Or perhaps not. The first day of talks stretched into the wee hours. The second day, on Nov. 8, adjourned at 7 PM. And the third day — well, there was no third day. According to the New York Post, the union rejected the League's offer to talk more on Nov. 9. What happened in between Thursday and Friday? A little thing called final strike authorization, handed down from big boss I.A.T.S.E. president Thomas C. Short. Short attended the recent talks, as is union protocol before any strike can be called. Local One president James Claffey, Jr. announced that as of 7:30 PM Nov. 8, Short granted strike authorization to the Broadway union, which has been working without a contract since July 31.
Local One is awaiting word from Short as to the time and date of the strike. Some think it could begin Friday night. Others think the union may wait until Tuesday in deference to weekend ticket holders. Whenever and if it happens, it will be the second strike to afflict Broadway in less than five years; the musicians union struck in 2003.
Producers and the union had been hashing out issues of work assignments, setting of a production's run crew, load-in costs and labor minimums. Apparently, some concessions were made at the table this week, but not enough to bring the two sides together.
Since the Nederlander Organization, which has been at the table with the Shubert and Jujamcyn camps as a silent observer unaffected by the pact in question, has pledged solidarity with the League, the only theatres that would be unaffected by a strike would be the Hilton Theatre (Young Frankenstein), the New Amsterdam (Mary Poppins), the Helen Hayes (Xanadu) and Circle in the Square (Spelling Bee) as well as Broadway's nonprofit sector, including Lincoln Center, Manhattan Theatre Club and Roundabout productions.
*** Did someone say Young Frankenstein? What is surely the biggest opening of the fall Broadway season happened on Nov. 8 and, well, the reception wasn't exactly pretty. It was expected that YF wouldn't top Mel Brooks' previous box office and plaudits bonanza, The Producers. How could it? The Producers was one of the Broadway mega-hits of Broadway history. But Brooks and company probably didn't expect the reaction they got from New York critics Friday morning.
There was a positive review here and there, but most were mixed and some downright negative. The criticisms were remarkably similar from review to review. Critics thought that Brooks and director-choreographer Susan Stroman were too ham-fisted in their approach to the material. Most thought Brooks' score was not strong enough, and Stroman's musical staging — aside from the "Puttin' on the Ritz" centerpiece" — lacked sufficient invention. Some reviewers had a few good words for the performers. Also, and perhaps most critically, many scribes just didn't think the show was that funny. Of course, none of this may matter much in the long run; a few reviews mentioned the production's hefty advance sale.
The week's other Broadway opening, Tom Stoppard's Rock 'n' Roll, was more welcomed by the critical corps. (Stoppard has reached such an exalted peak in his long career that nothing he writes is exactly chased off the boards.) This sprawling 30-year history of paths of Communism and individual liberation in Cambridge and Prague from 1968 to 1990 was thought to be impressive, thoughtful and, as Stoppard stuff goes, highly personal, with fine acting from Brian Cox, Rufus Sewell and Sinead Cusack.
Vanities, a new musical based on the 1976 Off-Broadway comedy that ran nearly 2,000 performances, was announced as set to arrive on Broadway in fall 2008 under the direction of two-time Tony Award winner Judith Ivey. Casting will be announced later, and there are some choice roles to cast. The story tells of three Texas teens as they journey from cheerleaderhood to sorority sisters to housewives and on. The announcement came from an official press agent this week, though Playbill.com had reported the plan a month ago.
Also announced for Broadway is the once-derailed African-American Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Now directed by Debbie Allen, it will begin a limited run starting Feb. 12, 2008, at the Broadhurst Theatre. No cast has been announced. It will be updated to the contemporary period, not stuck in 1955.