Curtain falls this month on B'way, London tuner
“The Woman in White” will soon fade to black: The latest Broadway tuner from Andrew Lloyd Webber gives up the ghost Feb. 19.Plagued by cast illnesses, the $8.5 million Gotham production beats the original London incarnation out the door. The West End version shutters Feb. 25 after a 19-month run. Due to health absences, the complete original cast of the Rialto production has appeared together in just 31 of the 108 perfs it has played since it began previews Oct. 28. Show did boffo B.O. for its first New York performances but has since dwindled to middling-to-low grosses. Star Maria Friedman made news during previews when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, underwent surgery and returned to the show in time for the Nov. 17 opening. The actress, who created her lead role in London, was skedded to take a six-week leave for further medical treatment Feb. 12. She will now stay in the show through closing. Other cast members have been sidelined with the flu, and Michael Ball, who plays the comic villain Count Fosco, has battled a viral infection. He has performed in only five shows since the holidays, spurring rumors that he had returned to London (not true, according to his publicist) and leading some legiters to speculate on “Fosco’s Curse.” Michael Crawford, who originated the role in London, left the West End production early citing poor health. Insiders suspected he was simply tired of playing second banana to Friedman and now wonder if the same might be true for Ball. (The Tony administration committee recently decided the thesp would be eligible for the featured actor award.) “I’m not sure even ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ could have survived the illnesses which have beset this wonderful company,” Lloyd Webber said in a statement. Last month the 18-year-old “Phantom” became the longest-running show in Broadway history. “Woman” producers Sonia Friedman, Bob Boyett and the Really Useful Group plan to reconfigure the show for touring productions both in the U.K. and Stateside.