It takes a little longer for phones to be answered this week at Livent's Toronto headquarters: Some 100 of 250 full-time Livent employees were laid off Nov. 30, most in Toronto, in the wake of Livent's bankruptcy crisis.
Most of the full-time employees, from managers and producers to press agents and accountants, were in the Toronto office of the beleaguered musical theatre producer and theatre operator. The Vancouver and New York offices lost employees as well, according to Jim Badenhausen, legal spokesperson for Livent.
The most surprising dismissal was longtime Livent executive Marty Bell. Bell was elevated to the rank of senior producer shortly after founder Garth Drabinsky's suspension in the summer. Many thought him a likely candidate for Drabinsky's post as creative director, before that job was offered to Roundabout head Todd Haimes. Haimes was not among those jettisoned Nov. 30.
As senior producer, Bell was in charge of Livent's productions of Ragtime, Fosse, and Parade and was intimate with such developing projects as musicals The Sweet Smell of Success, Pal Joey and The Seussical.
Eleanor Goldhar, director of corporate public relations for Livent, said those in-development shows are still a go, with creative people -- directors, authors, composers, lyricists and presumably Haimes -- moving ahead until money comes in to rejuvenate the company. She indicated that those shows are the future of Livent. "We're going to be very show-based," said Goldhar Dec. 2, adding that Livent's immediate priorities are the five shows that are currently generating dough. They are: Ragtime in Chicago and New York; Fosse, beginning previews Dec. 26 in New York; the co-production with Lincoln Center of Parade in New York and The Phantom of the Opera at the Pantages Theatre in Toronto.
A Livent spokesperson for Phantom said the challenge this week is getting word out to tour groups, vacationers and general theatregoers that the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical (which just celebrated its ninth year in Toronto) is a proven money-maker for the company and that it is healthy and continuing.
The full-time firings happened in every department across the board, according to Livent spokespeople. Phone calls to the company literally took longer to be answered due to the overworked remaining employees and the lack of support staff.
Part-time, hourly employees at the Livent-operated Ford Centres for the Performing Arts in Toronto and Vancouver were let go, too: Of 633 people, representing ushers, house management, cleaning crews and more, 273 were laid off (158 in North York, Ontario, and 115 in Vancouver).
-- By Kenneth Jones