‘Kate’ troupe cuts salary to stay open

Cast, crew save show amid other revival signs

Another openin’, another show. But not another closing.

In the best tradition of a Mickey & Judy musical, the closing notice came down on Sunday at the Martin Beck Theater as the cast, crew and orchestra of “Kiss Me, Kate” banded together to offer 50% of their salaries to keep the show on the boards.

Along with five other Broadway shows, the Cole Porter revival posted its notice a few days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. For the week of Sept. 10-16, the show took in a mere $84,766 on a gross potential of $518,864.

Producer Roger Berlind made an emotional pre-show speech to his Sunday matinee audience. “Because of the outpouring of generosity and goodwill on the part of the extraordinary members of ‘Kiss Me, Kate,’ ” he said, tearing up the closing notice to cheering from the audience, “the show will go on!”

In the theater lobby, Berlind explained the unusual backstage rescue mission to Daily Variety. “We asked the unions for 50% pay cuts, which is what we needed to keep going. As with some other shows, the unions granted us 25% pay cuts,” the producer said. “The cast, crew, orchestra, wardrobe, everybody on the show, then agreed to take another 25% of their salaries and buy tickets to ‘Kiss Me, Kate.’ ” Those tickets will in turn be distributed free of charge through the charity Broadway Cares. Berlind mentioned tickets also going to persons involved with the Twin Towers rescue operation. The unions’ concessions will be for four weeks, the “KMK” ticket-buying plan for two weeks.

The producer also explained the show’s needed but hefty 50% pay cut. “We had already posted a closing notice for Dec. 30. Unlike some of these other long-running shows, we don’t have all of 2002 or 2003 to make up a number of bad weeks this fall.” Berlind recalled Colin Powell’s Sunday appearance on “Meet the Press” in which the secretary of state said people should “go to ballgames and go to the theater.” The producer added, “I take that as an order!”

Weekend perfs sell out

The good news on Broadway over the weekend was not limited to “Kiss Me, Kate.” Times Square was crowded again, and sources close to several productions noted sold-out weekend performances for “The Producers” as well as “Proof,” “Urinetown” (which opened Thursday) and “Stones in His Pockets,” which closed Sunday. In previews, “Dance of Death” was said to be at or near capacity for the entire week, with “Hedda Gabler” selling very strongly. The latter is reported to have a healthy advance of $600,000.

Last week, the unions and guilds approved 25% across-the-board pay cuts for five shows: “Chicago,” “The Full Monty,” “Les Miserables,” “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Rent.” In their wake, the producers of “42nd Street,” “Urinetown,” “The Music Man,” “Hedda Gabler,” “Proof” and “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” asked for similar concessions, which are to be negotiated with labor today. With large advances and strong weekend ticket sales, it is questionable whether some of these shows will be granted the 25% pay cuts or if their respective producers will even ask for them.

Berlind, who is also a producer of “Proof,” said the 100% cap figures for that production would not deter him from pursuing labor concessions for the Pulitzer Prize-winning play.

“There is a big difference between weekend performances and weekday performances,” said the producer, who remained optimistic about the overall health of Broadway. “There seems to be a bootstrap operation going on that will bring it back.”

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