Though a couple of theatres have recently opened up for the spring, don't expect Scent of the Roses to take root in any of them. Producer and spokesperson Arthur Cantor told Playbill On-Line it's "unlikely" Lisette Lecat Ross' drama, starring Julie Harris, will make it to Broadway this season. The project is still alive, however, and other options are reportedly being considered.
The drama finished up its pre-Broadway tryout at Nyack, New York's Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center Nov. 21, 1999 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 delayed, with Spring 2000 named the new Broadway target. The show remains in what Cantor calls "a conditional state."
Weeks earlier, 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 had been well received at the Hayes, with audiences generally reaching 60 percent seating capacity or higher.
Back on Nov. 1, 1999 co-producer 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."
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." Roses was to star 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 was 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 1999. 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 was tapped to 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 in Chicago last season 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.
-- By David Lefkowitz