Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Producer Vanishes, Taking with Him Hope for 'Rebecca'

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Producer Vanishes, Taking with Him Hope for 'Rebecca'

Article excerpt

Theater investors used to be called angels. But producer Ben Sprecher must feel like he made a deal with the devil.

On his way to a Broadway production of the musical "Rebecca," a not-so-funny thing happened: One of his major backers abruptly died. Then the man seemed not to have existed at all.

The story is exceedingly strange, but, given the seat-of-the- pants way money is sometimes raised for Broadway shows, perhaps not a shock.

Sprecher, a well-known figure in New York theater as a producer and theater owner, was taking his first plunge as lead producer of a big musical.

"Rebecca" had an unusual history, having debuted in Vienna in 2006, with subsequent productions throughout Europe.

It was, though, a daunting project for Broadway. Sprecher needed to raise $12 million for a show without stars. His selling point, to potential backers and ticket-buyers, was the show's name.

Daphne du Maurier's gothic suspense novel, on which the musical is based, was a bestseller, but that was in 1938. And while Alfred Hitchcock fans are familiar with his film version of "Rebecca," it was released 72 years ago.

Sprecher first announced a production for London last year. That was canceled due to lack of full financing. The show was then scheduled for a Broadway opening last spring. Again canceled; same story.

Then it was announced for Broadway one more time, with a Nov. 18 opening.

In early September, word came that the death of a major backer, Paul Abrams, would cause the delay of rehearsals for two weeks. Then, it was announced that new money had been found; then the money was withdrawn.

Finally, on Oct. 1, Sprecher said the production was canceled. And that announcement came with a bizarre side story.

Sprecher and his lawyer said the producer had been told that the London-based Abrams, who, with his associates, were providing $4.5 million, or more than a third of the financing for "Rebecca," died suddenly of malaria.

Their subsequent investigation, however, strongly suggested that Abrams, whom Sprecher said he had never seen or spoken with - they had only communicated via email - had never existed.

Sprecher's lawyer put the blame on a Long Island stockbroker with a checkered past who, he said, had brought "Abrams" into Sprecher's life. …

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