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‘Lettice’ Tour Wilts

A nine-month tour “Lettice & Lovage” that would have top-billed Vanessa Redgrave, in the flamboyant role created by Maggie Smith, has been scuttled.

Almost no one connected with the planned tour is talking for the record, but people close to the production say the reason for the cancellation is resurgent skittishness about the politically-active actress. Redgrave has recently been quoted voicing support for Iraq.

“For the moment, it’s dead in the water,” Robert Lantz, who represents “Lettice” author Peter Shaffer, said of the tour late last week. “It’s been abandoned.”

“Lettice” tour would have begun later this year under Shubert Organization auspices. Sources insisted that, contrary to a report front-paged last week in the New York Post, no contract with Redgrave had been drawn up, let alone executed. Actors Equity aliens committee was not approached for approval of the hiring, required before a contract could first have been discussed.

Nevertheless, Redgrave was the choice of the author and producers, who believed that success for the tour hinged on a bankable star.

Dropping the tour has proved nervous-making throughout the industry. Chorus of “No comment” on the subject came from Bernard B. Jacobs, Shubert president; Tyler Gatchell, general manager; Robert Fox, co-producer; and Fred Nathan, production spokesman. Redgrave’s agent, Sam Cohn, didn’t return repeated calls.

One insider theorized that while Redgrave has no grounds for a breach-of-contract lawsuit, she could have a civil rights action. Several years ago, the Boston Symphony canceled her performances in “Oedipus Rex,” when it began getting protests over her support of the PLO. Redgrave sued and was eventually awarded $12,000 in damages, though a state civil rights action was invalidated.

On the other hand, Redgrave successfully avoided controversy in last year’s Broadway run of “Orpheus Descending” by refusing to speak with journalists who didn’t agree to a long list of preconditions, including a promise not to question her about politics.

At a peace rally in Barcelona, Spain, shortly before the war in the Persian Gulf began, Redgrave voiced her support of Iraq against the allied forces. Insisting in a lengthy Feb. 8 N.Y. Times ad that the widely repeated remarks had been taken out of context, Redgrave stated, “I unconditionally oppose the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait” and that she supported “a peaceful negotiated settlement of the crisis.” But other statements in the ad were seen as merely adding gasoline to the flames.

Sidebar note: London press reports say Redgrave’s comments have provoked a split with sister Lynn, with whom she’s appearing in a West End production of “The Three Sisters.” Lynn also claimed she was offered the “Lettice” tour first and turned it down four times, which could not be confirmed on this side of the Atlantic.

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