PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 8-14: Disharmony

ICYMI   PBOL'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 8-14: Disharmony Icebergs hit and sunk two multi-million dollar productions that were expected to open on Broadway this season. Bobbi Boland was the first, and for 48 delirious hours its abrupt fate (seven previews and POOF!) excited the Broadway community more than did any show this season which actually opened. The unlucky Nancy Hasty play, which starred Farrah Fawcett as a faded Florida beauty queen, made history by becoming the first Broadway production in a decade to close during previews.

There is something tantalizing about a Broadway play so troubled it closes before it opens. It is the phantom flop, the disaster with no official eyewitness. Such plays don't attain success; they attain legend. So, who was responsible for this legend? Many industry observers wondered how the play, a modest Off-Broadway success in 2001, ever got to Broadway in the first place. Others pondered whether the often erratic Fawcett was up to eight perfs a week. But since so few of those folks saw the actual product, they'll just go on guessing. As for the people directly involved, producer Joyce Johnson reportedly didn't like the set and Fawcett hated the wigs and costumes. At press time, no one had attacked the lighting. Johnson also said, in a statement, "The play simply does not work in a Broadway house... The vivid characters that I saw in such a small setting did not transfer to the Cort." She also boasted she might bring the show back Off-Broadway, with Fawcett no less, pending revisions.

(Note to producers: For now, avoid bringing to Broadway plays by little known writers starring well-known older actresses; see the aborted Paper Doll and the poorly-met Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks.)

Boland was replaced in the Broadway rumor mill on Nov. 13 by the misfortune that befell Harmony, the Barry Manilow-Bruce Sussman musical. The show was in all expectation of beginning previews at Philadelphia's Forrest Theatre on Dec. 2, from whence it was likely to travel to Broadway. But rehearsal screeched to a stunning halt at 10 AM Thursday when the cast was told that the capitalization for the show they had been rehearsing for weeks was not actually there. Not completely, anyway. Producer Mark Schwartz said he raised only $3.5-$4 million of the $6.5-$7 million. (Other sources had him $6 million short.)

Director David Warren told Playbill On-Line that he realized something was amiss when the load-in at the Forrest was stopped and there wasn't money to make the weekly payroll. The day after the news came out, Manilow spoke angrily to the press about his disappointment in Schwartz. It was a hard blow for the songwriter, who has been trying to get the show to Broadway for years; ditto, the creative team, who evidently believe that had a good show on their hands. Schwartz protested, "I'm not gonna shrink from my responsibility; my responsibility was to fund the show. It's no crime, though. Let me tell you, it is not a crime." Not in the lawbooks, no. But tell that to showfolk.

After hearing Harmony's tale of woe, the cast and crew of Broadway's Taboo probably expressed relief that they had a producer, even if she was the bumptious Rosie O'Donnell. For, whatever trouble she may have caused her own Broadway baby, there was never any suspicion that she had the money to back it, or that she thought for an instant of withdrawing the funds. The Boy George musical about the 1980s London club scene opened Nov. 13. Reviews were unsurprisingly mixed. The best remarks were for Boy George's score and Euan Morton's portrayal of the pop star as a young creature of the night. It was the third huge musical of the fall (after The Boy from Oz and Wicked) to rumble past opening night to a distinctly uncertain future.