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‘La Bete’ Not Yet; Ostrow Wants Time

Stuart Ostrow spent most of last week with his hands in other people’s pockets – Andrew Lloyd Webber’s among them – in an effort to buy some extra time for an unknown actor in a starring role and an untested playwright carrying the most expensive straight show in legit history.

Ostrow, co-producer with Lloyd Webber of “La Bete,” now at the Wilbur in Boston and Broadway bound, delayed opening the $2 million show at the Eugene O’Neill from Jan. 31 to Feb 3. O’Neill Theater owner Jujamcyn also has $250,000 in the production. Previews still are scheduled to begin Jan. 29.

Now Ostrow is trying to raise about another $250,000 so the opening can be held off until Feb. 10. He says he hopes to give British director Richard Jones more time to work with actor Tom McGowan, a recent Yale Drama School grad who took over the lead from Ron Silver while show was in previews.

Extra week also would give the team more time with writer David Hirson’s changes, Ostrow said, which have just gone in. The show, a mock-17th-century comedy of manners scripted entirely in rhyming couplets, has done fair to poor business at the Wilbur, despite raves from the Boston Globe and the Boston Phoenix. (It got a mixed review from the Boston Herald.) There’s virtually no advance in New York, and the show has yet to advertise in New York.

Then again, Ostrow’s last show, “M. Butterfly,” also did poor business in its out-of-town tryout (in D.C.) and had even more trouble with the reviews before coming to Broadway. It went on to become the surprise hit of the ’88 season and won the best play Tony. Still, insiders say that with no name above the title and a highbrow, art-vs.-artifice theme, “La Bete” is an even riskier bet than the butterfly.

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