‘Dance’ drops Ahmanson for B’way

Kern tuner to come later as a touring production

HOLLYWOOD — No sooner did the Ahmanson Theater announce its 2003-04 season than one of its big-ticket items came down with a better theater. Or, at least, a Broadway theater.

“Never Gonna Dance” will open on Broadway in fall 2003 — rather than the L.A. venue in February 2004, as announced earlier this week.

A statement from the producers of the “new” Jerome Kern tuner explained their dilemma:

“To ensure a New York theater, the producers of ‘Never Gonna Dance’ have decided to take up the offer of a Broadway house this fall. Since this offer will not necessarily hold until the spring of 2004, the producers would like to bring ‘Never Gonna Dance’ to Los Angeles as the first stop of a national tour at a later date.”

The powers at the Ahmanson did not applaud the news.

‘Signed commitment’

“Center Theater Group has a signed commitment from the producers of ‘Never Gonna Dance’ to present the pre-Broadway engagement of the musical at the Ahmanson Theater from January to March 2004,” said rep Tony Sherwood, reading from a statement. “Unfortunately for Los Angeles audiences, the producers have decided not to honor that commitment and go directly into New York . . . We regret this unprecedented decision.”

Sherwood said the theater had begun a search for a replacement show.

“Never Gonna Dance” is based on the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rodgers film classic “Swing Time.” The stage show features a new book by Jeffrey Hatcher, as well as several Jerome Kern standards not heard in the RKO pic. Michael Greif directs, Jerry Mitchell choreographs.

It’s big

Due to its large ensemble, “Never Gonna Dance” will require one of Broadway’s bigger musical houses. Most are currently occupied, but Broadway’s B.O. doldrums could create a few vacancies in the very near future. Apparently, a theater org hopes to fill one of its theaters sooner rather than wait. “Never Gonna Dance” had been expected to open on Broadway in April 2004 immediately after its winter Ahmanson gig.

Legit etiquette did not allow the “NGD” producers to reveal which theater they’ve been promised. It is considered bad form to announce a theater before that venue’s current occupant has posted a closing notice.

Producers on “Never Gonna Dance” include Weissberger Theater Group/Jay Harris, Edgar Bronfman Jr., James Walsh and Ted Hartley/RKO Pictures.

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