THEATRE NOTE­BOOK NY strike: sad­ness is deep

The Jewish Chronicle - - ARTS&BOOKS -

PRO­DUCER SO­NIA Fried­man has talked ex­clu­sively to Note­book about the ef­fects of the in­creas­ingly bit­ter stage­hands’ strike on Broad­way, which has seen picket lines re­place queues out­side New York’s the­atres.

Tak­ing Tom Stop­pard’s ac­claimed play Rock ’n’ Roll to the US, which like most pro­duc­tions on Broad­way has had to close be­cause of the dis­pute, Fried­man is the only lead Bri­tish pro­ducer cur­rently in New York.

“My sad­ness is very deep, and I am ut­terly con­fused and be­mused as to how they’ve al­lowed it to get to this point,” said Fried­man.

Last week Note­book won­dered if Mel Brooks’s latest mu­si­cal Young Franken­stein was ben­e­fit­ing from the stage­hands’ strike. Brooks’s show is one of just a hand­ful of un­af­fected pro­duc­tions.

Even be­fore it sold a ticket, YF had bro­ken box of­fice records with an in­de­fen­si­ble mon­ster top seat price of $450. Add to that the re­views, which ranged from the dis­ap­pointed to the down­right dis­parag­ing, and you would think that Brooks might have a flop on his hands wor­thy of Max Bi­a­ly­stock in The Pro­duc­ers.

But now that the show is one of only a few of­fer­ings avail­able to pun­ters in New York, the ques­tion has been an­swered with a re­port that es­ti­mates YF has grossed a healthy $1.7 mil­lion. Which is pretty amaz­ing when you con­sider what the New York Times said: “No, it is not nearly as good as The Pro­duc­ers… No, it’s not as much fun as the 1974 Mel Brooks movie, also called Young Franken­stein… No, it does not pro­vide $450 worth of plea­sure.”

As­so­ci­ated Press of­fered the be­grudg­ing com­pli­ment “a scat­tered, fit­fully en­ter­tain­ing show”; USA To­day said, “too many songs are dull… The song­writ­ing skill Brooks showed in The Pro­duc­ers is ab­sent here”, and News­day carped, “Some­thing’s wrong in Tran­syl­va­nia when the only thing in stitches is the crea­ture’s face.”

Com­pare th­ese re­views to Rock ’n’ Roll which Fried­man took to the West End be­fore New York. “Pos­si­bly Stop­pard’s finest play,” said the New York Times; the New York Post called it “funny and en­thralling”; “Ex­hil­a­rat­ing, touch­ing, and re­mark­able,” gushed the Wash­ing­ton Post.

Mean­while the strike goes on with just eight shows run­ning out of 35, and with Young Franken­stein rak­ing it in, while Rock ’n’ Roll, which stars Ru­fus Sewell as the Jewish, Czech dis­si­dent Jan, kicks its heels in frus­tra­tion.

“I’m in touch with Tom Stop­pard ev­ery day,” says Fried­man, who is also plan­ning to take both Boe­ing, Boe­ing! and The Seag­ull star­ring Kristin Scott Thomas to Broad­way. “He is as dis­tressed as any au­thor would be. He doesn’t have a par­tic­u­lar point of view [about the strike], just, like me, ab­so­lutely shocked we are in this place.”

When asked how long and Rock ’n’ Roll could last in this state of limbo, Fried­man al­most shud­dered at the ques­tion.

“There’s noth­ing in my DNA that will even go there. It’s not even in my realm of pos­si­bil­ity that Rock ’n’ Roll won’t come back. Ev­ery­thing I do is mak­ing sure that my show is go­ing to be there when this is over. I’m per­son­ally very up­set and ab­so­lutely dev­as­tated for the ac­tors af­fected by this. I just want this solved.”

PHOTO: VICKY AL­HAD­EFF

Fried­man: “I’m dev­as­tated”

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