Though it's been confirmed that The Producers will make its West Coast debut at San Diego's Civic Theatre on New Year's Eve, the show's Los Angeles plans remain up in the air. The Los Angeles Times reported Jan. 15 that the producers of The Producers had been eyeing the Ahmanson Theatre but, under the assumption that the musical will be as big a hit in L.A. as it's been in New York and Chicago, they judged the 2,100-seat venue too small to reap the kinds of grosses a mega-hit can generate.
Instead, The Producers is now apparently eyeing a 30 week run at the 2,700-seat Pantages Theatre, even though The Lion King is still playing there. (According to the L.A. Times, Pantages temporarily reduced its seating capacity, from 2,704 to 2,261, specifically to ensure that the Julie Taymor tuner would remain a hot ticket and stay put for another year.)
As previously reported, on New Year's Eve 2002, San Diego will get the West Coast premiere of the tuner for a two-week run at the Civic Theatre through Jan. 12, 2003. Tickets at the 2,975-seat Civic will run decidedly less than the the $480 top price for "Inner Circle" ducats at Broadway's St. James Theatre. Broadway/San Diego director Joe Kobryner told the San Diego Union-Tribune the price range for the CA stay will run $34.50-$78.
A report from the Colorado-based Rocky Mountain News notes that Denver Center Attractions, which had hoped to land the musical in 2003, won't see it until spring 2004 at the earliest.
A spokesperson at the T.M.G. marketing firm told Playbill On-Line Dec. 14, that unlike most Broadway national tours, which announce a whole slate of cities in one fell swoop, The Producers is "letting each market announce individually. Since they're only doing subscriptions and not single tickets, the markets want to make their own announcement when they're ready. We're the key selling point for them on their subscription plans this year, so we're not going to pre-announce for them." *
In other Producers news, the new Broadway catchphrase seems to be, "How few can you do?" Doing fewer shows seems to be the new currency in theatrical stardom these days, what with Elaine Stritch negotiating to do five shows a week (rather than the standard eight) when her solo reaches Broadway in the spring, and Anne Bancroft and Kevin Bacon both getting shorter-than-usual weekly schedules for their upcoming shows. It's a sign that producers are currently showing more willingness to be flexible with stars' schedules, rather than risk not having a show at all.
The most ongoing example of now-you-see-him, now-you-don't has been Nathan Lane in the Broadway mega-hit, The Producers. For two weeks in November 2001, Lane, who won a Tony for playing Max Bialystock in the Mel Brooks-Thomas Meehan tuner, was playing only six performances a week instead of the standard eight. The decision to do this was made after Lane consulted with his doctors; he'd been missing performances sporadically since May.
Lane tried going back to his full, eight-times-a week schedule, but that apparently proved a hindrance to his healing. As such, until further notice, the actor is doing only six shows a week, missing the Wednesday and Saturday matinees. (For a couple of weeks, he'd also tried skipping Tuesday nights and Wednesday matinees, thus giving him an extra-long weekend.)
According to Barlow-Hartman office spokespersons, the most recent decision was made "in an effort to continue to heal the chronic vocal fatigue that [Lane] has been suffering from for the past several months." Brad Oscar, Lane's understudy, will continue to play Max Bialystock when Lane is out. Oscar normally plays Nazi playwright Franz, a role that will be covered by Jim Borstelmann.
Lane's struggles with the exhausting nature of the lead role of Max Bialystock have been well documented and led to the diagnosis. The polyp caused the actor to remove himself from the hit musical through Nov. 3, with doctors ordering him not to even speak until his throat healed. According to the Times, the polyp was found on Oct. 30. The musical requires Lane to be on stage much of the time, often yelling lines at the top of his voice as well as singing several songs, including the show stopping comic aria "Betrayed."
"My understanding is this can turn into something very serious if it's not treated," Lane's publicist, Simon Halls told the Times at the time. "There's no permanent damage, but it's in a serious enough place that he's got to take care of it. He doesn't want to blow his voice out at 45. He's got a lot of shows in front of him."
Both Lane and co-star Matthew Broderick are contracted for the show through March 17. "An extension has been broached" for Lane, spokesperson John Barlow noted, "but nothing's confirmable at this point." As of Jan. 17, there was still no word of what cast the show would have in mid-March.
The first high-profile instance of reduced performances in recent times came when Miss Saigon first opened, and Lea Salonga, to preserve her voice and strength, was contracted to play Kim only at evening performances.
In further Producers news, Mel Brooks has milked a new revenue source out of the cash cow that is The Producers. The producer composer-librettist-funnyman has put out a new book, modestly titled, "The Producers! The Biggest Hit in the History of Broadway! How We Did It."
The TalkMiramax publication follows the process of developing the tuner, including how Brooks and Meehan went from a film script with two songs to a full-fledged Broadway book and score. The 224-page volume includes the show's dialogue and lyrics, as well as color photographs shot during rehearsals, onstage and behind the scenes.
For tickets and information on The Producers at the St. James Theatre, call (212) 239-5800. For Broadway Inner Circle tickets, call (212) 563-2929.