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Theater fire ignites collaboration

Goodspeed, North Shore unite

This article was updated at 5:43 p.m.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A devastating theater fire has resulted in a new presenting collaboration and the rescue of two musicals.

The future of tuner “Abyssinia,” a co-production of Goodspeed Musicals of East Haddam, Conn., and the North Shore Music Theater of Beverly, Mass., was in doubt after an electrical fire at the suburban Boston theater July 14. The production of “Cinderella,” which had opened that night, was immediately canceled. Also axed was “Abyssinia,” which was slated for an Aug. 23-Sept. 11 run before its transfer to Goodspeed for a Sept. 30-Dec. 4 stint.

The fire severely damaged the stage and interior of the 1,800-seat not-for-profit theater. Repairs, at a cost estimated to be in the millions, won’t be completed until mid-fall. That would mean “Abyssinia” and the next show, “Camelot,” would be homeless.

“Abyssinia” now will play the 1,500-seat Shubert Theater in Boston for three weeks before coming to East Haddam, followed by “Camelot.”

Josiah A. Spaulding Jr., prez-CEO of the not-for-profit Wang Center for the Performing Arts, has waived the rent at the Shubert, estimated to be several hundred thousand dollars, for the engagement of the two North Shore shows.

“We’ve been talking for years about how we might collaborate, and this is a start for us,” Spaulding said.

“This could be the beginning of a major ramping-up of this organization and help us recover us from what is a devastating financial loss,” said Jon Kimbell, executive producer of North Shore.

“Abyssinia” was the first co-prod between North Shore and Goodspeed in an effort to develop new musicals and launch them into a “national awareness,” said Kimbell.

This fall Goodspeed is launching the first national tour of one of its mainstage shows, “The Boy Friend,” directed by Julie Andrews; tuner will play the Shubert in October.

North Shore, now in its 50th year, is expected to reopen Oct. 25 with “The Fully Monty.”

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