The sword, threatening to separate Broadway's head from its body, is the simmering conflict between The League of American Theatres and Producers and Local One, the Broadway stagehands union. The talks between the two groups, which have been going on for months, have borne no fruit, unless you count the dueling "final offers" that were with great theatricality thrown down this week like gauntlets. Both offers were rejected.
According to reports, the producers offered salary boosts in exchange for cuts in required personnel during the load-in period (when show's sets and costumes and such are carted into the theatre) — the critical area of dispute between the two sides. But Local One said the money didn't begin to compensate for the loss in jobs — jobs that the producers say have no right to exist anyway. Many people expected producers to bring down a lockout there and then. But no lockout came, just a lot of dramatic tension. Talks resumed on Oct. 11 — "talks," not negotiations, we are informed (I assume there's a legal difference) — making it seem like neither party wanted to be the one to take that final step off the cliff, rendering Broadway a ghost town.
As of press time, the producers were promising that no lockout would occur this coming weekend. What will happen on Monday is anybody's guess. (Mauritius isn't the only thriller playing on Broadway right now.)
In should be noted that, if a strike or a lockout results, not all of Broadway will be dark. The League has been bargaining on behalf of the Jujamcyn and Shubert theatre owners, who account for 22 of the 39 Broadway houses. The happy Nederlanders, representing 9 Broadway theatres, are under a separate contract with Local One and are at the table as observers. The houses unaffected by a potential lockout include the Hilton Theatre (Young Frankenstein), the New Amsterdam (Mary Poppins), as well as Broadway's nonprofit sector, including Lincoln Center Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club and Roundabout Theatre Company productions.
*** One of the shows in town that did not have to worry how the League-Local One talks were going was The Ritz, which is a Roundabout production. The revival of the Terrence McNally play, which established the writer as a major playwright when it became a Broadway hit in 1975, opened at Studio 54 on Oct. 11 with a cast headed by Kevin Chamberlin as a straight man who runs for his life straight into a gay bathhouse, and Rosie Perez, the determined and untalented chanteuse who performs there.
Critics were very sunny about Rosie. They found her the most lively thing in the production, which some found to lack a certain spark.
Duffy Square, once home to the TKTS discount ticket booth, has been boarded up and off limits for more than a year now, ever since the booth was moved to the Marriot Marquis Hotel so that ground could be broken May 1, 2006, for construction of the Theatre Development Fund's new digs. At one point, TDF hoped to reopen the booth by the end of 2006. That target date has come and gone, and neither will work be finished by the end of 2007. The aimed-for end is now spring 2008.
Contractor woes and engineering challenges have been blamed for the delay in the $14.5 million project. The striking design will still feature a wall of red bleachers behind the booth (called by wags "the stairway to nowhere"), allowing for public seating in the center of the theatre district. In coming weeks, glass beams and plates that make up walls and stairs that will rise over the booth are expected to be delivered and installed.