NEW YORK — Note to Paul Simon: Take a deep breath and think “Titanic,” “Titanic,” “Titanic.”
Not the movie, the musical. Even though, after nearly a year, “Titanic, the Musical” still sounds like the punchline of a “Simpsons” joke, the show, which drew some of the most vicious pre-opening gossip of last season, eventually found its audience and has become one of the most impressive performers on the box office charts. Like “The Capeman,” “Titanic” postponed its opening so its creative staff could do some fixing.
That’s the good, or at least hopeful, news. (Note to Paul Simon: Stop reading.) While producers of “Titanic” did delay opening by a month last spring, they made their decision prior to the start of previews. When the opening of “Capeman” recently was postponed from Jan. 8 to Jan. 29, the musical (in previews since Dec. 1) joined a roster that reads as gloomy as the passenger list of the real Titanic: Other musicals that, in recent years, were already in previews when they postponed their openings include “Nick & Nora,” “Legs Diamond,” “Passion,” “The Red Shoes” and “Sunday in the Park With George.” None of those shows — not even “Sunday” — recouped their investments.
So how much trouble is the $11 million “Capeman” in? Rumors (“Titanic,” “Titanic,” “Titanic”) the week before Christmas ranged from Grinch-like to charitable. Some predicted disaster, others, including a producer of one of Broadway’s biggest current hits, were confident the show can be saved. As widely reported last week, Broadway veterans Mike Nichols and Nicholas Hytner sat in on some recent previews and offered tips to Simon and director Mark Morris.
Nichols and Hytner, by the way, are not the only big names who got a 911 call for advice. Still, producer Dan Klores has vowed not to replace Morris, the dance innovator and first-time stage musical director. Indeed, although no one connected with the show would comment, sources say one of the top items on the fix-it list is “more dancing.” (And more Marc Anthony, the young star of the show.)
But, the sources say, what might be most needed is more communication. Some cast members aren’t feeling particularly well-informed about pending changes, and speculation about the moody Simon’s waning interest in the whole shebang has practically become conventional wisdom.
Fortunately for producers, interest in Simon continues, with daily wraps sometimes hitting $100,000, suggesting yet again the old “Titanic” lesson: Audiences will decide for themselves whether, and when, to jump ship.
Reviews for his staging of “Triumph of Love” spanned the love-hate spectrum, and reactions to his revival of Arthur Miller’s “A View From the Bridge” have been only a bit less polar. Thus, predictions aren’t easy when it comes to director Michael Mayer.
So here’s one anyway: If all goes as hoped, the newly hot director will team with newly hot playwright Paula Vogel (“How I Learned to Drive”) for a revival of “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.” The project is still in the talking stages, and Mayer already has signed to direct Warren Leight’s new play “Side Man” (about a jazz musician) at Off Broadway’s Classic Stage Company later this winter. Then he’ll most likely do a New York workshop of “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” From there, he may have a “Clear Day” rendezvous with Vogel in San Francisco.