The New York Times reported Jan. 10 that Broadway's Roundabout Theatre Company is a likely candidate to be the next theatre institution to join the recolonization of 42nd Street by taking over the newly renovated Selwyn Theatre on West 42nd Street.
Erin Dunn, spokesperson for the Roundabout, confirmed with Playbill On-Line that the theatre was, indeed, discussing possibilities involving the Selwyn, but anything beyond that was far too preliminary for speculation. "Whatever happens," Dunn said, "it won't impact the next two seasons of the Roundabout at the Criterion Center," where it operates two theatre spaces, one Broadway (currently housing The Rehearsal), the other Off-Broadway (playing Scapin).
With every success comes a new share of dilemmas. When the Roundabout Theatre company was Off-Broadway, they had to cope with an unsuitable theatre space on 17th Street -- far from the well-traffic, well-heeled Broadway crowds. In 1991, under the leadership of artistic director Todd Haimes, the Roundabout made the leap to Broadway and a 499-seat theatre at 45th Street's Criterion Center.
The dilemma then was what to do with the cabaret space in the same building. The answer? In August 1995 they turned it into the 399-seat Laura Pels Theatre, giving the company a chance to mount smaller and more intimate works. All this, plus several well-received productions, have made the Roundabout one of the most successful institutional theatres in the U.S.
The problem? With subscriptions booming, the theatre has less and less room for full-price and walk-in customers, especially when they have a hit. And because the Roundabout is a non-profit theatre with a scheduled season, shows can't run indefinitely; they either move, as with Company, or close, as with Holiday). Neither Haimes nor Cora Cahan, of the 42nd Street Development Project, would comment to NY Times writer William Grimes, about the story.
The Selwyn Theatre has 964 seats, still smallish for a Broadway house but large enough to go a long way towards easing the crowd crunch at Roundabout hits. There's no telling whether the Roundabout, whose Criterion lease runs to 2011, would retain its 45th St. home if it takes on the Selwyn.
There's even further speculation that a site next to the Selwyn will be turned into a 6-story, theatre-oriented building, complete with rehearsal spaces and, possibly, a small theatre.
Peter Carzasty of The Kreisberg Group, which handles public relations for major projects by 42nd Street Inc., told Playbill On-Line, "It's premature to comment further on the piece that ran in the Times." When asked to clarify that statement, or if any part of the Times story was incorrect, or if a time-frame was in place to re-introduce the Selwyn, Carzasty had no comment.
The New 42nd Street Inc. project began in 1990, and then stalled due to a recession. But in 1994, the Walt Disney Company signed a lease to restore and operate the New Amsterdam Theatre, which is scheduled to open with King David in May. In July 1995, Livent Inc. promised to merge the Apollo and Lyric Theatres into a 1,850-seat musical house, due by fall 1997. In December 1995, the family-oriented New Victory Theatre opened and has since offered shows by such performers as Bill Irwin & GhettOriginals, the Flying Karamazov Brothers and a current co-production of Two Gentlemen Of Verona by London's Globe Theatre and NY's Theatre For A New Audience.
--By David Lefkowitz