HOWARD PANTER’S BIG PLANS FOR BROADWAY

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FROM VARIETY

HOWARD PANTER has big dreams for the GREAT WHITE WAY.

The British cofounder of the AMBASSADOR THEATER GROUP, the producing organizer and owner of 23 U.K. venues, has two spring productions at the ready: the upcoming remount of GUYS & DOLLS and a revival of EUGENE IONESCO’S EXIT THE KING, starring SUSAN SARANDON and GEOFFREY RUSH.

Despite a gloomy economic climate, that’s just the beginning of the ambitious list of projects that he intends to unleash on New York City – including a handful of productions and a possible new theatre space.

He acknowledges that these days money for new projects is harder to come by. “I’ve noticed a flight of investors from the Broadway scene,” he remarked.

“The majority of the money for Guys & Dolls has come from outside the U.S. Every other industry has an international, global dynamic. But theatre sometimes doesn’t. Seems a shame to me.”

The sudden rush of U.S. east coast activity for HOWARD PANTER – who runs ATG with his wife ROSEMARY SQUIRE – is partly an accident of timing and also the result of having opened an AMBASSADOR office in New York during the last year.

First up is GUYS & DOLLS, which begins its run at the extensively renovated NEDERLANDER THEATER on MARCH 1. However,this is not the same production as the hit DONMAR WAREHOUSE incarnation, which HAROLD PANTER produced in LONDON’S WEST END and in AUSTRALIA.

For the NEW YORK version, DES McANUFF helms a cast that includes LAUREN GRAHAM, OLIVER PLATT and CRAIG BIERKO.

Advance sales look solid. Daily ticket revenue is apparently in the $100,000 plus range.

Meanwhile, EXIT THE KING – debuting at the BARRYMORE THEATER on MARCH 26 – comes to NEW YORK after a successful 2007 engagement in AUSTRALIA. NEIL ARMFIELD, who adapted the script with GEOFFREY RUSH, directs a cast that also has LAUREN AMBROSE and ANDREA MARTIN along for the ride.

AMBASSADOR has developed strong roots in AUSTRALIA. In addition to EXIT THE KING and GUYS & DOLLS, it has productions of WEST SIDE STORY and THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW playing in Oz.

ATG also transferred PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN’S version of RIFLEMIND to London for a short lived season late last year.

Now that HAROLD PANTER has staked out plans to become similarly prolific in New York, it seems logical to inquire about his theatre owning ambitions there – even though Broadway real estate doesn’t look likely to come up for grabs any time soon.

He is exploring the possibility of setting up an entirely new complex, with a couple of theatres that could serve as home bases for the companies where he’s developed ties. They include New York’s LABYRINTH THEATER COMPANY (PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN is an artistic director there) and London’s MENIER CHOCOLATE FACTORY.

“We are actually looking at other buildings around New York and hoping to find a place which would be an international home for LAB, for Sydney Theater Company’s work, for Chocolate Factory’s work, for our work.”

HAROLD PANTER makes no distinctions whatsoever between Broadway and Off Broadway discussing the size of the two new spaces he imagines.

“One would be big enough to make money and the second would be big enough to make things work that deserve to work…and may have a future life.”

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