What's Up For Today?

New York Cool - Ask Miss Wendy

New York City - Theatre

Wendy R. Williams'
November 2007 Theatre Column


Greetings Theater Lovers,

Stage Hand Strike
November 10, 2007
Photo Credit Angelo Rivera

November 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 don't.

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 Belasco Theater.
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 & Roll (rocknrolltheplay), 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

Aaron Sorkin (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.

Young Frankenstein

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. Log onto
youngfrankensteinthemusical.com 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.

Rock on!



© New York Cool 2004-2014