Just the other week, it seemed the coming Broadway season was jam packed with new musical productions, both of the original and revival varieties. One was almost overwhelmed. But, alas, what a difference a week makes. They'll be no Little Women until late spring 2001, if then. Nor will there be an Oklahoma!. The Visit is still scheduled for next year, but you may want to cross your fingers on that one.
The bad news on Little Women came late last week, with producers postponing both the planned Boston and New York runs. The difficulties arose after the original songwriting team was summarily dismissed. The producers say they still hope to open the show on Broadway in April 2001.
Oklahoma!, meanwhile, has become quite a tease of a show. The hit London revival, directed by Trevor Nunn and choreographed by a pre-Contact Susan Stroman, was supposed to reach NYC in the fall of 1999. Actors Equity, however, put the kibosh on that plan when they denied producer Cameron Mackintosh's request to bring in the musical's British cast. Mackintosh asserted that, if Equity stood firm, the show would not reach Broadway for two or three seasons. But the union didn't budge. Lately, though -- perhaps due to the impetus of a red-hot Stroman -- it looked like Oklahoma! would land on Broadway in fall 2000. Casting began and theatres were discussed. That is, until July 7, when Mackintosh released a statement saying, "We have decided that due to the prior commitments of many of the production teams, as well as the extremely short time for a December opening, the production would be better served by postponing to a later date." And so, we wait another year.
The difficulty with John Kander and Fred Ebb's The Visit was not creative or time-related, but -- depending on who you talk to -- due to money and/or personal reasons. (And, really, those are the four categories of trouble in which a show can find itself: artistic, scheduling, financial and personal.) The producers of the show canceled a pre-Broadway Boston engagement and pushed back the New York City opening by a few weeks. Associate general manager Susan Bell told Playbill On-Line they ditched Boston to allow star Angela Lansbury as much time as possible to be with her husband, Peter Shaw, who recently underwent a cardiac operation. However, the New York Post reported the move was due to the loss of some financing and would save producers $1 million.
Boston is, in general, being hit pretty hard by these changes, losing two out of three big Broadway-bound shows (Seussical is still good to go). It may get a replacement show in the form of the Faith Prince revival of Bells Are Ringing. If it does, Boston's gain will be Pasadena's loss. The Betty Comden-Adolph Green-Jule Style musical was to have bowed at the Pasadena Playhouse in November and then move on to Broadway. The nonprofit Pasadena, however, gave way under the massive financial weight of the show. One suspects that the producers are currently looking at one of the spots vacated in Beantown by The Visit or Little Women.
As for the holes left in Broadway's fall season, it looks as if one of them will be filled by a new production of The Rocky Horror Show, produced by Jordan Roth, directed by Christopher Ashley and featuring what may be the most frighteningly eclectic cast in many a season. No one is confirmed as of yet, but among those being considered: former Siamese twin, Alice Ripley, actress and comedienne Lea DeLaria, and performance artist Sandra Bernhard. Bernhard, who once eyed the lead role of Frank 'n' Furter, would be cast as Magenta; while DeLaria would take, ahem, the Meat Loaf role of biker Eddie. I guess one shouldn't expect anything less from Roth, the man who brought us The Donkey Show.
--By Robert Simonson