B’way boards stay full

B.O. for the past two weeks has been down about 10% from 2000

One out of nine is not bad: Broadway certainly has seen higher cancellation rates this far into its fall season.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “By Jeeves” had its brief moment of indecision, but only the Roundabout’s production of the Stephen Sondheim-John Weidman musical “Assassins,” scheduled to open Nov. 29, was abandoned in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

How is the remainder of the season holding up?

“Money is slow,” one producer said of those all-mighty potential investors. “The bright side of the coin is there are more theaters available in the season’s second half. The dark side is there are more theaters available because there are fewer theatergoers.”

Actually, not too many fewer at the moment. Broadway B.O. for the past two weeks has been down about 10% from September and October 2000, months that were part of a record-setting period that was up a whopping 20% from 1999.

Today’s mantra on Broadway is, “Business is better than anyone had a right to expect” after the B.O. debacle of the two weeks after and including Sept. 11.

Holiday troopers

There were fears for the tourist-driven Columbus Day weekend. And while tourists did avoid the city last week, New Yorkers took up the slack to jam the TKTS booth over the weekend, turning theatergoing into a civic duty. In the end, 21 shows grossed a respectable, but not record-setting, $10,534,191 for the Oct. 1-7 session. Those figures didn’t beat last year’s more robust $11,567,124 holiday week for 24 shows, but they did mark some improvement over the October ’99 numbers of $10,298,032 for two dozen productions.

Producers now say the next potential crisis appears to be January and February.

In the wake of cautious optimism, the spring season looks extremely fluid, with only one cancellation. New producer David Sonenberg pulled the plug on an announced April opening for “Dance of the Vampires” at the Minskoff Theater, with an autumn ’02 entry into Gotham being discussed.

Twice-postponed “Mack and Mabel” revival appears headed for the benefit circuit as a special one-night concert at a Nederlander site in spring.

‘Unknowns’ unsettled

Jon Robin Baitz’s “Ten Unknowns” had been announced as a Lincoln Center Theater transfer to Broadway this fall, but when Donald Sutherland dropped out, a spring incarnation was mentioned. LCT’s Bernard Gersten said those plans are scotched, with the play’s next production likely to be in the 2002-03 season at L.A.’s Mark Taper Forum, where Baitz’s “Substance of Fire” and “Three Hotels” have been performed.

Elsewhere, there are plans openly discussed, if not announcements officially made, for such spring openings as Richard Alfieri’s “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks,” with Uta Hagen and David Hyde Pierce; Edward Albee’s “The Goat”; Martin McDonagh’s “The Cripple of Inishmaan”; Suzan-Lori Parks’ “Topdog/Underdog”; and Terry Johnson’s stage adaptation of “The Graduate,” to star Kathleen Turner, Alicia Silverstone and Jason Biggs (“American Pie”), newly signed to the Benjamin Braddock role.

For revivals, Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” with Liam Neeson and Laura Linney, opens March 7 at the Virginia Theater, once mentioned as the likely venue for the new musical “Hairspray,” recently pushed back to the 2002-03 season. “Crucible” producer David Richenthal also is set for a late April opening of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” with Brian Dennehy. At the Roundabout, Arthur Miller’s first play, “The Man Who Had All the Luck,” opens March 14.

On the musicals front, the marquee at the Marquis already sports “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” to open April 18, with “Sweet Smell of Success” at the Martin Beck in March and the Royal National Theater’s production of “Oklahoma!” at the Gershwin March 21.

As for other imports, an amalgam of Gotham producers (Azenberg, Pittelman, Nederlander, et al.) are encouraged by the raves received for their West End production of “Private Lives,” starring Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan, with a transatlantic move probable.

Despite “Assassins” being KO’d, Sondheim will be represented on Broadway with a Dodgers revival of “Into the Woods,” starring Vanessa L. Williams, planned for the spring. Sets are being designed for the Broadhurst.

New blood

The Dodgers also look to bring in Frank Wildhorn’s new one, “Dracula,” should everything go well when the musical opens Oct. 21 at the La Jolla Playhouse, with the Broadway Theater mentioned as its venue.

When Angela Lansbury dropped out, the new Kander & Ebb & McNally musical “The Visit” turned into the big no-show of the 1999-2000 season. Producer Barry Brown called the musical a “big fat hit” at Chi’s Goodman Theater, where it just opened starring Chita Rivera.

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