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A producer seeks a Broadway comeback, embroiled in backstage drama

“If Garth Drabinsky is involved, people are right to be concerned that all the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed out,” said David Levy, a spokesman for Equity. The problems seem to have been resolved, but it was hardly the kind of incident one would wish for at the start of a Broadway performance.

Drabinsky blamed a delay in the delivery of the final contracts for the dispute and misunderstandings about what the actors were owed when the show moved from Chicago to New York. “The Chicago contract froze the deal for New York,” he said. “Variation was not allowed. They were asking for something we didn’t commit to.”

Additionally, Drabinsky pointed out, he is not responsible for the show’s finances — an agreement expressly made by the limited partnership formed to bring it to Broadway. “I’ve moved away from every element of steering control on this show,” he added. “I don’t sign checks. I don’t interfere. I never want to relive the horror of what I went through in 1998.”

Instead, he’s working on making Paradise Square fit for Broadway. The show started nine years ago with a little musical called Hard Times. written by Irish-American musician Larry Kirwan, lead singer of the rock band Black 47. It is set in the grim Five Points neighborhood of Manhattan during the Civil War, where Irish immigrants and freed black Americans lived together – and where Stephen Foster (whose music composed most of the score constituted) lived in his last years. The show climaxes with the draft riots of 1863, when white working-class New Yorkers formed violent racist mobs after a draft lottery.

Drabinsky loved the concept but balked at anchoring the show in Foster’s music with its romanticization of the south of slavery. So he set about revising the play, hiring composer Jason Howland to write a new score (only two Foster songs remain), a series of writers to shift the story’s focus to the owner of a neighborhood saloon (played by Tony nominee Joaquina Kalukango). ) and a world-class creative team, including Kaufman to direct, along with choreographer Bill T. Jones.

The themes of racial justice and the immigrant experience have long attracted Drabinsky, and their timeliness has only increased over the years of development, which included a 2019 workshop production in Berkeley, California. “When the show started running parallel to what’s happening in America today and the world, it was kind of freaking out,” he said. “And it hasn’t stopped changing. Even to the point that Russia invades Ukraine days before our first preview. Three million immigrants are now looking for a new home.”

Drabinsky also sought to diversify the creative team, hiring Christina Anderson, a black playwright, to revise the script by Craig Lucas and Kirwan, and composer and lyricist Masi Asare, who collaborated with Nathan Tysen on the lyrics.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/01/theater/garth-drabinsky-broadway-paradise-square.html A producer seeks a Broadway comeback, embroiled in backstage drama

Brian Ashcraft

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