Inside One of Broadway's Biggest Scandals – How Rebecca The Musical Made Headlines Without Even Opening (Yet...)

News   Inside One of Broadway's Biggest Scandals – How Rebecca The Musical Made Headlines Without Even Opening (Yet...) Intrigue. Mystery. Concealed identities. Sinister accusations. A dream up in smoke and a Great big Broadway show. "Rebecca" the novel or the tale of Rebecca the musical? The twisting plot of Daphne du Maurier's 1938 novel is being rivaled by that of the Broadway musical that uses the gothic romance as its source.

If you feel as though need Cliffsnotes to grasp the woeful tale of Rebecca the musical, you're not alone. The multi-million dollar, on-again off-again Broadway musical that was first announced in 2008 has been charting a Dickensian course to Broadway that has left even the cast of Les Misérables scratching their heads trying to keep track of who's who and what's what.

The ghostly musical crept out of the shadows and into headlines again on May 12 when a New York State Supreme Court justice ruled that a Broadway press agent had breached his contract with Rebecca producers after he sent anonymous emails warning a potential investor to steer clear of the production.

If you're wondering how Rebecca went from callbacks to the court room, read below:

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Sept. 6, 2008: She's Alive! Internationally Popular Musical Rebecca Will Come to Broadway
International hit musical Rebecca, which premiered in 2006 at Vereinigte Buhnen Wien in Vienna, will have its English-language premiere on Broadway in 2010, producers Ben Sprecher and Louise Forlenza announce.

Aug. 25, 2009: Rebecca Gets a London Reading and Sets Course to Broadway
Sierra Boggess, Brent Barrett and Pia Douwes take part in a London reading of Rebecca. Discussions get underway for a Toronto premiere prior to Broadway and the West End.

July 12, 2011: Rebecca Taps a Star, Enlists Co-Director and Sets Broadway Opening
In a rare Broadway scenario, Michael Blakemore and Francesca Zambello are announced to co-direct Rebecca's Broadway premiere. Boggess is rumored to be in talks to star in the production that is aiming for an April 22, 2012, Broadway opening at a Shubert Theatre.

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Dec. 1, 2011: A Cast of Broadway Vets and Newcomers Joins the Company and a Theatre Is Set
The Broadhurst Theatre is set as the home for Broadway's Rebecca with Sierra Boggess, Tam Mutu, Karen Mason, James Barbour, John Dossett, Nick Wyman and more among the cast.

Jan. 24, 2012: Producers Go Public With First of Several Financial Snags and Rebecca Is Postponed
Two weeks prior to the start of rehearsals, lead producer Ben Sprecher (citing a "very negative economic climate") announces that capitalization is still incomplete and postpones the April 2012 Broadway opening. Rebecca will now aim to materialize during the 2012-13 season.

March 14, 2012: Producers Identify "Missing Piece" of Investment
Sprecher posts on the official Facebook page for Rebecca, stating that "the final missing piece of investment" is in place. A fall 2012 Broadway arrival is anticipated.

May 3, 2012: Rebecca Confirms Oct. 20, 2012, Broadway Arrival
With its two central stars in question following postponement, Rebecca sets fall dates at the Broadhurst Theatre.

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July 20, 2012: Boggess and Mutu Depart Rebecca and New Stars Are Tapped for Fall Bow
Jill Paice and Ryan Silverman are announced to replace Sierra Boggess and Tam Mutu in the delayed fall arrival of Rebecca.

Sept. 8, 2012: The First of Several Bombshells Rocks Rebecca – Death of Major Investor Prompts Another Broadway Delay
Producers again delay rehearsals by two weeks – this time for the musical's fall Broadway bow – citing the death of a key investor responsible for a $4.5 million investment pool in the production. (This is the infamous investor, "Paul Abrams," who turned out to be a phantom.)

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Sept. 22, 2012: Producers Promise Cast Will Be Paid During Rehearsal Delay
With "commitments from several sources" secured to fill in the capitalization gap, Sprecher and Forlenza inform the cast (and the public) that "signed contracts for those investments have gone out" and rehearsals will hopefully begin the following week.

Sept. 26, 2012: A Light at the End of the Tunnel? Cast Informed Rehearsals Will Begin Oct. 1 and the Marquee Goes Up at the Broadhurst
The sets and costumes are created... A private email obtained by Playbill.com shows correspondence between the show's production stage manager and the company, informing them that rehearsals will begin Oct. 1. A cast member told Playbill.com, "It's been an excruciating past few weeks not knowing if we were going to work, and there must have been a collective sigh of relief all over town today when we received word..."

Sept. 30, 2012: The Plot Again Thickens – A Day Before Rehearsals Are Slated to Begin, Producers Pull the Plug, Citing Sinister Emails
Another capitalization setback is announced; this time the producers blame the show's collapse on "a malicious e-mail, filled with lies and innuendo" that scared off a new "Angel investor." Despite a report in the New York Times that "Paul Abrams" was not a real individual, and an admission from Sprecher that he had never met the investor, a statement is sent to the press still citing Abrams and naming a new shadowy figure as being responsible for Rebecca's latest demise.

Oct. 3, 2012: The $12 Million Musical Collapses – Cast Is Gathered and FBI Comes on Board
Sprecher and Forlenza assemble the entire cast on what would have been the first day of rehearsals. Cast member Karen Mason calls Sprecher "an ethical man, and someone I would be honored to work with." Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that Abrams was likely a fabrication of businessman Mark Hotton, who had previously been sued for fraud, and was enlisted by Sprecher and Forlenza to help secure additional investors in Rebecca. The U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI are reportedly looking into circumstances of the show's financing.

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Oct. 8, 2012: Attorney for Producers Determines Hotton's Potential Investors Were "Clever Fabrications"
"I can now confirm that there is no evidence whatever that 'Paul Abrams' or any of the other three investors brought to this production by Mr. Hotton, ever existed," Ronald G. Russo, attorney for the producers, says in a statement. At this point, the show's press representative, Marc Thibodeau, has parted ways with the production.

Oct. 15, 2012: FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office Arrest Hotton for Defrauding Producers
Hotton is arrested for "fabricating the prospect of $4.5 million in financing commitments." Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, "Hotton perpetrated stranger-than-fiction frauds both on and off Broadway. As part of one alleged scheme, Hotton concocted a cast of characters to invest in a major musical — investors who turned out to be deep-pocketed phantoms."

Oct. 19, 2012: Producers File a $100 Million Lawsuit Against Mark Hotton
Sprecher and Forlenza make plans to sue Hotton for taking thousands of dollars in advances on commissions for bringing in non-existent backers.

Jan. 2, 2013: Producers Extend Rights, Set New 2013 Broadway Target for Rebecca
Sprecher tells Playbill.com that he has extended the Broadway rights for Rebecca, stating, "The show is more valuable today than it was six months ago." The goal is to have the musical premiere on Broadway before the end of 2013, with the most-recent cast and creative team to be offered their roles.

Jan. 29, 2013: In a Major Plot Twist That Rocks Broadway Insiders, Producers Identify Their Press Agent as the Shadow Who Scared Off a Potential Investor, Capable of Saving Rebecca
Producers file a complaint in NY State Supreme Court, alleging that veteran Broadway press agent Marc Thibodeau sent "disturbing and malicious emails" to a potential "Angel investor" alerting them of reported fraud among Rebecca's investors. Thibodeau says he is an "innocent whistleblower."

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March 15, 2013: Investors Pursue Their Case as New Investors Are Sought to Bring Rebecca to Broadway
Sprecher and Forlenza align themselves with Phillip and Barbara Sellinger to host a backers presentation of Rebecca, hoping to secure additional funds to get the show to Broadway in late 2013. Thibodeau files a 15-page motion to have the charges against him dismissed, while Sprecher and Forlenza file a 27-page memorandum opposing Thibodeau's motion.

April 12, 2013: Producers Say Funding Must Be in Place by June for a December Opening
Sprecher says that $8 million is in place, with the remaining funding expected by the end of June. A late December 2013 Broadway arrival is the goal. Rehearsals are expected to begin in October.

July 24, 2013: Rebecca Pushes Back Broadway Arrival to 2014
June comes and goes without word of complete capitalization for the musical. "We are moving forward and looking forward to welcoming Rebecca the Musical to Broadway in 2014," Sprecher says.

July 30, 2013: Mark Hotton Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Rebecca Producers
Hotton pleaded guilty to two counts of defraud, one involving Rebecca and another separate plot to defraud a Connecticut real estate company. Outside the courthouse, Hotton's lawyer suggested that his client had more to reveal about the case. "There is a chapter yet to be written in this saga," he said. "When it will be written you will know."

Oct. 10, 2013: Securities and Exchange Commission Clears Rebecca Producers
The Securities and Exchange Commission will not pursue action against Sprecher and Forlenza. The decision follows a full investigation, which involved "countless documents being turned over about how the Rebecca producers conducted their business." Producers are hopeful the decision will encourage investors to provide the remaining $5 million needed for Rebecca's $16 million Broadway capital.

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Nov. 14, 2013: Former Rebecca Press Agent Files Countersuit Against Producers
Thibodeau files a countersuit against the producers claiming breach of contract, unjust enrichment and fraud. Thibodeau states that he was never paid for his work and continued to represent Rebecca on good faith – adding that he became suspicious of the producers' motives when he was asked to draft a press release about the demise of a South African investor, Paul Abrams.

Jan. 21, 2014: Thibodeau Withdraws Countersuit and Rebecca Draws New Investor
Thibodeau withdraws his countersuit against the producers Jan. 17 as Sprecher and Forlenza bring in Steven Colson, Peter Bezemes and Barbara Sellinger as co-producers.

Oct. 10, 2014: Hotton Sentenced to Three Years in Prison
Hotton, the conman who swindled the producers of Rebecca out of $65,000 with promise of fictitious donors is sentenced to three years in federal prison.

May 12, 2015: Rebecca Still Hasn't Materialized on B'way – NY Supreme Court Finds Thibodeau in Breach of Contract
A New York Supreme Court justice rules in favor of Sprecher and Forlenza, stating that Thibodeau breached his contract when he sent anonymous emails to a potential investor (who was later scared off). In an exclusive interview with Playbill.com, Sprecher says that a new 2016 Broadway target is set. In a lengthy statement to the press, Thibodeau maintains that he was acting as a "whistle-blower."