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TORONTO TAKING TO’RAGTIME’

TORONTO – Livent Inc. is reporting record ticket sales for “Ragtime, the Musical,” which is headed for an L.A. stand in advance of its Broadway opening.

“This sort of response is unprecedented in Toronto,” said Norman Zagier, senior VP of publicity. “Last week, not counting groups, ‘Ragtime’s’ single ticket sales were C$2 million. ($1.5 million U.S.). … People have been lining up at the box office because they can’t get through on the phone. On Dec. 23 we had 1,000 people pass through.

“We opened ‘Ragtime’ (Dec. 8) at just over C$5 million (advance) and are now at C$7 million. Based on current trends, we could be seeing a C$15 million advance by the end of the first quarter of 1997.”

Christmas is clearly puffing up those numbers, but Zagier feels positive critical response from Toronto’s border states (New York excepted), is also producing strong word of mouth. “To put it in perspective,” he said, ” ‘Ragtime’ exceeded ‘The Phantom of the Opera’s’ best ever pre-Christmas, single week in 1990, by 30%.”

This year, “Phantom” wrapped $588,000 single ticket sales during the pre-Christmas week and the return of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” in March (its fourth Toronto showing), is standing at an advance of $3.6 million. Zagier anticipates a company-wide gross of between $29 million and $33 million by year’s end.

“Ragtime,” with music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, is directed by Frank Galati. Terrence McNally wrote the book, based on E.L. Doctorow’s tome.

“Jane Eyre,” Toronto’s other new musical, is reporting steady sales and is on course for Gotham next fall, according to producer David Mirvish, who did not wish to release specific figures.

“We are having good houses but we are limited as to what we can do, because we’re in a finite run of 11 weeks. I am very pleased and encouraged by what I’m seeing; we’re having the opportunity to use Toronto in the way I wanted to use it, which is to see the show for a limited engagement and to make adjustments to it, which we’ve done and will continue to do.

“Word of mouth is certainly supportive – we can see that because our subscription base runs out in early January and sales are strong. So we’ve clearly found an audience and we’re preparing to go forward to New York in October.”

“Eyre” features music and lyrics by Paul Gordon; John Caird directed and wrote additional lyrics and the book (based on Charlotte Bronte’s novel).

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