Paper Mill executive producer Angelo Del Rossi, the board of trustees and artistic director Robert Johanson "have decided to redefine" Johanson's "relationship with the Playhouse," according to a statement from the New Jersey not-for-profit, meaning Johanson is being cut loose as of July 31.
The director will continue a relationship with the 1,200-seat Millburn, NJ, not-for-profit as a free-lancer .
According to The Star Ledger, the board voted last month to end the tenure of the 50-year-old director, who was also a dramatist and actor at times. With rising budgets and declining subscriptions, the theatre is trying to make cutbacks, and the clipping of Johanson, billed as a big spender, is apparently part of the plan, the paper said.
"This arrangement will allow Robert to exercise his artistic brilliance without the burdensome distractions of specific responsibilities," according to a statement.
Johanson reportedly makes more the $200,000 a year in the post. His final directing projects as artistic director will be My Fair Lady June 5-July 21 and a Lerner and Loewe revue for summer. He returns next season as a contract director to helm a new musical, Romeo and Bernadette and Camelot. Johanson not only starred in such shows as Peter Pan and Jesus Christ Superstar but adapted such literature classics as Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities and Jane Eyre.
According to The Star Ledger, Johanson's 2000 staging of Pippin was reportedly $400,000 over budget and the troupe had a nearly $1 million deficit that year, according to an arts council reported cited by the paper. A spokesman for the theatre could not be reached.
Johanson's Paper Mill credits are memorable: A new production of the Wizard of Oz that moved to Madison Square Garden, as well as a star-studded revival of Follies that many people thought might transfer to Broadway. A two-disc cast album of the Follies production exists.
"I am so happy about this new relationship with the Paper Mill," Johanson said in a statement. "I love this theatre, it has been my home for so long and I can never imagine being away from it completely. However, being responsible for 120 Broadway-scale productions over the last 20 years and the innumerable duties of running a theatre has taken its toll. It has been a lot of hard work. I can't keep up that pace and feel creatively fulfilled. It's time for a change. There are so many wonderful people at the Paper Mill who, along with some new talent, will fill my shoes beautifully and I am grateful to the theatre and Angelo for allowing me this opportunity."
A plan to replace Johanson was not immediately announced.
The former mill in Millburn, NJ, was converted in the early 1930s and Paper Mill Playhouse presented its first work in 1938. Plays and musicals with stars were presented at the theatre for 40 years until a fire destroyed the building in 1980. A 1,200-seat theatre was rebuilt within two years. Johanson was hired by Del Rossi in 1985. The theatre recently changed its name from Paper Mill Playhouse to the "brand"-friendly Paper Mill: The State Theatre of New Jersey.
— By Kenneth Jones