PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 24-30: The Strike Ends

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Nov. 24-30: The Strike Ends After 19 days, the stagehands strike finally ended late on Wednesday Nov. 28. Broadway theatres were lit once again the following evening, bringing to an end the most destructive labor dispute seen on Broadway in decades.
Picket signs won't be seen on Broadway anymore.
Picket signs won't be seen on Broadway anymore. Photo by Andrew Ku

Local One and the League of Broadway Theatres and Producers sat down opposite each other once again on Sunday, Nov. 25. At 6:30 AM the following morning, after a 20-hour negotiating period (coffee, anyone?), talks adjourned for 12 hours. They resumed at 7 PM. Negotiations broke down once again the morning of Nov. 27, but the break was quickly recharacterized as a "rain delay." Work began again on Nov. 28 at 10 AM. By the end of the day, a tentative agreement had been reached.

Listen to
Actors from Is He Dead?, Farnsworth Invention, The Seafarer, Jersey Boys and Hairspray talk about returning to work after the strike.

According to reports, nobody got exactly what they wanted. The producers knocked down some ancient work rules, decreasing the number of men needed for show load-ins, but other labor requirements were left in place. The stagehands, meanwhile, lost some jobs, but got a healthy pay raise, stretched over five years, in return. A few Broadway sages noted that, whatever the gains, the millions lost during the past three weeks will never be recovered. And others warned that we may be in for more of the same next year when the actors' contract with the League expires. [Heave heavy sigh here.]

Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas got a head start on the other darkened shows. In a court battle with Jujamcyn Theaters, which owns the St. James, where Grinch is installed, a judge let the show reopen, citing its separate contract with the stagehands. This week, it was announced that Jujamcyn Theaters will not appeal the injunction, and The Grinch can play its limited engagement uninterrupted. (Does that count as a Christmas present?)

The end of the strike set off a scramble for new opening nights. Several shows had to put their schedule on hold when the marquees went out. So whatever time critics might have gotten off since Nov. 10 will be erased in the next couple weeks by an avalanche of openings. The new Disney musical The Little Mermaid, which has been shuttered since the stagehands strike began, will now open at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on Jan. 10, 2008. The musical had originally been scheduled for a Dec. 6 opening. The revival of Harold Pinter's The Homecoming — which had been scheduled to begin its limited Broadway engagement Nov. 23 — is currently in technical rehearsals prior to its first preview, which will be held Dec. 4. Homecoming will officially open at the Cort Theatre Dec. 16.

Conor McPherson's The Seafarer, directed by the author, has a new unveiling date of Dec. 6. The originally announced opening was Nov. 15.

The "new" Mark Twain comedy, Is He Dead?, was to have been officially revealed on Nov. 29. Now the play, adapted by David Ives and directed by Michael Blakemore, will open Dec. 9. And Aaron Sorkin's play about the birth of television (an industry which is having its own strike problems just now), The Farnsworth Invention, has announced a new opening night of Dec. 3.

Four openings in one week? Is it Tony time?

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Ben Daniels will be beau to Laura Linney in the upcoming revival by Roundabout Theatre Company of Christopher Hampton's Les Liaisons Dangereuses. The Roundabout was one of the few theatre on Broadway unaffected by the strike (different contract). Rufus Norris will stage the work scheduled to begin April 11, 2008, at Broadway's American Airlines Theatre. The production will open May 1.

<i>The Little Mermaid</i> has rescheduled its opening night now that the strike has ended.
The Little Mermaid has rescheduled its opening night now that the strike has ended. Photo by Andrew Ku