Lloyd Webber, others raise $800K to keep prod'n alive

LONDON — “By Jeeves,” they’ve done it!

The Andrew Lloyd Webber-Alan Ayckbourn musical that had been counted as one of the theatrical casualties of last week’s terrorist attacks is once again on course for a Broadway opening at the Helen Hayes Theater on Oct. 28.

“It’s all back on track,” Lloyd Webber told Daily Variety Thursday. “We will open as planned.

“The Brits have rallied round, I have to say,” added the composer, referring to a “rear-guard action” mounted in London in order to save the production.

Lloyd Webber said he was among five Britons — football player-turned-actor Vinnie Jones (“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”) is another — who joined together to come up with the $800,000 lost from the Goodspeed production when two individual investors pulled out in the wake of the attacks.

The overall capitalization of the show is $1.7 million, though lead producer Michael Price said that figure “was sure to go up; we are racing so fast.”

Attending to the financial shortfall was the least Lloyd Webber said he could do under the circumstances, “after all I’ve done in New York, and all the luck I’ve had on Broadway.”

At the same time, he said long-running musicals like his own “Phantom of the Opera” and fellow Brit hit “Les Miserables” were most endangered as Broadway goes into economic freefall. “To be honest,” he said, “I suspect they will close.”

Without last week’s events, said Lloyd Webber, “Phantom” and “Les Miz” “would have trundled on for another five years without a problem.” But, he added, “it’s the old shows, isn’t it, which depend on the out-of-towners” — who now aren’t coming to Manhattan.

“By Jeeves,” by contrast, represents fresh theatrical fare at a time when Broadway desperately needs it.

For new shows, said Lloyd Webber, “there is a Manhattan audience that will want to be going to the theater.” The musical even took $46,000 Wednesday with, he said, “the box office not there.”

Price, in turn, sounded similarly emboldened.

“There are no plays,” said Price, who first produced the musical at Goodspeed’s Norma Terris playhouse in Chester, Conn., five years ago, “and this show will appeal to playgoers as well as the musical theater person.” He cited “the New Yorker crowd” as a hoped-for audience.

How did Price feel about the protracted, often anguished journey that this production has traveled to get to Broadway? (On Tuesday, the actors were released from the show only to be put back on hold the next day.)

“I could become a schizophrenic very early,” he said.

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