Tommy Tune Withdraws from Royal Family

News   Tommy Tune Withdraws from Royal Family
For the second time in a year, Tommy Tune has abruptly withdrawn from a Broadway-bound musical produced by Fran and Barry Weissler, the New York Times reports.

For the second time in a year, Tommy Tune has abruptly withdrawn from a Broadway-bound musical produced by Fran and Barry Weissler, the New York Times reports.

The New York Times reported that Tune has "suddenly and mysteriously withdrawn" as director/choreographer of The Royal Family, the William Finn musical based on the Kaufman-Ferber comedy, which was scheduled to open at Seattle Repertory Company in April 1997, and move on the Broadway in the 1997-98 season.

The Times reported that "Tune has informed the Weisslers and the writers that he simply cannot do it," and quoted an assistant saying the decision was "so intensely private" that he didn't feel it was "appropriate to talk about in a public forum."

Seattle Rep spokesperson Linda Glass told Playbill On-Line, "We're disappointed, to say the least. It would have been great to have Tommy Tune on the project. But we're still moving ahead. The Weisslers have two or three names [of directors] they're discussing, and they're moving ahead on it."

Glass did not disclosed the names of the prospective replacement directors. She would say only that Tune had withdrawn for "personal reasons -- it has nothing to do with the project at all," and that the collaboration has been really succesful so far between Greenberg and Finn," so the April 1997 opening dates are still firm. The Royal Family rescheduled its world premiere at Seattle Repertory Theatre from December 1996 to April 1997, pushing its possible Broadway transfer at least into the 1997-98 season.

In their season announcement, Seattle Rep, which had previously announced the show for December 1996, said the show will preview April 26 and open April 30, 1997 for a limited engagement that will end May 25. Seattle Rep gave no reason for the change.

Hitherto titled The Royal Family of Broadway, the musical is titled simply The Royal Family in the Rep released.

Betsy Dollinger in the office of producers Fran and Barry Weissler (Grease!) said the musical, with a Richard Greenberg (Eastern Standard) libretto based on the 1927 George S. Kaufman/ Edna Ferber comedy The Royal Family, had said the show would open in time to qualify for the 1997 Tony Awards, but now won't be eligible until at least 1998.

Dollinger could not immediately be reached for comment.

No cast, Broadway theatre or specific New York dates have been announced.

The last Tune/Weissler collaboration was Busker Alley, which closed in Florida after Tune injured his foot. Dollinger said the Busker Alley project "is not dead" and that it may be resuscitated.

Trivia note: The Royal Family tells the Moon Over Buffalo-like story of a "civilian" who attempts to marry into a wildly flamboyant theatrical family. Kaufman and Ferber based the play on the Barrymore family, with one character bearing an uncanny resemblance to John Barrymore.

If the musical goes on as scheduled, that will be the third portrayal of John Barrymore on Broadway in a single year's time. Nichol Williamson starred in Jack: And Evening on the Town With John Barrymore in April. Christopher Plummer is scheduled to play the actor in Barrymore, scheduled to open on Broadway March 9, 1997.

The Weisslers' musical Busker Alley closed out of town in December 1995 when Tune slipped during a dance number and broke his foot.

The Times reported that the fate of The Royal Family, which would be Finn's first full musical since Falsettos, was in doubt, but that the Weisslers are seeking a new director. Finn's Muscle musical with James Lapine got no further than workshops.

-- By Robert Viagas

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