TORONTO — Livent Inc.’s decision to open ”Ragtime” in Los Angeles prior to Broadway was prompted by the availability of L.A.’s Shubert Theater — and not the mixed reviews some New York critics gave the tuner after its recent Toronto bow, according to the company.

”That would be an unfair inference or assumption,” says Norman Zagier, Livent’s senior VP of publicity. ”We are planning to come into New York with the original company at the end of the new calendar year, as scheduled and as has been widely reported.”

Still B’way bound

The $10 million touring production of ”Ragtime” will open in L.A. in June, while the similarly priced Toronto production will move to Broadway next December. Zagier says Los Angeles ”is a hugely important market, and we are operating in the tradition of both ‘Sunset Boulevard’ and ‘Evita,’ both of which built their national reputations in L.A. before opening on Broadway.” The spokesman added that Livent’s ”Show Boat,” which bowed on Broadway in 1994, ”is performing remarkably well for us in L.A. and will probably gross around C$18 million ($13 million) for our 18-week run.”

Scheduling key

Scheduling 20 consecutive weeks at the Shubert was ”hugely complicated,” says Zagier, adding that ”those exigencies govern how we are going to tour our productions. With ‘Beauty and the Beast’ exiting the Shubert, there was an available opening.”

Although ”Ragtime” opened Dec. 8 to favorable notices in the Toronto press, some New York critics were more reserved. The New York Times said that although the score by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty is the duo’s best work to date, ”the show is inordinately heavy on anthems of the oppressed.” The New York Post said there ”is a lot of work to be done on ‘Ragtime.”’

Livent says current Toronto single-ticket sales have jumped to 3,000 a day after the positive Canadian reviews appeared.

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