Shows get back on track
Broadway returns to its regular performance schedule tonight, as the legit industry, like the rest of the city, attempts to recover in the wake of Tuesday’s terrorist attacks.
The 23 shows currently on the boards canceled performances Tuesday and Wednesday, with most of those losing three perfs including Wednesday matinees.
“It was a logistical question with regard to Broadway,” said Jed Bernstein, prexy of the League of American Theaters & Producers. “It was simply not possible to get casts and crews together for Wednesday performances here in the city.”
But Bernstein speculated the terrorist attacks “could very well be a dramatic blow” to the new theater season.
In London, meanwhile, a city whose theatrical ties with New York have always run rich and deep, the show went on Tuesday night, albeit with a mournful nod across the Atlantic.
At the Lyric Theater, for instance, the company of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” — including American leads Brendan Fraser and Ned Beatty — considered canceling the show but decided to go ahead. “We had a brief discussion about it with the cast and decided that (to cancel) was really caving into terrorism,” said Tom Siracusa, show’s inhouse producer for West End impresario Bill Kenwright.
The performance played to about 75% capacity in the 900-plus seater.
Road must go on
Many U.S. road companies, which also were shut down on Tuesday as the country reacted to the tragic events, resumed performances Wednesday, Bernstein said.
With the exception of the occasional legit strike, the three-perf gap represents the longest interruption in the Broadway performing sked in recent memory. Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, Broadway theaters closed on Friday, Nov. 22, and Monday, Nov. 25, the day of the funeral, but remained opened for the intervening Saturday matinee and evening performances.
The immediate impact of the three-perf moratorium represented a loss of about $1.5 million for Broadway. Midweek performances often gross substantially less than weekend perfs, with the exception of sold-out shows such as “The Producers” and “The Lion King.” September is customarily Broadway’s lowest-grossing month, with several shows this season having just closed (“Fosse,” “Riverdance,” “The Dinner Party”) and only two (“Hedda Gabler,” “Dance of Death”) set to begin previews later this month.
The exception is “Urinetown,” which canceled its official opening Wednesday. The new musical will play tonight’s perf, but has not yet reskedded its opening date.
Off Broadway, “Reefer Madness” pushed back its first preview three days, to Tuesday, with its opening still scheduled for Oct. 7. And Primary Stages postponed its Oct. 1 opening night of “Immaculate Misconception,” with its first preview now set for Sept. 27. It could not be confirmed at press time if Lost Musicals, the new concert series, would present its Sunday opening of Cole Porter’s “Let’s Face It” as planned.
Also unconfirmed were the openings of Signature Theater’s “The Late Henry Moss” (Sept. 23), by Sam Shepard, and the Drama Dept.’s “Rude Entertainment” (Sept. 20) by Paul Rudnick. Several theater companies, as well as legit publicity firms, remained closed Wednesday.
Other Great White Way workers speculated about the potential long-term impact on Broadway’s health.
“There will be some impact,” said Paul Libin, Jujamcyn Theater’s producing director. “People could be afraid to come to New York City. I pray it is not affected, but realistically it is a potential, a powerful potential, even though the city is safer now than ever before.”
Of immediate concern to the Jujamcyn org was the safety of Nathan Lane, star of “The Producers,” who lives in the financial district. Reportedly, the actor felt the shock of the World Trade Center attack but was unharmed.
Workers at the discount TKTS booth in the World Trade Center were reported safe. TKTS’ Times Square booth will resume operations today.
In London, “The Graduate” co-producer Sacha Brooks said the true box office fallout was yet to be felt. Business there obviously will suffer if travelers curtail tours or trips to the U.K. because of the threat of terrorism.
And while playhouses across the West End asked for a minute of silence before Tuesday’s perf, over at the Royal National Theater revival of “All My Sons,” co-star James Hazeldine led the audience in a post-show silence.
“Everyone was just in a state of complete shock, particularly doing that play that evening,” said Lucinda Morrison, NT head of press. The plot of the Arthur Miller play involves a father’s ethical misdeeds resulting in the airborne deaths of many young men, including his son.
During the Donmar Warehouse press opening of Sian Phillips’ cabaret act, many in the audience were seen looking downward during her rendition late in the first act of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” with its reference to “gone to graveyards, every one.”
And at the Almeida Theater preem of Chekhov’s “Platonov,” few in the audience could fail to think of that day’s kamikaze pilots bent on mass slaughter when one of the characters remarked, “Suicide is a sin; praying for suicide is a sin.”
Shubert Organization chairman Gerald Schoenfeld rejected the idea that the terrorist attacks were specific to New York City and Washington, D.C. “This crisis is worldwide. It is not New York-centric,” he said. “The immediate impact (on the theater) will be directly related to how quickly the city gets back to normal and gets that message out.”
Various producers seemed less sanguine, voicing the opinion that the current tourist boom could not be sustained. One producer worried about skittish investors pulling out of spring 2002 productions that have yet to secure a theater — or enough cash.