Webber-Prince show's Broadway run postponed

NEW YORK – “Whistle Down the Wind,” the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Harold Prince collaboration breaking box office records in Washington D.C. but panned by the Washington Post, has taken itself out of this year’s Tony Award consideration by postponing its Broadway opening until June 15.

The musical had been set to open April 17 at the Martin Beck Theater, two weeks before the April 30 Tony deadline. The show is being postponed “to allow the musical’s creative team more time to add new material to the show,” according to a “Whistle” spokesman. Edgar Dobie, president of Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Co., said the revised schedule will give the show’s creative team time to make changes in the book and score.

Sked conflict resolved

Dobie also said the postponement solves a “scheduling conflict” for director Prince, who also is directing the Livent production of “Candide” for an April 29 Broadway opening.

Although box office at D.C.’s National Theater has been good since the show’s Dec. 6 opening (a $740,073 Christmas week gross broke the National’s $705,000 house record set last spring by “Les Miserables”), the city’s critics weighed with mixed notices. The Washington Post leveled a full-fledged pan. Daily Variety commended the show’s “tuneful score” and “sturdy performances” but noted second-act book problems.

Greater expectations

Although the show’s $10 million pricetag is not particularly outrageous by Broadway standards, expectations for “Whistle” are greater than usual. Not only is the musical the first re-teaming of Lloyd Webber and Prince since the hugely successful “The Phantom of the Opera” in 1988, it also marks the first time Lloyd Webber has premiered a musical in the United States since “Jesus Christ Superstar” in 1971.

In addition to Lloyd Webber’s music, “Whistle” features lyrics by Jim Steinman and book by Patricia Knop. The musical, based on a novel by Mary Hayley Bell and the 1961 film directed by Bryan Forbes, is about three children who believe a mysterious stranger to be Jesus Christ. The original story, set in rural England, has been re-set in 1950s Louisiana for the stage show.

“Whistle” will continue playing at the National until Feb. 9, then go back into rehearsals for the Broadway opening. The show’s spokesman said the postponement will allow for the recording of a cast CD prior to the New York opening.

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