Andrew Lloyd Webber and the creative team of the new musical Whistle Down the Wind announced Feb. 10 that the show was postponing its Broadway opening for at least until 1998.
Despite a two-month record breaking run at the National Theatre in Washington DC, the creators -- including director Harold Prince and lyricist Jim Steinman -- said they felt the show wasn't ready for its announced June 15 opening. No new date has been scheduled.
Playbill On-Line asked members of the service to give their opinions of the postponement. Here are the results. Playbill thanks all those who took the time to answer:
From Seth Gardner:
In any type of performance and music composition, changes have to be made. Cameron Mackintosh took the broadway Les Mis down and pulled in the National touring company until he could rejuvinate the cast. Whistle Down the Wind received mixed reviews highlighting the good and the bad parts. Webber was able to compile a talented cast and now he wants to perfect the show. I would rather open another show like Cats or Phantom that will be on broadway forever instead of another lesser quality show like Jeeves. I sure that Webber and the producers took everything under consideration, and are doing what is best for the show. The public had there taste buds weted and know they have to wait for an even better release of Whistle Down the Wind.
I am really upset at the news that ALW has chosen not to open Whistle in June. I went to DC especially to see Whistle three times.I did not expect another production like Phantom, because there can never be another Phantom of the Opera.I took the show for what it was, a simple story of faith and trust.The cast was wonderful, Davis really shined in his limited role as The Man.When he was on stage, he blew the audience away.I can't believe that ALW would let him give up his prior role as the Phantom, just to pull the rug out from under him.I am upset, I really enjoyed the show and didn't think that it needed major repair work. Some characters were underdeveloped, but they could have been eliminated or changed to suit the play.As was mentioned in the previous posts, the play and cast of Whistle will never be the same, most of the children will be too old to play the children.Irene Molloy can't look 15 forever..and Davis might move on into a new show. Hopefully that show will have him originating a role and be on B'dway will he can be in the running for a much deserved Tony.
I guess in a way I wasn't too surprised to hear that the show was postponed. I saw the show three times - and it did get better and better with each showing. The cast is immensely talented and the possibility of not being able to keep Davis Gaines as "The Man" or Irene Molloy as "Swallow" is a crying shame. Both were absolutely sensational and kept me interested in spite of the somewhat confusing storyline. It does seem like the production team could achieve the most important portions of a re-write in time to open on Broadway this season. If the necessary steps aren't taken soon, a treasure will be lost. Indeed, the storyline as performed had a problem with continuity and lost some of us along the way. Regardless, the story needs to be told - for it bolsters the very fabric of our lives that has deteriorated for too long of a time. The story tells us that good and evil are mainly perceptions and, if we change those perceptions, then we can always find the good inside the bad. And it's the good inside the bad, the David Gaines's and Irene Molloy's inside the otherwise obtuse storyline, that has to be saved. Mr. Prince and Mr. Webber should pay attention to the message in the story and waste no time in taking whatever steps are needed to make this diamond in the rough the next great musical on Broadway.
From Todd Andrew Barnett (email@example.com or JBarn83138@aol.com) New Baltimore, MI:
First of all, I'd like to say that I'm not surprised at all that there are those who feel that Andrew Lloyd Webber's new piece Whistle Down The Wind is not worthy of being given a second chance and that there is no room for improvement. There are many Lord Lloyd Webber bashers who feel that Andrew has not created a masterpiece and that his work is total junk to the world of musical theater. I've heard these claims time and time again but most of them are just opinion-based, not fact-based. It's sad that those who do express this dislike of his work often don't give an objective perception of the facts but rather smother their arguments with rhetorical questions and misaligned conclusions.
I have not seen Whistle in D.C. and I've heard only a couple of the songs that are an integral part of the score - "When Children Rule The World" and "A Kiss Is A Terrible Thing To Waste" - and I must say his music is revolutionary. After Aspects was launched in 1989, a lot of musical historians and music critics have witnessed his coming of-age development and he's truly expanded and grown beyond his abilities since no one can fully fathom them. If anyone thinks he/she is in a position to say that Lord Lloyd Webber has wasted his energy to write what they would term as "a piece of garbage" then they're not seriously qualified to contribute any form of objectivity. They're serious enough to say that they feel his music has not even revolutionized or even enhanced the feel of musical theatre but it can be said that they can truly miss the point.
I feel Whistle is his most heartfelt, most definitive, and (more importantly) strongest score ever conceived for the stage. Andrew Lloyd Webber is a master of his own craft and in his own right, and his mastery has epitomized the significance of excellence in musical theatre as well as taste.
I do believe Whistle is flawed in terms of the fabric of the plot and the music and I do believe that both the plot and music should be developed but you cannot reject the piece itself nor can you overlook the potential possibilities that it weaves.
Let's not overlook our perspective here. Other productions in the past have undergone extensive and time-consuming rewrites, especially works like My Fair Lady, West Side Story, Into The Woods, etc. Sondheim's own major work Wise Guys is due for an overhaul and it requires a massive amount of rewriting. The point is just because a score is written as soon as it's completed does not mean it's perfect. The world is no longer full of Mozarts, Bachs, and Beethovens but I will personify these words by saying: perfection of art is not mastered once or even twice but within the space of time.
Of course the show is soiled with flaws and discrepancies but that's the reality of playwrighting and composing. That's the difference and it definitely serves a purpose.
From Betsy Copeland (Copelandia@aol.com):
I am disappointed that they have chosen to postpone indefinately, but will be looking forward to seeing the new production. My husband and I saw the show in late December, and it was clear it needed some work. I hated "Tire Tracks" (a psuedo-"Grease" number and totally out of synch with the rest of the songs), and thought that the second act need more new songs and less reprisals, particularly for Davis Gains (The Man). His voice is tremendous and should be used more. The major plot line needed to be tightened and Webber needs to decide with sub-plots he wants to focus on. . .most were left unresolved. I hope the new production will use the bloodhounds more - I think they could effectively heighten the tension by reminding us of the manhunt
From Leonard McKenzie:
Well, what are you going to do...these things do happen, but it hardly the end of the world. Admittedly, I was greatly looking forward to seeing Whistle Down the Wind, but at the same time I can understand the desire of wanting something to be perfect. My only concern, is that, I have never believed the changes that Lord Lloyd Webber has made have been for the best. I.e. some of the changes in Sunset do not really add anything to the show, at all. I also remember the first time I heard the Broadway lyrics to Think Of Me from Phantom, and the feeling that the changes made the song somewhat clunky. =20 On the other hand, as much I feel Aspects is probably one of his best works, I do wish that the story line had been completely reworked - actually if you read the book, you'll find he improved upon it greatly. I would rather they bring By Jeeves, which I just saw in London and it's perfectly charming, to an off Broadway house,. The Hello sequence is brilliant. So we'll wait a while for Whistle Down the Wind. It's not like there's not a ton of stuff to choose from.
I saw "Whistle Down the Wind" at the National Theater in January 1997. When I heard that the show's Broadway opening was being delayed, it seemed the right choice. But when I read that the show would not open during the 1997 season at all, I suddenly felt that the show would potentially be losing it's biggest asset, if it were to open in 1998 - The Children. In my opinion, it were the children that gave "Whistle" it's charm and made viewing it enjoyable. With a potential Broadway opening, at least, a year away, I would assume that many in the cast will have outgrown their roles. Many of the songs from the show are quite moving and memorable, but then there are various scenes and adult characters that seem to have no relation to the main storyline. As if they were thrown in strictly for entertainment value. The show does need rework to live up to the Andrew Lloyd Webber "smash" titles that his other shows have attained. But, my no means, is it a total disaster. I've seen quite a few shows on Broadway, and a few that have won Tony's, that I consider to be much worse. I saw "whistle" with eight friends. Each and every one of us found the show to be fun to watch, though we felt Act II was in desperate need ot rework. That show can be a hit, it just needs time to iron itself out. One thing we also agreed on was the overbearing voice of Davis Gaines. While he has an amazing singing voice, the show seems much too intimate to be done belted out in such a grand style. Don't scrap the show, just let it breathe. People will see it down the road and be quite surprised at how good it actually is. Andrew should not give up.
I saw the play February 9, the day it closed, maybe for good. It is my judgment that, despite Lloyd Webber's very strong score and two first rate lead performances, the show will never work. The film was a truly gorgeous mood piece that simply doesn't provide enough plot for a Broadway musical. Call it Baker's Wife syndrome. Whenever the creators try to expand the plot, by throwing in two teenagers with glaring rock music to sing (the main song a steal of "English Girls" from Song and Dance), or by putting in a bizarre and exceedingly dull snake charming revival scene, the show changes from being dull to being pointless. The only scenes that work are the scenes in the Barn between the Girl and the Convict, and these scenes are not enough to sustain a Broadway musical.
Besides an unfocused and at times bewildering book, the worst problem is the lyrics. Lyrics should do one of two things, either help move the plot along, or delineate what is going on in the mind and hearts of the characters. Jim Steinman's lyrics do neither. They tell what's in the mind and heart of the lyricist, with no regard for the character who is singing the song. Even the single compelling song in the play, "The Nature of the Beast," is a success due to the quality of Davis Gaine's emotional life while singing it. We're so caught up in the emotion we don't have time to examine Steinman's unfocused laundry list.
Other than that, no problem.
From Trevor List, Westerville, Ohio:
Andrew [Lloyd Webber] knows what is theatrical, he knows what isn't. There are few times when he has been wrong. He knows how to fix things (i.e. By Jeeves!). This is why they have out of town tryouts.
I'm sure there are critics of Andrew's that will say this is a publicity ploy, that the reason why he isn't opening the show sooner is that the show "sucks", or because he wants to get back at Patti LuPone. But, if we all look in our history books, the greatest shows went through the greatest re-writes.
Re-writes are good, and seeing as most of the people who will this story have NOT seen the show... who are any of us to judge? Why isn't there a reaction poll to why Sondheim isn't opening Wise Guys on schedule? Same with Cameron Mac's Martin Guerre or Randy Newman's Faust. Art takes time, and can not be rushed no matter how the out of towners enjoyed it.
I have heard the score of Whistle, it is wonderful and one of his best. For all of it's differences, Whistle is a cousin to Sondheim's Passion - a wonderful little tone poem, a would-be intimate show. Like Aspects of Love, Andrew is putting a lot on the line with this show, and if he thinks he needs to tinker a bit more, all the power to him!
If he hadn't of delayed this production, just think of the dogs ready to strike at him. Don't knock him for bettering himself, his creative team, his cast, and his backers.
Why is Whistle Down the Wind not opening? One reason: ALW's own selfishness. He knows he can't compete with any other musical, so he moves the opening so far away that he won't have to compete with any other musical. The show was fine the way it was. He knows he can't compete with shows that are original like Chicago (yes, it's a remake, but it still has ORIGINALITY) and Ragtime. Maybe he finally realized that people are sick of paying big bucks to see a musical that they already saw. Most likely not. Most likely he knows that he was going to get his butt kicked at the Tonys and couldn't take it. I feel so bad for the extremely talented cast. Having to put your Broadway dreams on hold because the creator is too selfish is just a shame. You guys deserve better.
Nearly all that should be said about this delightful and entertaining musical has already been said, but I can't resist adding my own personal thoughts to the feedback.
Yes, this show needs a little polish, and could benefit from a few tweaks here and there. Two powerful songs, already in the works, will be hard pressed to replace any of the stunning music already there.
Bottom line is that Whistle Down The Wind is already better than many of the musicals I grew up on and loved as a youngster. I loved Carousel. This is better. Audiences raved about South Pacific, even while they criticized the crazy use of colored lights. I loved South Pacific. This is better. Oliver, Annie, Peter Pan, Stop The World, and two generationsof A Funny Thing...better, better, better, better!
Yes, this show would benefit from some stronger elements, but DON'T WAIT TOO LONG TO BRING IT TO AN EAGER AUDIENCE! It's closer than you think.
It has several messages that will touch the hearts of many who see it. The music, and each of the voices who sing and dance the words are extraordinary. Don't change a cast member...each one was a treasure who fit the role perfectly. Just let this one evolve.
You will hear the cynics voices upraised, but there are many who will be touched by this story and the way it is told. It's not too busy and disjointed, it is creative. And there will always be those slow to see the creative 'cause it takes them out of a neat little shell and the world they think they know.
I suspected the worst when I heard that Andrew Lloyd Webber had cancelled his planned stay in the room down the hall from mine at at The J.W. Marriott.
When I saw I saw the tears in Irene Molloy's eyes for the closing curtain calls Sunday night I knew that this one was on hold for a while. I cried with her.
I was hoping to bring my parents, my children, the rest of my family and any friends that would come with me to see this show when it opened in New York!
Yes, it is already better than most of what I have seen on Broadway...but this one does have the potential to be better yet, and perhaps, every bit as special as Phantom in it's own way. Yes, it can be better than it is now. But it's already closer to sensational than any critic's view of this work, Andrew.
Please don't waste any time bringing this one to those who know your message! You're not creating for them, anyway. This is for us...
My husband and I were at closing night (2/9/97) for "Whistle" and sad to say, we think it is the right decision to delay this opening. The show has many fine moments and a storyline that has promise but it seemed to lack the depth to hold a very discerning New York audience. The cast absolutely shines. Newcomer, Irene Molloy is quite gifted and carries her part well (she has to, she's never off stage)
Broadway veteran, Davis Gaines, is magnificent in his role as "The Man". He delivers a great performance and when he sang,(which was not often enough) he captivated the audience. He received the most incredible ovation! The children and supporting cast were also,good. But, the story just had difficulty holding people. Too,many loose ends and underdeveloped characters. We are very hopeful that the show will "make it" to Broadway. The producers made the right decision to delay the opening. Had it been pushed to open, we believe it would have struggled to keep an audience for long. . . We do hope to see it at a later time.
From A. Ross:
Having seen the show several times, I agree that some changes were needed. But since this fact was obvious to theatre goers, why didn't the powers-that-be realize it sooner? Seems rather cold to make the announcement on the last day of the show before going into rehearsals for Broadway. And it seems a shame to risk losing any of the immensely talented cast. The kids will probably outgrow the parts before long, and who else but Davis Gaines could play The Man so poignantly and skillfully, and also sing the heck out of it the way he does? It seems the necessary changes could be accomplished without postponing "indefinitely." It didn't need that much fixing. I feel betrayed, somehow, and cheated of a show with enormous potential by this decision. I can only imagine how the cast and crew must feel.
From Drayton Hiers (Bartlebyw@aol.com), Charleston, SC:
This move doesn't surprise me at all. It would have been very hard to open Whistle in a Broadway summer crammed with new musicals. Whistle would be at a major disadvantage, having no Tony awards or Tony noms to advertise. Additionally, as his last few shows have fizzled and the phenomenon that Webber pioneered has begun to lose its shine, Webber's name alone is hardly enough to keep a show running. Whistle has little else to advertise -- its biggest star is only known to people who are already following musicals. Faced against shows touting the sizzling hot Kander and Ebb, the always cool Duke Ellington, the perennial favorite Jekyll and Hyde, and the awe inspiring Titanic crash (presuming that all of these shows make it to the summer), and the slew of other new shows, Whistle showed signs that it would be whistling in the wind, not down it. I am sure that all involved are breathing a sigh of relief and waiting for the competitive playing field to level a bit.
From Kimberly Lugar:
I have just been crying because Whistle has been delayed.... the cast album will not come out for an indeterminate amount of time, the original cast may not return, and the beautiful score will be torn apart an repieced together. Whistle was probably the most beautiful and touching theatrical experience I have ever had, with the possible exeption of Phantom. I loved almost everything about it, and it really moved me and caused me to rethink my faith. I really feel sorry for Irene Molloy. She was so nice when I met her and she really has a gift. The others will go on with their careers, to be sure, but where will she go from here? Whistle was her only break. I have never been fond of Andrew Lloyd Webber as a person and now I dislike him even more. How could he do this not only to the actors but the fans?
From Adam Hetrick:
I saw "Whistle Down the Wind" the beginning of January, and I have to say that I was not at all impressed. It definitely needs more work, in the areas of music and more plot development. There is the chance for a beautiful piece of theatre but it needs major improvement. "Aspects of Love" met with no great acclaim on Broadway, and that was a terrible shame, however, "Whistle" doesn't have as much going for it as "Aspects" did. As far as "Whistle" goes, the staging and feel of the piece were beautiful, but much of the music was lacking. I felt the shows most memorable number was "Tire Tracks and Broken Hearts" which was "English Girls" reincarnate (its previous life having been in "Song and Dance"). So, there is much work to be done, and seeing as we are losing ALWs grandest show as of late ("Sunset Blvd"), we should be happy that they are taking the time to fix this one, so that it never may surrender...
From Marshall Grant:
I did not see the show, but I felt like I should say something about the delay in the Broadway opening. I am so angry!! Andrew Lloyd Webber is the most wonderful Broadway melodist since Richard Rodgers, and I am deeply hurt by his decision to delay the show. From what I've heard, the show is wonderful. Sure, it needs some fine tuning, but don't all musicals that go to Broadway? Anyway, I do understand the need to change the show before going any further. I guess I'm just sad about it, that's all. Thanks for listening. I wouldn't blame you if you didn't put this on the review page. I just felt like venting my emotions. (2/10/97)