On Sunday, the Tonys — a joint venture of the American Theatre Wing and Broadway League — is seeking to end the practice of dozens of producers rushing the stage at Radio City Music Hall when their show wins. Just six producers will be permitted onstage to accept each major award — for play, musical and play and musical revival — according to an email from League President Charlotte St. Martin and Tony Award Productions that was obtained by Broadway Journal.
“Like Christmas Day and sex with supermodels, Broadway seasons are often far more exciting during the anticipation stage.” So began Jess Cagle’s December 1997 review of Broadway’s The Lion King in Entertainment Weekly. (He gave it an A+).
Two decades later, Cagle, 51, is editor-in-chief of People; editorial director of Time Inc.’s Style and Entertainment Group, which includes EW, In Style and Essence; and his conversations with actors, directors and other celebrities — known as The Jess Cagle Interview — are distributed by Sirius XM. We spoke on May 16. Edited excerpts follow:
EXCLUSIVE: The producers of Rebecca aren’t giving up on their four-and-a-half-year campaign to force their former press agent to pay for the musical’s collapse.
Rebecca Broadway Limited Partnership, led by Ben Sprecher and Louise Forlenza, requested a New York judge throw out last month’s $85,000 jury award for wrongful interference against publicist Marc Thibodeau. Sprecher and Forlenza originally sought at least $10.6 million. Their lawyer, Erik Groothuis, said in a court filing that the jury picked $85,000 “from thin air.”
Broadway producers and investors made the brave decision to present several new plays without stars this past season.
Audiences haven’t followed. Grosses for straight plays (non-musicals) tumbled 15 percent in the 12 months ending on Sunday, after plunging 27 percent the previous season, according to statistics out today from the Broadway League. At $154 million, it was the lowest-grossing season for plays in at least six years.
With a week to go, 2016-17 has already surpassed last season’s record grosses.
After 51 weeks, Broadway has sold $1.415 billion of tickets, vs. $1.373 billion for all of 2015-16. Sales are on track to rise 5 percent, according to figures from the Broadway League.
UPDATED THROUGHOUT: In a court battle over money and reputations, the partnership that sought to bring Rebecca the Musical to Broadway won a token $90,000 damage award against its former press agent — less than 1 percent of what producers were seeking.
Publicist Marc Thibodeau hugged his lawyers and cried after the jury verdict. Five women and one man decided that Thibodeau wrongfully interfered with a contract but didn’t defame Rebecca Broadway LP when he sent rogue emails under the pseudonyms Sarah Finkelstein and Bethany Walsh. The emails warned a prospective investor that Rebecca‘s commercial potential was questionable and there was fraud in its midst .
Rebecca Broadway LP vs. Marc Thibodeau went to the jury Tuesday afternoon after two weeks of testimony. The five women and one man had a range of information requests out of the gate in order to decide the civil suit, which was filed in 2013 after Rebecca the Musical collapsed amid a cash shortfall.
At 2:30 pm, Marc Thibodeau was a courageous truth teller. By 4 pm he was a destructive liar.
Closing statements at the Rebecca civil trial this afternoon painted opposing pictures of its former press agent and the musical he represented — and according to its producers, sabotaged.
EXCLUSIVE: The email was sent at 8:21 am Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012. Subject line: “Confidential.”
“Have you ever Googled Mark Hotton Long Island?” wrote Marc Thibodeau, press agent for Rebecca the Musical, to lead producer Ben Sprecher about the West Islip, Long Island, stock broker Sprecher hired to raise money. Thibodeau wrote that he discovered “several instances of lawsuits against him for fraud.”
The publicist added that the broker hadn’t produced evidence that an investor named Paul Abrams who purportedly died of malaria — one of four mysterious overseas angels Hotton recruited — ever existed.
EXCLUSIVE: On Sept. 27, 2012, four days before Rebecca the Musical was to begin rehearsals, it sold 27 tickets.
The day’s “wrap,” or sales, was $2,952.50, according to an internal production document introduced this week in the Rebecca civil trial.
Its advance sale was $1.035 million, the document said. “That would be a weak advance,” testified Aaron Lustbader, a partner at Foresight Theatrical, the general manager of such shows as Phantom of the Opera. Lustbader wasn’t involved in Rebecca, which was postponed for the third and final time a day before rehearsals were to start. Big musicals typically wrap $50,000 each day before previews, he testified yesterday.