Word is leaking out that Pace Theatrical Group, Inc., is poised to take over the recently-scuttled Livent national tour of Ragtime, perhaps sending it to Pace markets around the country.
The move by the New York-based producing organization, which also books or "presents" seasons in theatres across the country, means Ragtime may even be revived in time to make its dates in Seattle (Dec. 2-Jan. 3, 1999) and Boston (Jan. 20-March 28, 1999). Tickets for those engagements were still on sale as of Nov. 23, despite the Nov. 21 shutdown of the tour by the financially beleaguered Livent.
A spokesperson for actor Michael Rupert (at the Writers and Artists agency) said Nov. 23 that Rupert would indeed continue on a Pace tour of Ragtime in Seattle and Boston. Rupert plays the immigrant, Tateh, in the musical about America circa 1905-1917.
Regan Byrne, marketing director for Boston's Colonial Theatre, a venue whose booking is Pace-controlled, confirmed Nov. 23 that a Pace takeover of the tour is "in the works" but "it's very complicated."
She told Playbill On-Line, "I know we were pretty confident Friday. We haven't cancelled and we're still selling tickets." Georgiana Young of Pace Theatrical Group in New York would not confirm or deny any information to Playbill On-Line, but said (Nov. 23) a statement would be forthcoming.
Eleanor Goldhar, spokesperson for Livent, said, "I can't confirm or deny it because I don't honestly know."
The complicated details of travel, booking, actors' contracts and pre-sold tickets are the tip of the iceberg compared to the details Pace must work out concerning the extrication of a single production from Livent, a company in Chapter 11 bankruptcy status. Pace is apparently not involved in the Chicago or New York companies of Ragtime.
Toronto actress Theresa Tova, who appeared in the Ragtime national tour as Emma Goldman, was quoted in the Nov. 21 Toronto Sun saying, "a miracle happened" and that Pace had offered to take over and continue the show. The cast was informed of the Pace hope late last week.
The Sun reported that Toronto-based Livent would oversee the show artistically, with Pace handling the business issues like booking, box office and advertising.
Livent, the once-public company whose stock trading was halted in August, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy papers in New York Nov. 18, a day after informing the national touring company of Ragtime that the show would end after its final performance, Nov. 21, in Minneapolis.
By Nov. 20, word was leaking out from once-dejected company members that Pace might be a White Knight for the show, resurrecting it for its future tours dates.
Another touring company member, who asked not be named, said, "Pace is offering to step in as producer of the tour and handle Seattle and Boston without any break in contracts at all. I was sure someone would try to cut down [the size of the 55-actor show] and re- form in [a six-week hiatus] but it would pick up as soon as it is ratified and restore all contracts in full. [The] show goes untouched and PACE gets their hands on a first-rate production playing to their sub[scription] base around the country. Nothing is settled and the cast is hanging on threads..."
A call to Actors' Equity Association and to Bill Conner, Livent senior vice president of touring, was not returned to Playbill On-Line by press time.
The cast of the national tour ofRagtime in Minneapolis was told Nov. 17 that the tour will abruptly shut down after its Nov. 21 final performance at the Orpheum Theatre.
Producer Livent informed the 55-member cast and additional crew at the half-hour call Nov. 17, shocking a troupe that expected to go on to Seattle's Paramount Theatre (Dec. 2-Jan. 3) and Boston's Colonial Theatre (Jan. 20-March 28).
Although no official word came until late Nov. 18, the cancellation was confirmed in the afternoon by Gilbert Parker, the William Morris agent representing Ragtime director Frank Galati. He told Playbill On-Line that his client had been informed of the shut down. Likewise, Linda Kalodner, Writers and Artists agent for actor Michael Rupert (who has played Tateh in the tour since its Washington, D.C. opening last spring) also confirmed that his client was out of work as of Nov. 21.
Regan Byrne, marketing director of the "Broadway in Boston" series at the Colonial told Playbill On-Line the show was still "a go" there and tickets were still being sold on Nov. 18 and 19, despite the shutdown news. She said she had heard about the Minneapolis shut down notice, but no written or verbal confirmation about a change in Boston had come from Livent. "As far as we know, it's still a go," she said, adding that sales have been "brisk." Representatives with Pace Theatricals, the Paramount bookers in Seattle, were not available to speak on the subject.
Livent said Nov. 18 that it was attempting to reschedule the upcoming Seattle and Boston engagements of the tour and that new dates for those cities may be announced in the near future.
A Minneapolis cast member who sent news about the shut-down notice to friends via e-mail said there was a rumor that Livent might scale back the size of the show to make it more economically viable, perhaps trimming cast or technical aspects of the big-set show for a return of the tour in 1999.
In related Livent news, days of speculation about Livent filing for bankruptcy protection ended Nov. 18 when Livent Inc. and its U.S. subsidiaries filed a voluntary petition under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code Nov. 18.
The filing was made in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District on New York. The company said in a late-day Nov. 18 statement that it is considering the same kind of protective action in Canada.
The filing allows Livent, producer of such musicals as Show Boat, Ragtime and Fosse, the chance to keep creditors at bay while pursuing financial restructuring in the wake of recently discovered "accounting irregularities" and "inapproriate business practices" by suspended founder and vice chairman Garth Drabinsky and suspended executive vice president Myron Gottlieb.
Also on Nov. 18, Livent board members voted to terminate the already suspended pair effective immediately. The board also authorized a filing in Ontario Court of a $225 million (CDN) civil damage action against Drabinsky, Gottlieb and a company owned by Gottlieb, alleging "fraud, conversion and unjust enrichment," according to a Livent statement. (See related Playbill On-Line story.)
As late as Nov. 13, Livent had reconfirmed the casting for the Boston booking: Alton Fitzgerald White as Coalhouse Walker Jr., Rupert as Tateh, Rebecca Eichenberger as Mother, Darlesia Cearcy as Sarah and Cris Groenendaal as Father.
The Orpheum run in Minneapolis began Oct. 7.
As of Nov. 23, a tour of Show Boat was still on the road from Livent and headed to Providence Nov. 25-Dec. 6, New Orleans Dec. 18 Jan. 10 and Baltimore Jan. 8-24. The Rochester, NY booking Feb. 19-March 13 was cancelled last week, but a Livent spokesperson said a fall 1999 engagement is hoped for there. The spokesperson added that the tour will go on hiatus after Baltimore and "downsize" the production before starting up again for planned bookings later in 1999.
As of Nov. 23, the tour was still being planned at venues around the country although no official dates would be released by Livent. A 24-day run in Columbus, OH, scheduled for Aug. 20-Sept. 12 has been cut to 14 days, Aug. 9-22, according to a booking source.