Hello Todd Haimes,
What a way to end a season, huh? Canceling your big Spring opening--in your flagship venue--two weeks before previews after one of your stars quits. And here you are with about a month to find another show that's ready to load in and get on, if you're not going to lose subscribers who have already paid for a ticket to...something? And if you're not going to leave your American Airlines Theatre on Broadway dark during Tony season.
Not that a big Broadway revival of a mild twenty-year-old Terence McNally comedy was what the New York theatre was crying out for in the first place. (But hey, Manhattan Theatre Club is devoting their mainstage to supersizing a fifteen-year-old Donald Margules play that no one was clamoring to see again either. Misery loves company, I guess.) And not that the strategy of casting such "stars" as, um, mid-level Comedy Central comic Patton Oswalt and sitcom second banana Megan Mullally was quite "money in the bank," either.
So look on the bright side: Ms. Mullally's sudden weird departure (reportedly over disapproval of her even lesser known co-star) perhaps has spared you the collective shrug that might well have greeted this production--as enjoyable as director Joe Mantello might have made it.
Here you are, the richest, biggest nonprofit theatrical enterprise in not only the city, but probably(?) the country. You now have three--count 'em, three--Broadway venues attracting automatic media attention whatever you put on there, plus a sizeable and very prominent Off Broadway space. How have you decided to use those precious resources this year?
On the classy side, you did have a Miss Julie (in Patrick Marber's Brit-appeal update). Your recent Noel Coward fluff Present Laughter (remounted from Boston's Huntington) I heard did quite well and pleased many. Too bad it just closed in the AA, since an extension of that would have solved this problem nicely. But maybe you can move in the very well-reviewed Glass Menagerie (imported from Long Wharf) you just opened in your Off B'way space? The fact that all three are either plays and/or productions from elsewhere may not look great artistically, but at least with these projects you've fulfilled probably your most successful role as a decent touring house.
But then there was Wishful Drinking, another import, where you surrendered another of your B'way venues (Studio 54) to cheap one-woman show featuring a one-step-from-reality-show Hollywood ex-star telling naughty stories about Star Wars. (Personally, I would rather you book this guy.) Now in the same theatre you have a very expensive Sondheim tribute show show, which would seem like a low-rent cabaret if not for Steve talking on a video screen throughout.
Then there was Birdie. You moved mountains to get yourself yet a third Broadway venue--on the site of the old Henry Miller's, but completely rebuilt and custom made for you (and now renamed, what else, the Sondheim!)--and your master plan for it was to open Bye Bye Birdie there and just let it run forever. Unfortunately, a miscast production, critic-nauseating cheesiness, and your inability to find two actors in the whole wide world who could take over the leads in Bye Bye freakin' Birdie after January...forced you to close ahead of schedule. Leaving you with a dark theatre until you put it up for rent and in came Dame Edna and Michael Feinstein. And we all know how that's going. (67% capacity so far isn't so bad, I guess, so let's hope they can at least pay their rent.)
I would say the Roundabout seems downright Job-like this season given such fortunes. But then I think of all that you didn't do with your enviable real estate this year. Think of all the playwrights with new plays (no, not just Theresa Rebeck) you could have gotten out there. Think of all the, ahem, qualified stage actors that could have taken lead roles and wowed the Broadway audiences with their talent if not their names. I mean, these may not have been advisable box office decisions strategically, but...can you say Plan A worked out either?
In other words: What have you got to lose? You've still got your four swank theatres--nay, five if you include your little blackbox, originally meant for edgier new plays, but now you're renting out even that! (and to this oddity, no less)
I can just imagine some ambitious producer out there reading this, salivating at the mouth with dreams of what to fill those stages with, and saying with resolve to his or her computer screen: "Mr. Haimes, if you're not gonna use them five stages to produce some actual dramatic events, step aside. I will."
There's still time for Roundabout 2.0, Todd. What do you say?
Friday, March 26, 2010
Hello Todd Haimes,