By jove, what's all this talk about By Jeeves?
Less than a month ago, Playbill On-Line quoted sources at CT's Goodspeed Opera House saying there was little chance Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical comedy would come to Broadway. However, an Aug. 18 story in Variety reports that Lloyd Webber and Goodspeed Opera House executive director Michael Price are in serious negotiations to put By Jeeves on tour, with Broadway (possibly the Booth Theatre) as one of its stops.
Asked about the rumor, production spokesperson Jennifer Wislocki told Playbill On-Line (Aug. 18), "It's in the planning stages. Michael Price has been talking with Andrew Lloyd Webber about a national tour with a trip to New York, but no venues or dates have been set. It probably won't be this fall, though."
The Goodspeed Opera House mounting of By Jeeves, which played at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles in early spring, now runs through Aug. 31 the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.
Spokesperson Paul Bilyeu told Playbill On-Line (Aug. 18) the Kennedy Center run has been selling at roughly 96 percent, averaging over $170,000 a week in a house that can gross $180,000 maximum. "The last couple of weeks dipped just a little, but the show's grossed well past what was budgeted." Asked about Jeeves' touring plans, Bilyeu said there was still nothing set, though "informed rumor a few weeks ago had the Booth Theatre being reserved, only to be given to someone else. If the show does tour, though, the Kennedy Center would probably be involved, especially since the set was our doing." According to Variety, the show has already recouped its $200,000 Kennedy Center investment and would likely recoup Goodspeed's $250,000 investment should the show tour.
Originally titled Jeeves, the show opened in London in 1975 with music by Webber and book and lyrics by Alan Ayckbourn. Webber and Ayckbourn opened a revised version of the musical in the West End in summer 1996. The American premiere opened in November 1996 for an extended run at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, CT.
A December column in Variety by Michael Flemming attributed the Los Angeles premiere to a concern about opening the show on Broadway in the same season as Webber's Hal Prince-directed Whistle Down the Wind. However, that show may never see Broadway (a revised version is readying for London). Whistle did, however, break box-office records at the National Theatre in Washington DC, not far from where By Jeeves plays.
Productions of By Jeeves will be licensed by each venue from Webber's production company The Really Useful Group (RUG), and are overseen, though not produced, by RUG.