Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New York Thirsty for Broadway Successes

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New York Thirsty for Broadway Successes

Article excerpt

TROUBLE over "Miss Saigon," the hit London musical slated for Broadway next spring, has kept anxious New York theatergoers and theater professionals on the edge of their seats for several weeks. Like the play itself, the dispute is tragic and melodramatic, combining race, money, power, and pathos.

It also clearly illustrates Broadway's importance to New York's financial stability, particularly where such blockbusters as "Miss Saigon" are concerned.

An orchestra ticket to a big-budget Broadway musical is worth far more than its $55 average ticket price and two hours of entertainment. Audiences, especially tourists, typically splurge on restaurants, transportation, hotels, parking, and shopping in the course of a Broadway visit. One singular sensation like "Miss Saigon," the story of a United States soldier and his Vietnamese lover at the close of the Vietnam War, could easily pump as much as $100 million into New York's economy for every year it runs.

"Miss Saigon" had already sold a record $25 million in advance tickets when the Actors' Equity union on Aug. 7 said white British actor Jonathan Pryce could not repeat his acclaimed Eurasian role on Broadway, and that the role should be played by an actor of Asian descent. Producer Cameron Mackintosh, in a surprise move, angrily canceled the New York run. Jobs for dozens of actors, musicians, and tradesmen promptly evaporated, along with promised revenue for local business and city coffers.

Many actors scorned the union's move and petitioned for a reversal. New York Mayor David Dinkins treated "Miss Saigon" as if it were a manufacturing, not a theater, company that was leaving New York. The mayor indicated that losing Broadway's most expensive show to date would add to the city's existing financial troubles.

"The theater industry is an integral part of the city's economy," Mr. Dinkins wrote Equity President Colleen Dewhurst.

"It means millions of dollars," adds Jaynne Keyes, director of the Mayor's Office of Film, Theater, and Broadcasting. "It's important to the city. We're not exactly in the catbird seat budgetwise."

Last week, an embattled and polarized union rescinded its decision. …

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