'Aida' bow to bump 'Beauty,' which may bump 'Titanic'

NEW YORK — In a deal that’s creating a Broadway theater domino effect, Disney Theatricals is planning to bring Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida,” to the Nederlander-owned Palace Theater in the winter of 2000.

But to do so, “Beauty and the Beast” would have to move. And, say insiders, it will — to the Nederlander’s Lunt Fontaine Theater sometime early next year. That that’s currently the home of “Titanic: A New Musical,” is less than ideal news for the already underperforming tuner.

“We’d hoped to run for a lot of years,” said Richard Pechter, a “Titanic” co-producer who’s an exec at Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette, adding, “I don’t know if we’re going to be able to do that.”

Struggling to stay afloat

The tuner already is operating below its stop clause, and certainly is operating below its break-even point of $400,000. In the past two weeks, “Titanic” producers, the Dodger Production Group, launched a TV ad campaign in an effort to pump up grosses, which have been taking on water: Last week, “Titanic” was down $65,706 and took in $369,738 — well below its break-even point, according to Pechter.

“Everything hinges on the success or failure of this ad campaign,” said one group-sales ticketing agent, who declined to speak for attribution.

A spokeswoman for “Titanic” said she had no knowledge of a Disney deal for the theater. She declined to comment on a Disney play for the Lunt, adding that the producers “have no plans to go anywhere” and the show plans to run indefinitely.

(Even if Broadway proves not to be a bonanza, the national tour of the big boat will be; the Dodger’s D-Tours touring unit’s booking of the tuner runs well over 99 weeks.)

‘Beauty’ lover

Insiders said Disney topman Michael Eisner is so attached to “Beauty” that it must be found a home instead of simply shuttering. So Disney Theatrical’s topman Peter Schneider’s marching orders were to head the tuner to the Lunt.

“Aida” will bow ahead of sked, as early as August or September, at it’s Chi town namesake, the newly-renovated Palace Theater.

“Aida,” which initially drew scorching reviews in its trial run at the Alliance Theater Co. in Atlanta, has been restaffed. Original helmer Robert Jess Roth (who helmed Disney’s “Beauty”), choreographer Matt West, and scenic designer Stanley A. Meyer were all sacked last December.

Helmer Bob Falls, currently represented on Broadway by the hit “Death of a Salesman,” was brought in to retool the tuner, as was “Dream: A Johnny Mercer Musical” choreographer Wayne Cilento. “Twelfth Night” designer Bob Crowley was hired to redo the sets. Much consternation erupted among Disney brass when the centerpiece of “Aida,” a rotating pyramid, failed to operate during several Atlanta previews and again opening night.

The fate of “Aida” book writer Linda Woolverton, who penned the book to Disney’s hit “Beauty and the Beast,” is not clear.

Spokeswomen for Disney’s “Aida” and “Beauty and the Beast” declined to comment.

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