TOUGH TIMES FOR BROADWAY THIS FALL

FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Now it’s GODSPELL that is saying no to Broadway.

A revival of the 70s STEPHEN SCHWARTZ flower power musical about Jesus has announced it will NOT open as scheduled. It is the fourth production to be put on hold this season.

“I am devastated that, due to the loss of a major investor in the harsh reality of a slowing economy, there were no other options at this time than to postpone,” GODSPELL producer ADAM EPSTEIN said.

GODSPELL had been set to open OCTOBER 23 at the ETHEL BARRYMORE THEATRE. The musical, reportedly budgeted at more than $4,000,000, joins a growing number of shows that are chancy propositions for Broadway in a nervous, recession wary environment.

“There are so many variables in bringing a production to Broadway – theatre availability, artists’ schedules and securing capitalization to name a few,” stated HOWARD SHERMAN, executive director of the AMERICAN THEATRE WING.

“It’s impossible not to be cognizant of the national economy and its potential impact on the theatre. But it’s also premature to say whether the recent changes in plans by certain shows represent a trend, especially as we’re likely to see other productions quickly step up to fill the available theatres in their stead.”

THE BARRYMORE, one of the most desirable BROADWAY theatres for plays, was quickly grabbed up for the revival of DAVID MAMET’S SPEED THE PLOW , starring JEREMY PIVEN and ELIZABETH MOSS (currently seen on the TV show MAD MEN). It opens OCTOBER 23 in place of GODSPELL. Previews start OCTOBER 3.

That’s not the only MAMET on BROADWAY this fall.

AMERICAN BUFFALO, starring JOHN LEGUIZAMO and CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER, has taken the BELASCO THEATRE – where SPEED THE PLOW was to originally have played. It opens there NOVEMBER 17 with previews beginning on OCTOBER 31.

“Speed The Plow is a play about glamour, sex and power and takes place in Hollywood,” said its producer JEFFREY RICHARDS. “I think Speed The Plow is less familiar than American Buffalo and was overshadowed by Madonna being part of the original production.”

AMERICAN BUFFALO, a robbery tale set in a Chicago junk shop, has has several New York productions, both on and off Broadway over the years. “But both demonstrate the versatility of David Mamet as a playwright,” Mr. Richards said.

Yet another play revival was not as lucky.

NTOZAKE SHANGE’S FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE WHEN THE RAINBOW IS ENUF, which was to have starred the GRAMMY winning singer INDIA.ARIE, collapsed after losing one of its backers and cancelled its SEPTEMBER 8 opening at CIRCLE IN THE SQUARE.

Also unlikely to be seen any time soon are two big musicals, including a revival of LERNER and LOEWE’S BRIGADOON. The show – about a mysterious Scottish village that comes to life every 100 years – was unable to find an appropriate theatre. It had been scheduled for next spring.

In limbo (at least for the moment) is NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT, a reworking of classic GERSHWIN tunes starring HARRY CONNICK JR. The project faltered after director/choreographer KATHLEEN MARSHALL withdrew from the show. Its producers are looking for a replacement.

Despite the worrisome news concerning upcoming productions, summer has been particularly good for the long running plays from THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA to CHICAGO. Add to that list LEGALLY BLONDE (buoyed by the MTV reality series that showcased its new star BAILEY HANKS) and XANADU (which got a box office bounce when WHOOPI GOLDBERG joined the cast in late July).

“The weak dollar has enabled an influx of foreign tourists and they go to see musicals,” remarked Mr. Richards.

But what happens after most of the visitors go home after Labour Day is uncertain.

It’s cold comfort to the people behind GODSPELL.

STEPHEN SCHWARTZ noted hopefully: “The cast and creative team were poised to create a terrific production and I have no doubt it will be just that when its time comes.”

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