Though there's been no official word on touring plans for the Broadway mega-hit The Producers, rumors of the tour's itinerary continue to sprout. The latest, from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, apparently comes from a reliable source: the show's co-librettist Thomas Meehan, who told scribe Chris Rawson that the musical may start its tour in Pittsburgh, PA in September, to be followed by a stint in Cincinnati, OH. Meehan also hinted that he and Brooks would be in Pittsburgh for the launch of the tour, which will likely not be star driven.
A spokesperson for the Broadway Series told Rawson "no contracts have been signed or dates set" and would not confirm the booking, which would presumably play at the Benedum Center or Heinz Hall after Mamma Mia! (Aug. 27-Sept. 8).
Reached Jan. 30, a spokesperson at the T.M.G. marketing firm, which handles the tour, reiterated the organization's decision to treat The Producers differently from most Broadway national tours, which announce a whole slate of cities in one fell swoop: "As most markets confirm their subscription seasons, they'll make their individual announcements. We don't want to steal their thunder on the local level."
That said, the spokesperson said Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are likely cities for the tour, and that several other markets "are close to announcing, probably within the next month." There's no word, however, on casting or financing for the tour
Previously, it's been confirmed that The Producers will make its West Coast debut at San Diego's Civic Theatre on New Year's Eve, though the show's Los Angeles plans remain up in the air. The Los Angeles Times reported Jan. 15 that the producers of The Producers had been eyeing the Ahmanson Theatre but, under the assumption that the musical will be as big a hit in L.A. as it's been in New York and Chicago, they judged the 2,100-seat venue too small to reap the kinds of grosses a mega-hit can generate. Instead, The Producers is now apparently eyeing a 30 week run at the 2,700-seat Pantages Theatre, even though The Lion King is still playing there. (According to the L.A. Times, Pantages temporarily reduced its seating capacity, from 2,704 to 2,261, specifically to ensure that the Julie Taymor tuner would remain a hot ticket and stay put for another year.)
As previously reported, on New Year's Eve 2002, San Diego will get the West Coast premiere of the tuner for a two-week run at the Civic Theatre through Jan. 12, 2003. Tickets at the 2,975-seat Civic will run decidedly less than the the $480 top price for "Inner Circle" ducats at Broadway's St. James Theatre. Broadway/San Diego director Joe Kobryner told the San Diego Union-Tribune the price range for the CA stay will run $34.50-$78.
A report from the Colorado-based Rocky Mountain News notes that Denver Center Attractions, which had hoped to land the musical in 2003, won't see it until spring 2004 at the earliest.
The Producers continues to be Broadway's weekly box office champ, with its $480 "Inner Circle" seats helping push grosses regularly past the $1.2 million mark. For the week ending Jan. 27, the show took in $1,252, 479 and sold out 100.9 percent of its seats. The average paid admission was nearly $90.94, more than $5 higher than nearest competitor Mamma Mia!.
The grosses remain strong despite Nathan Lane playing only six performances per week in the show to maintain his vocal health. Both he and co-star Matthew Broderick are contracted only through March 17, so the crunch has long been on to see them before they (presumably) go. No word yet on who will be the next Bialystock and Bloom.
Doing fewer shows seems to be the new currency in theatrical stardom these days, what with Elaine Stritch negotiating to do five shows a week (rather than the standard eight) when her solo reaches Broadway in the spring, and Anne Bancroft and Kevin Bacon both getting shorter-than usual weekly schedules for their upcoming shows. It's a sign that producers are currently showing more willingness to be flexible with stars' schedules, rather than risk not having a show at all.
For two weeks in November 2001, Lane, who won a Tony for playing Max Bialystock in the Mel Brooks-Thomas Meehan tuner, was playing only six performances a week instead of the standard eight. The decision to do this was made after Lane consulted with his doctors; he'd been missing performances sporadically since May.
Lane tried going back to his full, eight-times-a week schedule, but that apparently proved a hindrance to his healing. As such, the actor is doing only six shows a week, missing the Wednesday and Saturday matinees. According to Barlow-Hartman office spokespersons, the most recent decision was made "in an effort to continue to heal the chronic vocal fatigue that [Lane] has been suffering from for the past several months." Brad Oscar, Lane's understudy, will continue to play Max Bialystock when Lane is out. Oscar normally plays Nazi playwright Franz, a role that is now covered by Jim Borstelmann.
The first high-profile instances of reduced performances in recent times came during Patti LuPone's stint in Evita and then when Miss Saigon first opened, and Lea Salonga, to preserve her voice and strength, was contracted to play Kim for only six shows per week.
For tickets and information on The Producers at the St. James Theatre, call (212) 239-5800. For Broadway Inner Circle tickets, call (212) 563-2929.