What with the indefinite postponement of Whistle Down The Wind and the impending closing of Sunset Boulevard March 22, these have not been the best of times for Andrew Lloyd Webber. If there's a rain cloud over the famous composer these days, he's not the only one getting doused. Several NY newspapers reported Feb. 20 that ABC News has publicly admonished Barbara Walters, of the news/interview program "20/20," for doing a December 1996 profile on Lord Andrew -- and not revealing that she had $100,000 invested in Sunset Boulevard.
In Walters' prepared statement following the censure she wrote, "In retrospect, I should have disclosed the investment. I didn't even think even think about it, since I haven't invested in another Broadway show before or since. It won't happen again."
The story was broken Feb. 19 in Michael Riedel's column in the Daily News, which also pointed out that Walters broadcast a 1994 ABC-TV Oscar special from the Sunset set.
An unnamed spokesperson at ABC told the NY Post that Walters' investment "should have been disclosed, it was a mistake. The audience had a right to know that information. It was absolutely an oversight and she regrets it." No disciplinary action will be taken against Walters because "no rules were broken." ABC News has been under the gun recently, following a successful lawsuit waged against them for bringing a hidden camera into the meat department of Food Line.
Sunset Boulevard, which was the hottest ticket in town when Glenn Close opened it at Broadway's Minskoff Theatre Nov. 17, 1994, has not fared as well at the box office during Elaine Paige's tenure. A major star in London, Paige is significantly less well-known in the U.S. According to the Post, the show will recoup 85 percent of its production costs when it closes in March. Peter Brown, spokesperson for Webber's Really Useful Company, told Playbill On-Line he had no comment on the Walters issue but did say the 85 percent recoupment figure was accurate. "Eventually we almost certainly expect to recoup fully," Brown said, "within the show's lifetime. Once we get through merchandising, recording revenues, revivals, stock and amateur rights... A show that runs as long as Sunset doesn't die."
Asked about the bad news and rumors currently circling around Webber, Brown confirmed that 16 people were fired from the London Really Useful office, "but those were normal for the industry. There were no new productions this year, and those people were specifically involved in new productions. We've been unusual in that every year for several years we've had a new show." The New York office has had no lay-offs and none are planned. As for Webber's personal circumstances, Brown dismissed rumors of financial trouble and said, "He's selling one house and buying another."
On a more positive note, Brown reaffirmed that plans are underway to bring Evita back to the stage in the distant future, and that the Warner Brothers film of Phantom of the Opera is currently looking for a director (the casting will be under Webber's control). Also, the Universal animated film of Cats is currently in pre-production, with no voices yet cast.
For tickets and information on Sunset Boulevard at the Minskoff call (212) 307-4007. For tickets to Cats at the Winter Garden call (212) 239-6200. For tickets to Phantom Of The Opera at the Majestic call (212) 239-6200.
--By David Lefkowitz