No Trouble in River City: Bway's Music Man Stays Put

News   No Trouble in River City: Bway's Music Man Stays Put The march, march, march of Meredith Willson's The Music Man will march on beyond Sept. 30, the closing date posted by producers who had sought concessions from the show's unions.
Rebecca Luker in The Music Man.
Rebecca Luker in The Music Man. (Photo by Photo by Joan Marcus)

The march, march, march of Meredith Willson's The Music Man will march on beyond Sept. 30, the closing date posted by producers who had sought concessions from the show's unions.

"The union employees of the production have agreed to make concessions to help defray the drastic weekly losses which the musical has been experiencing since the disaster of Sept. 11," according to a producers' statement.

In addition to the pay cuts agreed to by the show’s employees, the Nederlander Organization is not charging the production rent, and the producers and royalty recipients of The Music Man are waiving their fees. Also giving concessions are the show’s suppliers and vendors.

Michael David, on behalf of Dodger Theatricals, producers of The Music Man on Broadway, commended the swift support shown by the unions and guilds; Actors' Equity, Local One, Local 802, Local 751, Local 764, Local 798, ATPAM, The Dramatist’s Guild, the SSDC, and the United Scenic Artists, who collectively represent 182 people employed by The Music Man.

* The Music Man starring Robert Sean Leonard and Rebecca Luker was to close Sept. 30 unless the producers' ongoing petition for cast and crew pay concessions came to fruition. Notice to close this coming Sunday was posted at the Neil Simon Theatre Sept. 25 after meetings between producers and unions failed to agree to concession plan that would cut cast and crew pay in an effort to keep the show afloat during a time of low theatre attendance. The closing came down by the morning of Sept. 27.

The Music Man now falls under the same criteria of six other Broadway shows that got concessions last week. Those shows — Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, Rent, The Full Monty, Chicago and Kiss Me, Kate — are considered brand-name shows that rely heavily on tourist trade. Those casts and crews agreed to a 25 percent across-the-board pay cut for a limited period (four weeks) until business picks up again.

This apparently opens the door for other shows to seek such status — 42nd Street is certainly a brand-name show with tourist appeal, and long running Proof is a Pulitzer Prize winner that out-of-towners would be interested in. A spokesman said Proof has not yet sought concessions and 42nd Street would attempt to weather the storm.

Music Man, internationally known, has been running longer than The Full Monty, which received the break from unions. The All-American tuner by Meredith Willson (some of it set on the Fourth of July) would seemingly be one of the major draws in the time of national crisis (a massive American flag is unfurled in the finale) — but, ironically, it has been endangered at the box office because it relies heavily on American tourists, who are not flocking to Manhattan at the moment.

There was speculation in the theatre community that Dodger Theatricals, one of the producers of The Music Man, were being snubbed in the concession deal because it had sent out a non Equity national tour of the show in recent weeks. Actors' Equity's Alan Eisenberg said in Variety that it would never put its members out of work to punish a producer.

The Music Man is directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman.

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The musical comedy was one of only three Broadway scores composer lyricist Meredith Willson wrote (and he also co-wrote its story and wrote the libretto), but Music Man has sunk into the popular American imagination: It celebrates small town Iowa in 1912, a salesman's drive to succeed, a spinster's dreams of a quality man and true romance, and a child's wish to be special.

And it does so with now-classic tunes such as "Trouble," "Seventy-Six Trombones," "My White Knight," "Gary, Indiana," "Goodnight, My Someone" and "The Wells Fargo Wagon."

The Music Man is presented by Dodger Theatricals, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Elizabeth Williams/Anita Waxman, Kardana-Swinsky Productions, Lorie Cowen Levy/Dede Harris.

 

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The Music Man originally opened on Broadway Dec. 19, 1957, starring Preston and Barbara Cook. Book, music and lyrics are by Meredith Willson and the story is by Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacey. It was a Tony Award winner for Best Musical (skunking West Side Story) and ran 1,376 performances. Willson would not have a greater success, despite the Broadway run and movie version of The Unsinkable Molly Brown. His musical, Here's Love, based on "Miracle on 34th Street," fared less well.

The Music Man plays at The Neil Simon Theatre at 250 W. 52nd Street. Call (212) 307 4100 for ticket information.