Cast of Rebecca Mourns Show's Collapse; Middleman Between Producer and Lost Investor Named

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03 Oct 2012

Ben Sprecher
Ben Sprecher

The collapse of the $12 million musical Rebecca in the days before rehearsals were to begin on Oct. 1 was mourned by the cast and staff at a meeting called by the producers. The suddenly unemployed troupe gathered on what would have been their meet-and-greet day.

The meeting was not mandatory, of course, but lead producers Ben Sprecher and Louise Forlenza extended the invitation.

"Ben assembled for Rebecca an incredibly prestigious and brilliant creative staff, and one of the most generous, tenacious casts I have had the pleasure to know," actress Karen Mason wrote in a public letter released to media. "He treated us respectfully —not as employees, but as partners in an artistic endeavor. It was a sad, emotional couple of hours. In my heart, all I really wanted to do was start working on my song — yes, I am already possessive of Mrs. Danvers!" Her song, she wrote, was called — ironically — "Invincible."

She continued, "What I know is that I left that meeting feeling that Ben Sprecher was an ethical man, and someone I would be honored to work with. I have been in this business a very long time, and my instincts are very good about people. I am telling you that Ben Sprecher is a fine human being, and one of those rare theatrical producers who truly cares about the theatre."

The summer loss of $4.5 million from an investor that Sprecher admitted he never met (but who signed investment papers) sent the producer into a money-raising whirlwind in the past month. (The mysterious investor, revealed in published reports as a South African businessman named Paul Abrams, was said to have died of malaria in London, though there is no evidence of such a person — just a promise of money from him and his partners). At the last minute, Sprecher said he had secured funds to fill the gap in the $12 million budget and was prepared to begin rehearsals on Oct. 1.

Karen Mason

Sprecher then said he was blindsided on Sept. 28 by a malicious anonymous tipster who scared the new investors off, scuttling the production's hope of a fall launch.

On Oct. 2, the New York Times reported that the man who introduced Sprecher to Paul Abrams was Mark C. Hotton, a Long Island businessman who has been sued for fraud in federal court in New York and Florida. The paper reported that Hotton filed for personal bankruptcy in 2011. His debt was $15 million.

The U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI are reportedly looking into the circumstances of the loss of financing of Rebecca, including the identity of Abrams. A call to Sprecher's spokesman, lawyer Ronald G. Russo, was not immediately returned on Oct. 3.

News reporting about the loss of one-third of the show's budget left some to think that Abrams was a fictional character. Sprecher told the New York Times on Oct. 2, "I never made up or fabricated any investor, and I never made up Paul Abrams."


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