Much of Broadway was reeling from the news and reevaluating whether it would be doing business with Livent in the wake of the suspension of Livent vice chairman Garth Drabinsky and its president, Myron Gottlieb. While a company official maintained that all commitments are being honored and that “Livent will go forward no matter what,” a clutch of what were to be imminent deals now seem in flux.
One in question seems to be “The Sweet Smell of Success,” a Livent project that was seeking big-league talent. Academy Award-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch was considering attachment to the project, as was “Twelfth Night” helmer Nick Hytner. But a source close to the Hamlisch and Hytner negotiations said that rumors of a Drabinsky departure, which now seems a fait accompli, could scotch the deal. Neither Hytner nor Hamlisch could be reached for comment Monday.
Drabinsky, asked Friday by Daily Variety if his departure was imminent, responded that such talk was “absolutely not true.”
Not completely surprised
The theater community professed to be titillated by the development, but not altogether surprised. One producer, who had partnered with Drabinsky in the past, said that while the producer’s books for the venture showed a loss, Drabinsky’s books incorrectly showed that he’d made money.
It would seem that projects initiated before the Michael Ovitz-Roy Furman takeover will still proceed at their current funding levels and timetables. One such Livent venture, “Fosse: A Celebration of Song and Dance,” which opened to favorable reviews Sunday in Toronto, is slated to come to Gotham despite the company’s recent financial shock.
“I see no reason why it should not go forward,” said Phil Smith, president of the Shubert Organization, which has reached a deal with Drabinsky for “Fosse” to enter the Broadhurst this fall.
Similarly, Andre Bishop, artistic director of Lincoln Center, said that “sets are being built” for the Livent project “Parade,” set to bow in November.
Livent CEO Roy Furman said in a statement, “as shocked as we all are by this discovery, we believe Livent remains a viable company financially and is operationally and creatively very strong. Since our team came on board just six weeks ago we have made substantial progress in controlling costs.
“We are moving ahead, working with our longtime associate producer Marty Bell with exciting new projects and attracting talented people to Livent,” he said. “We have a powerful slate of shows in the year ahead — with three musicals, ‘Ragtime,’ ‘Fosse’ and ‘Parade,’ in New York in 1999 — and we will continue to explore new opportunities to showcase Livent’s creative talents.”
Sources confirmed that Bell would be acting chief creative director, although many on Wall Street don’t expect Drabinsky to come back. Sources said Drabinsky will ultimately be terminated.
Broadway greeted the announcement of Bell’s appointment with a bit of relief. Veteran Broadway producer Rodger Hess said, “He’s a talented, creative and fiscally responsible individual.”
Those familiar with the situation said the accounting problems would not affect the business, downplaying the impact on the company’s finances longer term. Furman said the company’s cash flow won’t be hurt.
Furman was hired partly to bring “financial discipline” to Livent’s management. “There were excessive production charges on Drabinsky’s shows,” said one Broadway producer. “I imagine that will change now.”
A source pointed to the planned London production of “Ragtime” as potentially being in jeopardy, now that the Vancouver production of that tuner was seen as a financial disappointment. Officials at Livent declined to comment on their overall strategy for the production.