Indefatigable Rebecca Producers Aiming for Broadway Bow of 2013; Creative Team Remains On Board

By Kenneth Jones
January 2, 2013

The once and future Broadway producers of Rebecca, The Musical have been granted an extension of the rights to stage the show in New York City, lead producer Ben Sprecher told Playbill.com on Jan. 2. A Broadway launch before the end of 2013 is the goal, he said, adding that the earlier cast of the staging that was scrapped after a financing scandal will be offered their roles. The previous co-directors and designers also remain attached.



VBW, under the direction of Thomas Drozda, licenses all international productions of the pop musical based on the gothic mystery romance by Daphne du Maurier. Sprecher and his partners — who suddenly lost a third of their $12 million capitalization shortly before Broadway rehearsals were to begin late last summer — were again granted the rights "to continue to move forward" for an American premiere on Broadway. The rights period continues to Dec. 31, 2013.

A Long Island businessman's corralling of allegedly fabricated phantom investors scuttled the show last fall, despite the cast being ready to rehearse and the sets and costumes prepared at a cost of more than $5 million. Mark C. Hotton was arrested last fall. A white-knight producer who might have later filled the funding gap — which totaled about $4.5 million — was scared off by someone bad-mouthing Sprecher in an email, and an investigation into that continues.

The pricetag for the reconstituted production will now be "north of $12 million," due to "unanticipated expenses because of delays," Sprecher said. However, he added, the shocking turn of behind-the-scenes events in summer and fall 2012 earned the show "$2 million" in international publicity.

"The show is more valuable today than it was six months ago," he said, adding it's a "wanna-see" event that people are intensely curious about. (Sprecher said he thinks Rebecca is the next Phantom of the Opera — a blockbuster that has played 25 years on Broadway).

 

Susan Rigvava-Dumas and Wietske van Tongeren in the original Vienna production.
VBW

The show's Broadway marquee was in place last fall at the Broadhurst Theatre, but the theatre remained dark. It was the second Broadway stalling of the musical; a funding shortfall scotched an earlier Broadway debut that had been announced for January 2012 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. The musical is popular in markets in Europe; a new production opens in the coming weeks in Seoul, South Korea.

The earlier Broadway partners, including lead partner Louise Forlenza, plus David Mirvish, Dennis Grimaldi, Stage Entertainment, The Shubert Organization and the others, remain committed and attached to Rebecca, Sprecher said.

The New York Times additionally reported that in an amended agreement with Rebecca's earlier legit investors, Sprecher and Forlenza have until the end of 2013 to mount the show. If the curtain does not go up, Specher and Forlenza have to refund investors' money.

Co-directors Michael Blakemore and Francesca Zambello are also moving forward, as are the designers Peter J. Davidson, Jane Greenwood, Mark McCullough, Peter Fitzgerald, Tom Watson, Ashley Ryan, Gregory Meeh and Sven Ortel. Musical direction and supervision are by Kevin Stites.

The set and costumes are in storage. The prep, rights, pre-production and construction costs totaled about $5.5 million, Sprecher said.

The cast members, who went jobless in fall 2012, will be offered their old roles, though they may have found other jobs by the time Rebecca resurfaces. Jill Paice was previously cast in the role of the narrator of the novel (known only as I) and Ryan Silverman was to play mysterious Maxim de Winter, whose English estate Manderley is the story's famous setting. Karen Mason and Howard McGillin were also among cast members.

No new preview or opening dates have been announced for Broadway in 2013. Backers are still being sought, to fill in what will be more than $4.5 million shortfall.

"We're open for investors," Sprecher said. "We're committed to making sure that Rebecca gets produced on Broadway in 2013."

When asked what the biggest challenge has been for him, personally, in the past three months, Sprecher said after a long pause, "Remaining resilient."

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Rebecca has original book and lyrics by Michael Kunze, music by Sylvester Levay, English book adaptation by two-time Tony Award winner Christopher Hampton (Sunset Boulevard) and English lyrics by Hampton and Kunze.

Rebecca had its world premiere in 2006 by Vereinigte Buhnen Wien at the Raimund Theater in Vienna, where it played for more than three years. Productions of Rebecca have also played Budapest, Hungary; Bucharest, Romania; Helsinki, Finland; Stuttgart, Germany (currently); St. Gallen, Switzerland (currently); and the Imperial Theatre in Tokyo.