as General Parker, Marthe Keller as Frau Bertholt, Joseph Wiseman as Dr. Wickert, Michael Hayden as Oscar Rolfe, Michael Mastro as Rudolph, Susan Kellerman as Elsa, Heather Randall as Maria Wallner, Peter Herman (OB's The Gathering) as a Prison Guard, Jack Davidson as General Merrin, Peter Kybart as Geuter, Jurian Hughes as the court interpreter, Henry Strozier as Judge Norris, Fred Burrell as Judge Ives, Rex Robbins (The Sisters Rosensweig) as Senator Burkette, Teagle F. Bougere as Captain Byers, Patricia Connolly as Mrs. Habelstadt, Peter Maloney as Emil Hahn, Philip LeStrange as Fredrich Hoffsetter and Reno Roop as Werner. Judgment at Nuremberg began life as a television production. It was subsequently made into a film starring Spencer Tracy, Montgomery Clift, Lancaster, Judy Garland, Schell and Marlene Dietrich. The NAT commissioned Mann to adapt his own script for the stage. (The play has no connection, by the way, to another television piece: "Nuremberg," a four hour docudrama by David W. Rintels, which premiered July 16, 2000 on Turner Network Television.)

Judgment, directed by John Tillinger, marks the NAT's first venture since Night Must Fall, which closed on Broadway in spring 1999. Since its first two seasons, in the early '90s, the NAT has operated in a more casual manner, presenting a play whenever the needed elements and talent were brought together. Past productions have included The Gin Game and Inherit the Wind. Nuremberg is produced by NAT in association with Earle I. Mack.

Nuremberg is the first of three Broadway shows to open this season that deal in some way with Nazism. (The other two are The Producers, a zany musical about two men trying to produce a flop show called "Springtime for Hitler," and The Gathering, a drama about a Jewish family's argument over Ronald Reagan's ill-advised visit to German soldiers' graves in Bitberg). The subject matter also shows up in the long- running Cabaret, still at Studio 54, and last year's Tony winner, Copenhagen.

Actor Schell, unforgettable as the volcanic attorney defending Nazi war criminals in the film version of Nuremberg, returns to the material - albeit in a different role. This time he's playing a defendant, a calm, intelligent man who should have known better than to just follow orders. (The role was played by Burt Lancaster in the movie.) An emergency appendectomy sidelined Schell for two weeks during previews, but he's been back in the show since March 16.

Apart from his Tony winning stint in the recent revival of A Delicate Balance, Grizzard’s other stage credits have included 1959’s The Disenchanted and 1961’s Big Fish, Little Fish, both of which earned him Featured Actor Tony nominations.

On the acting front, Mastro played Ziggy in the Off-Broadway and Broadway casts of the Tony winning Side Man. The Nuremberg role will mark Broadway appearance number 2 and 1/2 for the actor; he was in the Christopher Plummer vehicle Barrymore, but only as an offstage voice, occasionally prompting the drunken protagonist.

Hayden’s credits include Far East and the last Broadway revival of Carousel. Keller’s film credits include “Black Sunday” and “Bobby Deerfield.” Randall, the wife of company artistic director and “Odd Couple” actor Tony Randall, appeared in OOB’s Hansen’s Cab last season. She has the Judy Garland role of a Holocaust survivor.

The show’s designers are James Noone on sets, Jess Goldstein on costumes and Brian MacDevitt on lighting.

As a way of stressing the educational aspects of the show, the NAT and Yad Vashem (a Holocaust memorial organization) will offer two post-show panels following the Sunday matinees March 25 and April 22. These "Judgment After Nuremberg" panels will feature law professors who are war trial experts, as well as people who took part in the hearings. Author Mann will be on the March 25 panel, producer Randall will co-moderate the April 22 panel with Yad Vashem's Education Director, Marlene Warshawski.

For tickets ($29.50-$75) and information on Judgment at Nuremberg at the Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48 St, call (212) 239-6280 or check the website www.judgmentatnuremberg.com. Student rush tickets are available for $10 plus $1.25 facility charge.