November 2007 Theatre Column
Stage Hand Strike
November 10, 2007
Photo Credit Angelo Rivera
11, 2007: Yesterday Broadway Local One (the
stage hands union) went on strike and a huge number
of Broadway shows are now dark. This strike plus
the WGA's (writers) strike does not bode well for
a Merry Christmas season in New York.
While everyone here
at New York Cool has lots of sympathy for the hard
working stage hands who are facing an unemployed
Christmas, the union rules that they work under
do seem archaic i.e. the number of stage hands a
Broadway producer is required to hire for a production
is determined by the size of the theater, not by
the requirements of the show. So a producer wishing
to produce a one man show is required to hire enough
stage hands to create an unneeded complicated set.
Ditto for the musicians union; if a producer wants
to produce a show that consists of one man wandering
around an empty stage accompanied by one violinist,
the producer is forced to pay salaries for an orchestra
commensurate with the size of the theater even though
these musicians never report for work because the
show does not require an orchestra. And of course,
this empty stage production must pay salaries for
the number of stage hands the union contract requires
to be used for any production in that theater.
When you look at
the lights of Broadway with hit show like The
Producers and Lion King which have
had smashing success and decade long runs, it is
hard to remember that the vast majority of Broadway
shows (who are easy to forget because they closed
instantly) never recoup their initial investment
and some close without recouping one dime. For every
Hairspray there is a Dracula,
for every Mamma Mia a Bombay Dreams.
Three years ago,
I took the Commercial
Theater Institute's three day course for prospective
Broadway producers. They told us that it costs SEVERAL
HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS dollars to load a show
into a Broadway theater (because of union rules)
and the same amount to unload (regardless of the
size of the set). When I asked where I could find
investors who would be willing to invest several
million dollars up front for a show with no guarantee
that there would be any payback whatsoever, they
told me to look to my friends. Well, I immediately
realized that I would never be a Broadway producer
because I did not know a single soul who would be
willing to make such a risky investment and I still
So here's to the
hard working stage hands and also to the besotted-theater-loving-Broadway-producers
who foolishly (and with little hope of return) throw
their money down the well of creativity that is
Broadway. Let's all hope that cooler heads prevail
and the producers and union are able to find a solution
that is equitable for all parties including the
tourists who travalled to New York City from all
over only to find that their shows have been cancelled.
For more information
on the strike and how it is affecting theatergoers
and the city's economy, log onto nytimes.com
(you will need to get a user name and password,
but it is free) and MSNBC.com
(no password required).
I am appending my
September and August Theater Columns which covered
Broadway shows that are opening this fall. But please
check, according to new reports the only shows that
are open right now (new or old) are: How the
Grinch Stole Christmas; Pygmalion;
The Ritz; Cymbeline; Young
Frankenstein; Mary Poppins; Xanadu;
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee;
and Mauritius. See latest update on the
strike 11/26/2007 on MSNBC.com.
Fall is upon us
and there is a bevy of hot new shows and hot Hollywood
stars hitting Broadway. In fact, if you look at
the line up of Hollywood stars who will be gracing
Broadway stages this fall, a thinking man or woman
would surmise that SAG will strike in solidarity
with the WGA when the Writers Guild of America's
contract expires in October. Both unions are unhappy
about the way they are being compensated by the
new media world of DVD's and the internet.
But this rumbling out of California
is only benefiting the fall theater line up. Chazz
Palminteri is opening his one man show, A Bronx
Tale, at the Walter Kerr Theater.
Kevin Kline and Golden Globe winner Jennifer Garner
will star in a new production of Cyrano de Bergerac
at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, running October
12th - December 23rd. Randy Quaid will be starring
in his first Broadway show, Lone Star Love,
which opens for preview on November 1, 2007 at the
And Claire Danes will star in Pygmalion,
which will run October 11, 2007 - December 16, 2007
at the American Airlines Theatre.
Tom Stoppard's Rock & Roll
One other notable show that will be
opening this fall is Tom Stoppard's Rock &
starring Rufus Sewell, Sinead Cox and Brian Cox
- all from the original London cast. Stoppard has
always been a brilliantly subversive playwright.
And his talents first shone on Broadway forty years
ago with his first Broadway production when he turned
Hamlet on its ear in Rosencrantz
and Guildenstern are Dead.
One play that I am sure to catch is
Tracy Lett's August:
Osage County which begins previews on October
30th and opens November 20th for an open run at
the Imperial Theatre after a sold out run at Chicago's
Steppenwolf Theater. Letts is the Pulitzer price
nominated playwright (for Man from Nebraska)
of Bug, which I reviewed when it ran three
years ago at the Barrow Street Theater. Bug
was subsequently made into a movie starring
Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon (from the Off Broadway
production). See my June
theater column for more about Bug.
Bug was wonderful so August: Osage County
is definitely makes my short list.
Disney's The Little Mermaid
Also, believe it or not, The
Little Mermaid (thelittlemermaid)
is another not-to-be-missed show hitting Broadway.
Mermaid has a book by Douglas Wright, the
playwright who won the Pulitzer Prize for I
Am My Own Wife, a play about an East German
transvestite. Just as playwright Douglas Carter
Beane (The Little Dog Laughed) was able
to turn Xanadu into a delicious campy feast,
with Wright as the playwright, Mermaid
should be truly enjoyable for the entire family
and not just a treat for Brownie-troupes-on-a-field-trip.
And from my August Theater Column:
Fall will soon be here and there
is a plethora of interesting new shows opening on
Broadway. Here are three that caught my eye:
The Farnsworth Collection
(of West Wing fame) has penned a new play,
The Farnsworth Collection, which is opening
on November 4, 2007 at the Music Box Theater. The
show tells the story of the invention of television.
Now I am a West Wing junkie (I have all
the first four Sorkin years DVD's) and I really
tried to love Studio 60, so I am truly
psched to see this new play. Log onto farnsworthonbroadway.com
for more information about the play.
The Producers may have
closed on Broadway but another one of Mel Brook’s
campy movie classics, Young Frankenstein,
is coming to Broadway, opening on November 8, 2007
at the Hilton Theatre. Now I just know this one
is going to be fun and nothing like the other monster
fiasco, Frank Wildhorn’s Dracula.
for more information about this show.
Lone Star Love
And last, Randy Quaid is starring
in Lone Star Love, a musical retelling
of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor.
Lone Star is opening December 2, 2007 at
the Belasco Theater. I saw Lone Star Love
when it played off-Broadway back in February of
2005 and featured it in this column.
It was a lot of fun and has the potential to be
a hit on Broadway (you certainly can’t fault
the plot). Log onto lonestarlovethemusical.com
for more information about the show.
For information on all the Broadway
shows, log onto our Broadway
theater listing section.