The Playgoer: The Livent Trial

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Livent Trial

Does anyone remember Livent? Or Garth Drabinsky, the fugitive real-life Max Bialystok (allegedly) who, built that monstrosity of a Broadway theatre (now called the Hilton), produced a handful of behemoth musicals (some praised, like Ragtime), then skipped town and the country once charges surfaced of defrauding his investors.

Well, nine years later, justice finally catches up with Livent in a Toronto courtroom:

Former Livent honcho and Tony-winner Garth Drabinsky and long-time associate Myron Gottlieb pleaded not guilty to falsifying financial statements and bilking investors out of C$500 million ($493.6 million), as the curtain rose on their long-awaited criminal fraud trial before an Ontario Supreme Court Justice on Monday.

Arrested in 2002 after a four-year probe by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the pair -- who founded the now-defunct Livent, once North America's largest producer of live theater -- face two charges of fraud and one of forgery, reduced from an initial 19 charges. The charges, which span December 1989 to August 1998, carry a maximum penalty of 14 years.

Drabinsky, 58, and Gottlieb, 64, were also indicted in 1999 by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York on 16 charges of conspiracy and fraud, but U.S. proceedings are deferred until the completion of the trial now under way in Toronto.

Ok, I admit pausing over this at the image of the "Royal Canadian Mounted Police" literally trailing Drabinsky & co. on horseback as they attempt escape with their sacks full of pilfered investor dollars. Or maybe that was just some bad Livent musical.

Anyway, stay tuned for the trial, which is sure to be a fitting metaphor for the legacy of "the megamusical."


Scott said...

I condemn the criminal activity of LIVENT and its honchos, but I need to dispute the idea of "bad LIVENT musicals."

While their track record was not perfect, here is a list of the LIVENT shows, most of which I loved:

KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN (Tony-winning Best Musical 1993)
SHOW BOAT (excellent Tony-winning Hal Prince revival at the Gershwin)
CANDIDE (also at the Gershwin, and not one of my favorites)
BARRYMORE (Tony-winning star turn by Christopher Plummer)
RAGTIME (one of my all-time favorite musicals)
PARADE (another favorite of mine)
FOSSE (tied with CANDIDE for my least favorite LIVENT show)

If FOSSE and CANDIDE are the worst you can point to, I'd say their taste was overall pretty damn good.

Playgoer said...

Fair enough "A." I should have consulted such a list. And thanks for providing one!

True, Drabinsky was faulted for many things during his time on Broadway. But bad taste was not one of them.