The issue at the core of Kardana Prods.’ decision not to transfer “Company” to a commercial Broadway run has been deliberately obfuscated by Stephen Sondheim. My decision had nothing to do with financial wherewithal, excessive creative demands or any other form of negligent producer behavior. The only issue of concern was the recasting of the lead role of Bobby.
It is not unreasonable for a producer to request a cast change – particularly, in this instance, when virtually every major critic commented on Boyd Gaines’ vocal problems. I was promised by the show’s director, Scott Ellis, that after Gaines’ three-week vocal rest, I would be the one to make the decision whether or not to transfer “Company” with him in the leading role. Based on that assurance, Kardana provided the necessary financing to activate the transfer.
When Gaines returned, Ellis changed the rules and announced that if I wished to move the show, Gaines would have to play Bobby. Although Sondheim, to my knowledge, had not seen the show since it opened on Oct. 5, he concurred. I did not share their enthusiasm for Gaines’ vocal recovery and withdrew as the show’s producer. Commercial theater is risky enough without having to worry if t he lead actor is able to play eight performances a week.
The issue here is not a lack of real producers, but rather a lack of respect for what a real producer does. In the future, Sondheim should consider producing his own works, rather than damning a producer who may be foolish enough to disagree with him.
John N. Hart Jr.
Hart is president of Kardana Prods. Inc.