Beginning March 3, the name "Roundabout" may become one of the more meaningful ironies of the theatre season. That is when the once-itinerant theatre company by that name will put down roots and host a major fundraiser celebrating the opening of its spectacular new theatre -- the former Selwyn on West. 42nd Street.
The event is a significant moment in modern theatre history, as several hundred well-heeled members of the public will get a first look at Roundabout's long-awaited permanent home at 227 W. 42nd Street.
Roundabout is mid-stream with several projects. First and foremost is its current season which still includes, at a glance, Uncle Vanya, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Arms and the Man, and Hotel Suite. On its long journey to prosperity, the Roundabout has called everything from a former Manhattan grocery store space to the Criterion Center in Times Square "home." This year the company will have had shows running at several venues, including the Brooks Atkinson, the former Selwyn, the Gramercy Theatre and Studio 54.
Secondly, there is the last phase of construction at the former Selwyn Theatre. A massive undertaking, this project has been overseen firsthand by theatre executives with an eye to patron services, theatre flexibility and function.
Finally, there is the multi-million dollar funding campaign that will finance the purchase and renovation of the 42nd Street theatre. In Dec. 1999, Roundabout fundraiser Julia C. Levy told Playbill On-Line that Roundabout's Selwyn renovation is expected to be a $21 million project. "We have just over $15 million," Levy said at the time. "Our goal is to open the Selwyn debt free. We're looking to completely fund the project by June 2000." In December, Levy indicated that Roundabout had just broken a record, logging a total of 42,000 subscribers. The Roundabout is making something of an organizational debut on Mar. 3, when it will be, in a way, "coming out." On that day, in concert with the James Beard Foundation, the theatre company will host the seventh and final "Dinner of the Decade," a $1,000-$2,000 a plate cocktail reception and dinner gala that will help finance the theatre group. Other major cultural organizations to hold such dinners include the Houston Society for the Performing Arts, the San Francisco Symphony and the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Tables of eight are available for $10,000.
The Roundabout cocktail reception will be held at the former Selwyn and revellers will then move to the Millennium Broadway at 145 West 44th Street for a dinner in the hotel's Gallery Eight. The 10,850-square-foot Gallery Eight's reception/dinner capacity is 600 persons, meaning that proceeds from the event could easily reach into the mid-six-figure range. Roundabout and James Beard Foundation will share proceeds, according to production notes.
Chef Daniel Boulud, who also owns Manhattan's popular Daniel restaurant, is the coordinating chef of the Roundabout event.
Characterized by Roundabout artistic director Todd Haimes as "absolutely top-shelf," the event will be the final dinner in the James Beard "Decade" series. The food served at the fundraiser will feature dishes by nationally acclaimed chefs Jean-Louis Palladin from Las Vegas' Napa, Charlie Trotter of Chicago's Charlie Trotter's, Jean-Georges Vongerichten of Manhattan's Jean Georges and Larry Forgione of Manhattan's An American Place.
-- By Murdoch McBride