PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, July 10-16: Blood, Sweat and Tiers

ICYMI   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, July 10-16: Blood, Sweat and Tiers
 
After causing endless tsuris up and down Broadway for weeks, actors and producers got together this week in a cliffhanger of a resolution to their months-long wrangling over the Production Contract, the pact which rules thespian work on Broadway and the road. The tentative agreement was announced Monday July 12, and details were released two days later.

Plenty of drama preceded the happy ending. A week of talks ended badly late Friday night July 9, when the League of American Theatres and Producers rejected Actors' Equity's final proposal. The first thing the union did in response was schedule an emergency council meeting for Monday. The second thing it did was to start offering individual producers temporary side deals, skirting the League talks. It was that pesky second thing that threw the League for a loop. The backers of The Boy From Oz bit, signing with Equity, causing to the League to hold an emergency meeting of its own. (Oh, it was quite a week for emergencies.) At the pow-wow, The League had all its members sign something with the terribly important (and vaguely socialistic) name of "document of interdependence."

Then it was time for Equity's emergency rendezvous, which barely started before the League interrupted it with a series of press statements and phone calls. One of those phone calls led to the tentative agreement. The pact has the usual salary increases and safety initiatives. The crux of it, however, was a new touring program—a tiered salary system which is meant to solve the hot issue of non-Equity road tours. The new system will offer different actor salary levels depending of the size of show "and other variables." Bottom line, actors on the road will probably make less money more often. But then, producers, now compelled to use union actors, will also probably make less money more often. This will probably lead to some grumbling on both sides. But no one's grumbling about having avoided a strike.

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Strike or no strike, the nonprofit Lincoln Center Theater's production of Stephen Sondheim's The Frogs wouldn't have been affected (LCT is under a different contract). Nevertheless, one of the cast was thrown out of work this week. After three weeks of previews, "Saturday Night Live" ensemble member Chris Kattan, who had been playing the role of slave Xanthias, was replaced by Roger Bart — star Nathan Lane and director Susan Stroman's old Producers compatriot. Opening remains July 22 for the show, which is reportedly slowly whittling down its once three-hour running time.

*** The full cast of the UK premiere of the megamusical in the making, Mary Poppins, was announced. Joining leads Laura Michelle Kelly and Gavin Lee will be David Haig and Linzi Hateley as George and Winifred Banks, Rosemary Ashe as Miss Andrew and Jenny Galloway as Mrs. Brill, Julia Sutton as Bird woman, Kevin Williams as Park Keeper and Gerard Carey as Robertson Ay. Five sets of children will play Banks kids Michael and Jane. Previews at the Bristol Hippodrome begin Sept. 15.

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In the U.S. Heartland, Stacy Keach, Stephen Lang, Linda Lavin, Matthew Modine and Heather Prete will star the Goodman Theatre's premiere of Arthur Miller's Finishing the Picture. No one will officially say so, but the script is reportedly based on the creation of Monroe's last movie, 1961's "The Misfits," which was directed by John Huston, and for which Miller penned the screenplay. Modine will play Paul, a screenwriter who in not a stand-in for Miller, and Prete will portray a troubled actress, Kitty, who is no artistic relation to Monroe. Lang and Lavin will be acting teachers who influence Kitty's life and bear no resemblance to the Strasbergs.

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What would Elyot and Amanda of Noel Coward's Private Lives think about their former Broadway home, the Times Square Theatre, becoming a venue for Ecko Unlimited, the hip-hop clothing and "lifestyle" company? The last unclaimed landmark theatre on the revived stretch of 42nd Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue will not be returned to legitimate use, as did the New Victory, New Amsterdam and Lyric and Apollo (now the Ford Center). Ecko will transform the building into a four-level, $25-million showcase of clothing, art, video games, electronics and "collectible sneakers." As Amanda might have said, "Strange how potent cheap culture is."

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