Producers for the Spirit of Broadway show, intended for the Lyceum Theatre and aimed at providing Time Square tourists with an affordable initiation to Broadway, are now reporting that the theatrical unions have come around and are supporting their efforts.
There had been concern about the show, which will feature a "Broadway experience" theme and feature increased performances, shorter show times and some of the elements of a museum tour. Producers, theatre owners and unions engaged in a controversy earlier this month ranging from the new format to the city land use covenant governing the use of Lyceum for legitimate theatre.
The stagehands union (IATSE Local 1), the Theatrical Wardrobe Union Local 764, Actors Equity, the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers, and Musicians Local 802 all appear now to be in line now with having the show go forward .
Moving forward, the unions' focus will be negotiating with producers with regard to the various aspects of the show.
"Little by little the unions have listened to us and understood the production better," said Spirit producer Tom Viertel. "I think that they are changing their positions to the extent they actually took positions in their correspondence with the City Planning Commission." Viertel told Playbill On-Line that as far as he knew, all the unions that had taken adversarial positions had since "changed their minds."
"It was certainly important that the unions understood what the project actually was and how it would impact the theatre ," Viertel said. "I think they concluded it would be highly beneficial." As reported earlier, Viertel's fellow producers David S. Singer and Richard Frankel are still working with him to raise the remainder of the $22 million necessary to produce the show. The team is thought to have amassed as much as half what they need to gain control of the Lyceum and produce their show.
The producers of Spirit are hoping to cultivate an untapped market - the millions of tourists who flock to Times Square every year but never actually see a Broadway show. The plan is to turn casual Times Square tourists into Broadway theatre initiates by getting them to purchase a relatively inexpensive $25 ticket to a Broadway show experience titled the "Spirit of Broadway." Though only an hour long, the program would be presented at the Lyceum Theatre and would feature songs, characterizations of Broadway legends, a museum and taped promos of shows.
While 12 million people saw Broadway shows last year and theatrical ticket grosses climbed to just over $588 million, only a fraction of the 30 million people flocking through Times Square annually are believed to actually buy a ticket to a Broadway show.
-- by Murdoch McBride