You know the equation: Movie star X takes role in Broadway play Y and gets instant cred. Nicole Kidman did it with The Blue Room, Antonio Banderas with Nine, and (surprise, surprise) Melanie Griffith with Chicago.
But this season, the star-as-insurance formula has gone awry. Farrah Fawcett’s show, Bobbi Boland, closed before it opened, Jasmine Guy “withdrew for medical reasons” from The Violet Hour during previews, Jenna Elfman was fired from Nine before even making it to previews, and Billy Crudup quit Henry IV (and Mary-Louise Parker) for personal reasons. (Luckily, Kevin and Ethan remained.)
Even stars who did get to open are having hiccups: Ellen Burstyn learned Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All was closing the morning after opening night; Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame, in Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, is playing to 31 percent capacity.
Producers have also had their issues. Circle in the Square is dark because Paper Doll’s team pulled out late in the game. And Barry Manilow’s musical, Harmony, failed to get sufficient financing. What’s going on?
“Last year, we had terrorist threats, a blizzard, a musicians’ strike,” says Wicked producer David Stone. “This year, the threat is from within.” The drama backstage (Taboo, anyone?) is rivaling the drama on. “Our heads are spinning,” confesses Stone.
It doesn’t help that gossip columnists both official (the Post’s Michael Riedel) and unofficial (the fiends on talkinbroadway.com’s All That Chat) are gunning for certain shows. And pity the actor who winds up having to carry a show: Hugh Jackman and Jimmy Smits are busy trying to keep The Boy From Oz and Anna in the Tropics aloft.
Suddenly, pilot season in Hollywood doesn’t look so bad.