Now apparently up for grabs is one of the most coveted musical theatre houses on Broadway — the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, where Tale opened Sept. 18 after previews from Aug. 19.
A Tale of Two Cities had a pricetag of $16 million. It is not known how much of that was recouped. The producers cited the American economic crisis as a factor in the decision to shutter, and said they were regrouping for a future national tour.
"Due to the recent recession and stock market decline which have resulted in weaker ticket buying traffic patterns and steep discounting in the industry," the show is closing, according to a statement.
The musical was shepherded by Broadway first-timers, including lead producers Barbra Russell and Ron Sharpe, director Warren Carlyle and lyricist-librettist-composer Jill Santoriello, a self-taught musician and alumna of the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop and ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop.
The writer fell in love with the 1859 Charles Dickens novel as a teenager and worked on the show for many years. Russell and Sharpe were passionate about her musical and spent several years collecting investors. "There's a song in the show at the top of the second act called 'Everything Stays the Same' that I wrote when I was 15," she told Playbill Magazine earlier this summer. "I started writing it as a hobby in our rec room, where the piano was." She later told Playbill.com, "I've never lost my affection for and my inspiration from the story. That's basically why I've been able to not ever give up on it or lose faith in pushing forward with the project, because I just really believed in the story and getting it out there through the musical… There's this theme throughout the show about people's dreams and whether we get to realize them or not. It's a little ironic that this 20-some-odd year dream is coming true, but I guess it's sort of fitting."
A Tale of Two Cities had its ardent followers. In the 2007 Florida tryout and on Broadway, women theatregoers, in particular, would stand and cheer, with tears in their eyes, for the love triangle of the French Revolution-era plot in which Sydney Carton (played by James Barbour) sacrifices himself so his object of desire, Lucy (Brandi Burkhardt), can have happiness with Charles Darnay (Aaron Lazar).
The show was not embraced by critics. The week of Oct. 27-Nov. 2, the Hirschfeld was only filled to 44.5 percent of its potential capacity, earning $303,755 for the week.
Like Les Misérables before it (technically, Santoriello started the process circa 1986, before Les Miz was a smash musical), A Tale of Two Cities is a period musical teeming with people who reach toward the sunlight of a brighter future. Act One ends with an anthemic song called "Until Tomorrow." And dreamers of London and Paris muse on "The Way It Ought to Be."
Its TV commercials, which flooded the local airwaves in August, September and October, showed huddled masses marching for freedom and expressing themselves with raised fists while Tony Walton's scenic design loomed large around them. Anyone interested in a Les Miz-style historical romance were hooked at the sight of the commercial.
The Tale of Two Cities cast also includes Craig Bennett as Jerry Cruncher, Kevin Earley (Thoroughly Modern Millie) as Ernest Defarge, four-time Tony Award nominee Gregg Edelman (City of Angels, 1776, Anna Karenina, Wonderful Town) as Dr. Alexandre Manette, Michael Hayward-Jones as Jarvis Lorry, Mackenzie Mauzy as The Seamstress, Katherine McGrath as Miss Pross, Les Minski as Marquis St. Evremonde, Natalie Toro (Les Miz) as Madame Therese Defarge, Nick Wyman (Les Miz) as John Barsad, plus Drew Aber, Catherine Brunell (Thoroughly Modern Millie), Alison Cimmet, Jennifer Evans, William Thomas Evans, Randy Glass, Kevin Greene, Michael Halling (In My Life, The Pajama Game), Tim Hartman, Fred Inkley, Georgi James, Miles Kath, Jay Lusteck, Ray McLeod (Wonderful Town), Catherine Missal, James Moye (Meet John Doe), Walter O'Neil, Dan Petrotta, Devin Richards, Rob Richardson, Rebecca Robbins, Jennifer Smith, Anne Tolpegin, Eric Van Tielen, Mollie Vogt-Welch and Alison Walla.
The show was sold out at Asolo Repertory Theater in Sarasota, FL, in fall 2007, under the direction of Michael Donald Edwards. Carlyle was the choreographer, and was promoted to director-choreographer for the Broadway run.
According to the producers, "Set against the epic backdrop of the French Revolution…A Tale of Two Cities is a musical about injustice, vengeance and the redemptive power of love. When Dr. Manette is released from the French Bastille after 17 years, he must be resurrected from the brink of madness by his daughter, Lucie. In England they meet two very different men: the exiled French aristocrat, Charles Darnay, whom Lucie marries, and the drunken cynic, Sydney Carton. Soon family secrets and political intrigue combine to draw Lucie and her family back to Paris. At the height of the Reign of Terror, the musical finds an unlikely hero in Carton."
The musical has scenic design by Tony Award winner Walton (Guys and Dolls, The House of Blue Leaves, Pippin). He calls his design a blend of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and the infamous French Bastille (fitting, since the two cities of the 1859 novel are London and Paris). Sharpe said that Walton's striking sets have been enhanced even further for the Broadway run.
The creative team includes David Zinn (costumes), Richard Pilbrow (lights), Carl Casella and Domonic Sack (sound), Tim Watson (hair). Orchestrations are by Edward B. Kessel; arrangements are by Edward B. Kessel, Wendy Bobbitt Cavett, Kevin Stites & Bob Krogstad. Production stage manager is Kim Vernace. Parker Esse is associate choreographer. James Neglia is music coordinator. Christopher C. Smith is technical supervisor.
Music direction and supervision are by Kevin Stites.
A Tale of Two Cities is being produced by Barbra Russell, Ron Sharpe, Bernard Brogan, Sharon A. Fordham, Theatre Associates David Sonnenberg/Rami Evar, The Monagle Group, Joseph J. Grano, Fanok Entertainment, Mary E. Laminack, Nancy & Paul Audet, Jim Barry, Gasperino Entertainment, Vincent Russell, William M. Broderick, Alex Santoriello in association with David Bryant, Spencer Brody, Harry Casey.
Tickets for the Broadway run are available at TeleCharge.com and (212) 239-6200 or (800) 432-7250.
For more information visit www.TaleMusical.com.