Perhaps the most oft-quoted line in Hello, Dolly! has to do with money being like fertilizer; in order to make things grow, you've got to spread it around. Applied to current theatrical doings, before Scent of the Roses can bloom on Broadway, it'll need a few more sprinkles.
The drama, by Lisette Lecat Ross, finishes up its pre-Broadway tryout at Nyack, New York's Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center Nov. 21, after starting previews Oct. 30 and opening Nov. 11.
Producers had wanted to bring the show right to Broadway's Belasco, for a Nov. 30 start and Dec. 12 opening, but that was recently delayed, with Spring 2000 the new Broadway target. Sources at the Hayes Center say producers are investigating a possible regional stint for the show to keep momentum up between now and springtime, but no firm word has developed on this.
A week ago, a Hayes Center spokesperson told Playbill On-Line the postponement came about because the producers "are having a slow time building up the money to produce the show. They're still looking for backers." The spokesperson said Roses has been well received at the Hayes, with audiences generally reaching 60 percent seating capacity or higher. Seats are expected to be scarce for the remaining Saturday evening and Sunday matinee performances.
Back on Nov. 1, New York co-producer Arthur Cantor told Playbill On-Line, "A big hunk of money dropped out right after we booked [the show] in New York. It created economic problems in terms of making sure the cost of the Broadway production would be met. But the money's coming in, and I still want to bring it in before Christmas, or maybe between Christmas and New Years. If that doesn't happen, we'll open in spring, since it doesn't make any sense to open in January." Cantor was out of the office (Nov. 10) and unable to be reached for comment. In the Nov. 1 conversation, Cantor added, "I have great faith in the play; it's doing fabulously in Nyack. It's getting standing ovations and cheers, just as it did in Seattle. Really, there's no point in postponing it. I think it'll be a hit no matter what happens."
Rosesstars five-time Tony winner Julie Harris, alongside veteran actor Remak Ramsay, Peter Francis James, Jay Patterson, Kate Forbes, Jessalyn Gilsig (Mere Mortals), Jeanne Paulson, Akili Prince and Myra Taylor.
The Upstate New York staging is being produced by the Hayes Center, whereas the New York producers are Cantor, Jay and Cindy Gutterman and Carol Ostrow, with Laura Heller serving as General Manager.
Rehearsals for Roses, by South African playwright Lisette Lecat Ross, began in late September. The work was first produced with Harris at Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre, July-Aug. 1998. ACT artistic director Gordon Edelstein staged the show, and he'll do so again for the New York mounting. The Seattle design team of Thomas Lynch (set), Martin Pakledinaz (costumes), Peter Kaczorowski (lighting) and John Gromada (sound, music) will also design the New York production.
In Roses, ten-time Tony nominee Harris plays Annalise Morant, a South African woman whose children wish her to part with her most cherished possession: a mysterious and valuable painting. The drama unfolds as we discover what special significance the artist and the painting hold for Annalise.
Harris was recently in Chicago for an extended run of the play Winter. Prior to that, she toured opposite Charles Durning in the National Actors Theatre's The Gin Game. Ramsay's credits include Stoppard's Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (1979) and Roundabout Theatre's 1980 revival of The Winslow Boy.
For several months after announcing the project, producer Cantor debated whether to bring the play to Broadway of Off-Broadway, owing to the scarcity of Broadway houses and the financing required for a Broadway production. Ultimately, he and co-producer Ostrow decided on Broadway, with a capitalization of $1,250,000. "It's not easy to raise the money now," said veteran producer Cantor. "The high cost of production is more than a metaphor. The highest I'd ever raised previously was three quarters of a million for A Little Family Business with Angela Lansbury. Back then, units were $4-5,000 apiece; now they're $20-30,000. That's a lot."
As for the play itself, Cantor said, "I know the fashion now is to bring in all these plays from London, but this is an English kind of play. I can see it doing very well in the West End. In fact, if it does well here, it'll go to London. I would think they'd love her."
Other plays by Lecat Ross include Moment of Truth and Pluperfect Subjunctives.
Producer Cantor's credits include The Tenth Man and All The Way Home, as well as Off-Broadway's Beau Jest and A Room of One's Own.
Next up at the Hayes Center: Dec. 4-Jan. 2, 2000 A Christmas Carol, adapted by Del Tenney and featuring Earl Hindman ("Home Improvement") as Scrooge. The show includes an original score by Jordan Rudess (of the rock group, Dream Theater).
-- By David Lefkowitz