Merrick Mounts $2M Fair Fight

News   Merrick Mounts $2M Fair Fight Legendary impresario David Merrick will invest another $2 million in the Broadway production of State Fair to keep it running despite a dismissive review from the powerful New York Times.

David Merrick arrives at the Music Box Theatre for the opening of State Fair
David Merrick arrives at the Music Box Theatre for the opening of State Fair Photo by Photo By Starla Smith

Legendary impresario David Merrick will invest another $2 million in the Broadway production of State Fair to keep it running despite a dismissive review from the powerful New York Times.

"David Merrick is a firehorse and he loves a challenge," spokesperson Susan Schulman said. "We got raves from AP, USA Today, Newhouse, and the Westchester Gannett papers and the consensus is, we have a show."

She said the extra cash from Merrick, who previously won top billing among producers by putting $1 million into the $3.5 million show, will be used to expand the TV ad campaign, trumpeting quotes from the raves.

In an attempt to attract more family business, State Fair will adopt the same performance schedule Beauty and the Beast, adding an extra Sunday performance and killing a weeknight show. Starting March 31 the schedule will be 8 PM Weds.-Sat.; 2 PM Wed. & Sat.; 1 & 6 PM Sun.

"We in for the long haul," Schulman said. Executive producer Thomas Viertel apparently was not. The New Yorkported April 2 that he has left the production.

State Fair opened March 27 and took in $24,000 at the box office March 28, Schulman said. Press reports March 28 and 29 hinted that the show would close; Merrick's announcement came the afternoon of the 29th.

Despite fighting the aftereffects of a late 1980s stroke, the 84-year-old Merrick, producer behind many of the major hits of the 1960s, decided to make his comeback as a Broadway producer after seeing State Fair in Washington DC.

The original producer of State Fair is the Theatre Guild, the same entity that produced R&H's first hit, Oklahoma!. The credits now read: "David Merrick presents the Theatre Guild production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's new musical State Fair."

Merrick was the original producer of Hello, Dolly!, Marat/Sade, Promises, Promises, Fanny, 110 in the Shade and many other musicals and plays. He became known for producing splashy musicals and importing distinguished European dramas. His last Broadway production was an all-black revival of "Oh, Kay!" that transferred from Goodspeed Opera House in the early 1990s. State Fair will be his 89th Broadway show.

Along the way Merrick acquired a reputation for toughness, for putting his personal stamp on the shows he produced, and for generating sometimes-controversial publicity for his shows.

For his tepidly-reviewed 1963 musical Subways Are for Sleeping Merrick ran an ad featuring raves from ordinary people -- who happened to have the same names as the major drama critics of the day.

During previews for Oh, Kay! Merrick went public with charges that the then-New York Times drama critic Frank Rich and its main drama columnist, Alex Witchel, were making a disturbance during the performance.

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