Some shows are snakebit. “Rebecca,” a musical based on the classic 1938 Daphne du Maurier novel, was originally supposed to open last March but had to postpone due to a shortfall in its $12 million budget. Re-scheduled to open this November, stage hands were two weeks into the massive job of making a home out of the Broadhurst Theater for the Broadway epic when they heard the news last Friday: All work was to be halted for a two-week hiatus as the producers tried to sort out yet another body blow.
According to an inside source, a major investor (said to have a stake of $2 million in the show) had travelled to Africa, contracted malaria, and then, upon his return to New York, had died. On Saturday, the musical’s lead producers Ben Sprecher and Louise Forlenza issued this statement:
“Since the tragic and sudden death of a major investor in early August, we have been working with the representatives of the estate to complete the committed investment. We had been reassured that the commitment would be honored, and have tried day and night to finalize this matter, but as of yet have been unable to do so, which has left us no choice but to delay the start of rehearsals for Rebecca by two weeks. We are fiercely committed to resolving this issue as soon as possible and getting the show back on track.”
The musical had its world premiere in 2006 in Vienna, where it ran for three years, and there have been more productions in other European cities. But for its Broadway transfer, two major changes were instituted. Veteran British director Michael Blakemore (“Kiss Me, Kate”) was recruited to supplement the work of Francesca Zambello (“The Little Mermaid”); and Christopher Hampton (“Les Liaisons Dangereuses”) was hired to revamp the book by German author Michael Kunze (“Dance of the Vampires”). Jill Paice has been cast in the role of a young wife of a rich Englishman who feels that she must compete with the memory of her successor who died under mysterious circumstances. (Joan Fontaine was nominated for an Oscar in this role in Alfred Hitchock’s 1940 film classic.) Ryan Silverman has been given the role of the wealthy Max de Winter while the rest of the cast is populated with such Broadway veterans as Karen Mason (as the seriously weird Mrs. Danvers), Howard McGillin, and James Barbour. Another topnotch talent, Graciela Daniele, will stage the musical. Now the question is when — and whether — they can get to work. It’s obviously tough wading through the legal thicket of a will and may be even more difficult to replace the capital. But there’ve been other shows which have had the reputation of being snakebit, and they recovered quite nicely. One of them, “Spider-Man” earned nearly $1.5 million last week.