ShentonSTAGE Daily for Tuesday January 4

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Welcome to today’s special New Year’s edition of ShentonSTAGE Daily, to usher in what is already, sadly, proving to be an uncertain start to the New Year. (Please feel free to forward this e-mail to friends, and invite them to be added to this list!)

MOULIN ROUGE POSTPONES — AGAIN

The West End premiere of Moulin Rouge was originally due to have taken place on December 8 — but when cast members tested positive for COVID that week, the final previews and planned opening night were all lost. 

Performances subsequently resumed in the transformed Piccadilly Theatre (view above is from the upper circle), but by then it was too late to re-invite the press before Christmas, and new press performances were set for this coming week, starting tomorrow (January 5), prior to an official opening that was scheduled for this Sunday (January 9).

But on Sunday these, too, were again postponed: ‘”Sadly there are further cases of sickness amongst the principal cast and the production is not in a position to open this coming week, as intended.”

Opening a show in the midst of a pandemic resurgence is obviously not ideal, and no one is going to shoot the messenger here.

It’s hardly alone in having had its opening plans disrupted. Also yet to announce new press dates are the National’s HEX (that should have opened December 15) and FORCE MAJEURE at the Donmar Warehouse (that was originally due to have opened December 16).

And of course unspoken here is the possibility that the government may yet introduce new restrictions on live public gatherings, though Health minister Sajid Javid has forcefully indicated that these would be a step of last resort, proudly writing in the Daily Mail on the weekend that England had

“welcomed in 2022 with some of the least restrictive measures in Europe. Curbs on our freedom must be an absolute last resort and the British people rightly expect us to do everything in our power to avert them. Since I came into this role six months ago, I’ve also been acutely conscious of the enormous health, social and economic costs of lockdowns. So I’ve been determined that we must give ourselves the best chance of living alongside the virus and avoiding strict measures in the future.”

Boris Johnson is famously said to have remarked prior to being forced to introduce the last lockdown, “Let the bodies pile high!”, and it seems that he may be determined to see that finally come to pass. The economy must clearly be put ahead of public health, whatever the cost…. We may yet find that we are counting that cost for years to come..

BROADWAY SENDS MRS DOUBTFIRE ON HIATUS

And in another sign of the troubled times, Kevin McCollum, the lead producer of the new stage musical version of MRS DOUBTFIRE, currently at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre on Broadway, announced on Sunday that he was instituting a 9-week hiatus of the run, from January 10-March 14 inclusive, before planning to resume from March 15.

In a press statement, he said;

“The first few months of a brand new Broadway show are an extraordinarily delicate and important period of time.  With the pervasiveness of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, Mrs. Doubtfire would have to close permanently if the production didn’t take drastic, pro-active measures…. Mrs Doubfire has been in development for six years.  We are doing everything in our power to keep the virus from prematurely ending our run on Broadway. By taking this break we can afford to launch an extended run starting in March.”


And interviewed in the New York Times, he said:

“My job is to protect the jobs long-term of those who are working on Mrs. Doubtfire, and this is the best way I can do that today. I can’t just sit idly by when there’s a solution, albeit unprecedented and painful. I can’t guarantee anything, but at this moment this is the most prudent thing I can do with the tools I have.”

Without the hiatus, he said the show would run out of money and be forced to close within three weeks. Its weekly running costs — what is called its ‘nut’ on Broadway — are reported to be around $700,000 a week; during the last week, which is traditionally one of the busiest of the year, McCollum said the show grossed about $900,000, whereas he expected to take $1.3m. 

These are the hard economic facts of Broadway; and as McCollum also feelingly said, ““You’re asking me to plant a sapling in a hurricane.”

It isn’t the first show to go on hiatus — in the West End, Andrew Lloyd Webber had already put Cinderella on suspension, to February 9. In the statement announcing this, it was declared:

“The spread of the Omicron variant is devastating. Like many theatres up and down the country, day after day we are forced to make decisions (often at short notice) based on the latest round of test results. This is incredibly difficult for our cast, company, and, of course, audiences, many of whom have travelled long distances and spent considerable sums on transport, hotels etc. To avoid more disruption, and to protect the quality of the show we give our audiences, we have no option but to suspend all performances of Cinderella until February 9, 2022.”


And on the fringe, Battersea’s Turbine Theatre made this announcement yesterday:


The postponement of MFEST UK does, at least, give producer Paul Taylor-Mills an opportunity to look again at the line-up of this year’s festival, that has been heavily criticised for featuring a line-up of musicals entirely created by white people.

THIS NEWSLETTER IS CURRENTLY PUBLISHING ON A REDUCED SCHEDULE. IT WILL APPEAR AS AND WHEN NEWS UPDATES WARRANT THEM. In the meanwhile, latest information will be provided on my Twitter account, @ShentonSTAGE. https://twitter.com/ShentonStage/

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