Producer of Silenced Musical, Harmony, Said Potential Investors Promised Money That Never Came

News   Producer of Silenced Musical, Harmony, Said Potential Investors Promised Money That Never Came
Hours after company members of the dawning musical, Harmony, were told their show was shuttering due to undercapitalization, producer Mark Schwartz told Playbill On-Line he shares their heartbreak.

Although he wasn't at the 10 AM Nov. 13 company meeting in Manhattan — where cast members were dumbstruck, shocked or in tears from the news that they would not be shipping out to the Philadelphia tryout in the coming days — Schwartz said he knows that the troupe's feelings are aimed at him.

"Everyone involved in the show has been fabulous," Schwartz said. "There might be a lot of upset people. I'm the producer, so there's a place to point that anger at."

Schwartz said he raised only $3.5-$4 million of the $6.5-$7 million capitalization needed for the show's Dec. 2-Jan. 4, 2004, run at Philadelphia's Forrest Theatre. The rest of the money did not come through in recent weeks, despite assurances from potential investors. It was hoped by all involved that the next stop after Philly would be a Broadway theatre.

Do other shows really go this far into rehearsals — more than four weeks — without having the money in place?

"Sure they do," Schwartz said. "Without all the money? The answer is, sure." An angry director, David Warren, told Playbill On-Line, "He had one job, and that was to capitalize the show, and not to lay off 27 brilliant actors after they completed two spectacular run-throughs in a row. There's no precedent for that, and if there is, it's a precedent of disaster."

Schwartz said he was so committed to the show that three weeks ago he took a $1.5 million mortgage on his Florida home, from which he spoke to Playbill On-Line. He had been called to Florida in midweek on family business (his athlete son had been injured).

"I was always assured by a lot of people," Schwartz said the afternoon of Nov. 13. "I've been running around up until last night all over the country...raising [money], sitting in people's living rooms, doing the Harmony dog and pony show. If I ever thought three weeks ago that I would have had to shut the show down today, to stop production today, I never would have mortgaged my house three weeks ago."

In recent days, potential investors had been brought into a Manhattan rehearsal studio to view run-throughs.

"We're not the first show that's ever been in this situation," Schwartz explained. "Unfortunately, we got to a point where I had to shut the show because I can't continue to have actors coming and working without having the money there to pay them. Fortunately, all the bonds are in place and all the actors will get their money."

He said he hopes creditors can also be paid. But a greater immediate hope is that people with money will express interest in a new show with a score by songwriter Barry Manilow. Harmony, with book and lyrics by Bruce Sussman, tells the story of a German singing group, The Comedian Harmonists, that rose to international fame in the 1920s to be scattered by the winds of the brewing world war in the 1930s. Making the project more desirable to investors might be the $500,000 box office advance or the presence of Tony Award nominee Brian d'Arcy James (Sweet Smell of Success, Titanic).

"I'm still looking for the White Knight," Schwartz admitted. "With all the people that came, no one stepped to the plate, I was the only one."

The financial woes were not unknown to the highest members of the creative team, Schwartz said. "A good part of the creative team, especially the most important part of the creative team, have known about our plight of trying to raise money...for months," Schwartz said. "When you have a cast in rehearsal — the worst thing — you can't go and say, 'Hey look everybody we don't have any money to do the show, but keep working.' That's counterproductive at any point."

But the fact remains, the creative team had faith in Schwartz's abilities. As a producer, he was associated with the original Nine, La Cage aux Folles, My One and Only, and the Broadway flops Jackie and Epic Proportions.

"That's the idea," Schwartz admitted. "You have faith in the producer to make the capitalization happen. I'm not gonna shrink from my responsibility; my responsibility was to fund the show. It's no crime, though. Let me tell you, it is not a crime."

His failure to raise the capitalization is not punishable by death, he said, it's punishable by the failure itself.

"This was a complete shock to the company," Warren said. "Bruce and I only found out Friday afternoon [Nov. 7] what kind of trouble we were in when we found out that the load-in [at the Forrest Theatre] had stopped and there wasn't money to make payroll this week. There was an attempt over the weekend to try and find some money to help Mark out, and a lot of people came to our run-through."

The trouble began earlier this year, Schwartz said, when a major investor left the show, taking away a "major chunk" of money that would have capitalized the project to the needed $7 million mark.

"What we need [is] someone to come and write a check," Schwartz said. "Everything else has been done. This show is 90 percent ready. All [we need] to do is go put these actors on a stage, tech it, and start previewing it. At this point, if there is no White Knight and there's no one to show this to early next week, I guess the reality of it is, there are assets that were created that will be preserved and I will continue to try to raise money for the project for as long as it's my project. The rights to the property are still owned by me and they continue for a while, and there's an option to renew them, as well."

David Warren said, "The production is ready, the physical production is finished and it's gorgeous and the show is working exquisitely well in the room. The company is on fire. They were so wonderful and so excited to be playing this play. It's not a show that wasn't working in the room. They're sad, they're angry, they're frustrated."

Schwartz added in a separate interview, "This isn't a function of anything but money. You know what? We would have hit a grand slam homerun [in Philadelphia] and the rest of the money would have been there."

Composer Barry Manilow and the creative team behind <i>Harmony</i>
Composer Barry Manilow and the creative team behind Harmony
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