Cancelling its engagements through the end of the year, the tour of Funny Girl, starring Debbie Gibson and Robert Westenberg, has ground to a temporary halt.
According to producer Greg Young, when an anticipated booking in Denver (Nov. 12-24) fell through, that left the show with a 7-week no performance gap in its schedule (since the cast was getting a rest period Nov. 25-Dec. 14, and December dates in California were being rescheduled).
"In this business, you're allowed six weeks off, but after seven, you either have to post a closing notice or keep the cast on salary. That's a lot of money, and the show wasn't out long enough to make it worth the payroll.
"So we posted a closing notice," Young said, "but we're definitely going back out in January." (The show's last performances were in Green Bay, through Nov 10.)
Playbill On-Line asked star Debbie Gibson, attending a Nov. 25 group sales preview of Jekyll & Hyde, the status of Funny Girl, to which she replied, "I don't know. They don't tell us. We're just hoping." Asked how she was enjoying her unanticipated New York vacation, Gibson held up a small package, laughed and said, "Well, it gives me a chance to go Christmas shopping in New York instead of having to do things by mail." Asked if the same cast would stay with the show, Young said he anticipated that all the performers would return, though there are no guarantees, since "when you close a show, you close the contracts. But we anticipate everyone re-signing for January." Young couldn't yet elaborate on possible revisions to the show, as the staff were in the midst of readying a production meeting later in the afternoon.
Funny Girl's troubles echo other tours having great difficulty getting bookings (see Playbill On-Line's story on the perils of Applause), but Young backed up his optimism with an array of tour dates already scheduled for the re-opening musical:
Seattle Civic Center: Jan. 14-26
Portland Civic Center: Jan. 28-Feb. 2
Spokane Opera House: Feb.4-Feb. 9
Las Vegas Alladin: Feb. 11-Feb. 16
Costa Mesa: Feb. 18-Feb. 23
Pasadena: Feb. 25-March 2
Houston's Jones Hall: March 5-March 9
Chicago: March 11-March 30
Baltimore: April 1-April 6
Cincinnati: April 8-April 20
Memphis Orpheum: April 22-April 27
Indianapolis' Clowes Hall: April 29-May 4
Philadelphia: May 6-May 25
Schenectady: May 27-June 1
Norfolk: June 3-June 8
Columbus: June 10-June 15
Other cities expected for the tour include Toronto, Dallas and Montreal.
Playbill On-Line phoned the Denver Center theatre complex, where Mark of the ticket office assured patrons that seat-holders for Funny Girl's cancelled Denver engagement have been notified and all money has been refunded. No replacement show has been booked for the Center, though Andrew Lloyd Webber's Music Of The Night will take the stage in December, followed by Webber's Phantom Of The Opera tour beginning Jan. 10, 1997.
Mark did tell Playbill On-Line that the Center's Executive Producer, Randy Weeks, "previewed Funny Girl in Minneapolis and wasn't happy with the performances."
Weeks then told Playbill On-Line that on advice from counsel, he was not allowed to make any comment about Funny Girl, though he did say, "We cancelled the booking, which ought to give you some idea..."
The executive producer did rave about Denver Center's previous booking, Tap Dogs, which he found "really inventive and fun. The show set a new box office record for a one-week engagement at the Center." He said he's also anticipating a nearly sold-out Phantom Of The Opera -- the show's third turn at the Performing Arts Center.
For those unfamiliar with Funny Girl, the show that made Barbra Streisand a legend (I Can Get It For You Wholesale simply made her a star), it's about the life of vaudeville superstar Fanny Brice. A girl who rises in show business through sheer moxie -- and sensational talent -- Fanny falls in love with suave gambler, Nick Arnstein. The role was originated by Sydney Chaplin (Charlie's son) but is also associated with Omar Sharif, who played Arnstein opposite Streisand in William Wyler's 1968 film.
Isobel Lennart wrote the original book, while Bob Merrill wrote lyrics and Jule Styne composed the music. Merrill is the only one of the three still living, and he's added new material to keep things fresh.
For a look at the touring production's origins, please read Playbill On Line's story, "Gibson's Funny Fanny Rehearses For National Tour."
-- By David Lefkowitz