Saturday, January 14, 2012

Bad News From The Great White Way

Press releases containing bad news are generally released late on Friday afternoons, as persons experienced in public relations know that newspaper readership reaches its low point for the week on Saturdays.

The press release below was issued late yesterday afternoon, and has not yet received much attention, which is why I offer it in its entirety.


January 13, 2012, New York, New York 5:38 p.m. EST

Jujamycn and The Nederlander Organization jointly announce a permanent halt in production of the long-awaited one-woman show, “Matt Gatens As Chita Rivera”, which was expected to move into the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in June after the current Broadway production of “Death Of A Salesman” completes its scheduled run. Jujamycn and The Nederlander Organization will no longer provide continued support for development of this Matt Gatens one-woman vehicle and have no plans to revisit the project in future. All persons associated with the production have been released from their contracts and commitments.

In development for the last three years, “Matt Gatens As Chita Rivera” has become involved in insurmountable legal entanglements that prohibit the production from moving forward.

Director Susan Stroman abandoned the show in March, citing “irreconcilable differences” with Mike Gatens, father of Matt Gatens. Mike Gatens had attempted to assert influence and control over “Matt Gatens As Chita Rivera” since the production’s inception, angering many persons associated with the show and causing some investors to withdraw their backing. Stroman’s abrupt departure led to the departures of numerous other personnel, leaving only Gatens himself, as of the date of production shutdown, the sole surviving member of the original creative team.

Last year, Gatens, in violation of his contract, and without informing Jujamycn and The Nederlander Organization, entered—and won—a global beauty pageant, choosing to represent the nation of Venezuela. Numerous contractual personal appearance commitments required of the pageant winner by the organizers of the pageant have severely limited Gatens’s availability for rehearsals of “Matt Gatens As Chita Rivera”. When Jujamycn and The Nederlander Organization attempted to call Gatens back to work, pageant officials threatened to obtain an injunction against the “Matt Gatens As Chita Rivera” production unless Jujamycn and The Nederlander Organization promptly and unconditionally released Gatens from his run-of-the-play contract.

Jujamycn and The Nederlander Organization have done so today.


  1. How sad. I was so looking forward to seeing this one-woman show. Others, I presume, will not be so saddened, since the cancellation has opened a new venue (The Ethel Barrymore Theater) for the hotly anticipated musical, “A Night to Remember”, recently reviewed by TAW (February issue):


    Preview Notice: “Bacharach and David’s ‘A Night to Remember’”

    Friday, December 23, 2011, Orlando, Florida

    To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the loss of 1,500 lives aboard RMS Titanic, on April 15, 1912, playwright and novelist Larry Kramer (“Faggots”) has launched a new Off-Broadway musical comedy based upon Sir Walter Lord’s “A Night to Remember,” with songs, by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, retrofitted from the trio’s 1973 disaster film, “Lost Horizon.”

    A string of tryout runs began last evening at the Bob Carr Theater in Orlando, Florida, sponsored in part by the new “Titanic” exhibition in town. “A Night to Remember” is scheduled to open at The Public Theater in New York (the debut venue of Kramer’s “The Normal Heart” in 1985) on March 4 this year, the first anniversary of the death of Englishman Charles Jarrott, who had directed “Lost Horizon”.

    “A Night to Remember” is directed by Fritz Neinnein, former head of a leading German Holocaust Denial group, the same outfit which had helped to finance Neinnein’s short-lived musical, “Kein ’11,” which had opened and closed notoriously after only one night in Berlin on December 4, 2007, a showing for which only a single patron, the late composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, had actually purchased a ticket.

    Based on what this reviewer saw last evening, lot’s more work needs to be done to smooth out transitions from Kramer’s Book to the eight musical-dance numbers. Particularly jarring in my mind is the context of a song entitled “Answer Me a Question,” which is sung by Ship designer Thomas Andrews (Neil Patrick Harris) after being asked by White Star Line Managing Director J. Bruce Ismay (Aaron Lazar), “Is this Ship going to sink?” Andrews whereupon bursts into song and dance: “Who became the hero at the Battle of Bull Run? . . . Even though your question may be wrong my answer will be right; question with an answer; answer with a question” . . . Harris, wearing top hat and tails, sings the song while dancing on a block of ice on the foredeck.

    And just who is that actor playing the role of Molly Brown, who launches that bobbing ladies’ chorus, “The World is a Circle,” while awaiting the arrival of Carpathia? Why, it’s none other than basketball player Matt Gatens, whose own one-woman show – rumor has it – has been “indefinitely delayed”.

    UPDATE (January 3, 2012): It has been announced that “A Night to Remember” will not open at The Public Theater in March, after all. It appears unlikely that another booking this season can be secured.

  2. How disappointing that such extraordinary productions always seem to get cancelled!

    Have you seen the movie, “Lost Horizon”? I saw it on television a few years back. It was unbelievable. Were the producers of that film totally insane? Most embarrassing of all was Liv Ullmann doing a Julie Andrews imitation.

    I do not want to let the cat out of the bag, but it is my understanding that there will be further press releases from Broadway this week, all a result of Matt Gatens’s sudden availability for other projects.

    Among other things, The Schubert Organization is expected to announce that it has stepped into the breech and offered Matt Gatens a new one-woman show devoted to the life of Paula Modersohn-Beckerson Meyer, the first German recipient of a sex-change operation. The press announcement is being drafted as I speak, probably for a Tuesday morning release.

    Stay tuned.

  3. "Breach", not "breech".

    Someone else with eagle eyes caught this, not me.

  4. Someone with eagle eyes, and a distinct Minnesota brogue.

  5. I remember when "Lost Horizon" was released in late 1972, but I didn't see the film until I ran across it on Youtube, where it has been recently uploaded in multiple segments. I had already been familiar with the songs (I once owned an original soundtrack LP), but that didn't prepare me for what I saw online.

    I heartedly recommend that you and Andrew watch the film if you haven't yet. It's free, of course; you will both have a hoot.

    "Lost Horizon," by the way, was once named one of the 50 worst movies of all time. I think my favorite part is the staggerlingly ridiculous "fertility rite" procession, lead by censer-swinging lamas, which the cast principles oversee so approvingly while the audience watches with face-hiding embarrassment.

    Liv Ullmann was a great actress who never made a single memorable American film. Pity. (Her singing voice in the film was dubbed.)

  6. Yes, you HAVE seen this silly movie, but Andrew probably hasn't.

  7. That's "cast principals," not "cast principles." My own not-so-eagle eye saw that one.

    By the way, Ross Hunter, the Producer of "Lost Horizon," never made another motion picture after that.

  8. I don’t remember any fertility rite in that movie, but I may have blocked it out.

    What I remember most from that movie is Liv Ullmann doing a painful song-and-dance number with children while romping through a tropical forest. It must be the worst number in the history of movie musicals. I don’t know how the editors of the film were able to edit that number without becoming hysterical—they surely were falling on the floor the whole time they were trying to salvage the number by manipulating bits of film footage.

    In any case, I never learned to appreciate Ullmann. I have not seen most of her Swedish films, but her performance in the Ingmar Bergman film in which Ullmann plays pianist Ingrid Bergman’s daughter is one of the most cringe-inducing if not laughable performances in the history of film. Ullmann was a peculiar product of her time and place, and I don’t think her performances hold up to current scrutiny.

    Based upon very limited exposure, I don’t think Bergman’s films hold up, either. The ones I’ve seen are as much camp as “Lost Horizon” (I’m particularly thinking of “Cries And Whispers”).

  9. The song that Ullmann "sings" with the school children is "The World is a Circle," and, believe it or not, it was used to sell the movie in the original theatrical trailer. Hal David's lyrics for this and all the other numbers could not possibly have been worse if someone else had actually TRIED to write bad lyrics, I think.

    Equally bad of course is Larry Kramer's laugh-out-loud screenplay. My favorite line of SPOKEN dialogue is uttered by Sally Kellerman in the library to Olivia Hussey, just before the two of them sing and dance "On the List of the Things that I Will not Miss", soft-shoeing the most moronic choreography in cinematic history. Kellerman's line is (paraphrased): "Shangri-La is a far better place than . . . Calcuta" (!!). Yes, at least in Calcuta no one dies of sheer BOREDOM.

    Liv Ullmann's most famous film is Bergman's "Persona," but I have only seen part of that. I HAVE seen "Autumn Sonata" though, Bergman's last film, if memory serves. I wasn't overly impressed by that one. I'd agree that Ullmann is "cring-inducing," not "laughable." I remember just wanting to shake her character and say, "Get a Life!"

  10. Ullmann was ALSO "cringE-inducing" in "Autumn Sonata," to your point; but I remember upchucking quite a few "crings" myself after watching the film.

  11. Yes, “Autumn Sonata”, the Ingmar Bergman film in which Ingrid Bergman played a pianist and Liv Ullmann played Bergman’s daughter.

    “Autumn Sonata” was a stupid film with a stupid script. I could not understand why a serious filmmaker would want to film such a bad, clichéd script. I thought Ingrid Bergman was poor in that film, and Ullmann even worse. That movie was bad on every possible level.

    I have not seen “Persona”. I’ve not seen most Bergman films. I should say nothing more about Bergman until I have made an effort to see more of his work.

    Those who lived through the sixties and seventies have a different view of Ingmar Bergman than those my age. In my experience, Bergman is NOTHING to those who were not alive to see his films during their first releases. Those who came after are generally indifferent to Bergman films. Indeed, I question whether Bergman will have a reputation thirty years from now.

    Of course, those who lived through the sixties and seventies have a different view of FILM than those my age. Those my age generally do not view film as a significant art form.

    Andrew’s father says that film as an art form died with The Reagan Revolution—and Andrew’s father is serious when he makes that claim. His is a complicated argument, too lengthy to go into here, and I’m not sure I agree with it. However, Andrew’s father marshals his arguments well—and he says that the effective death of film as a serious art form was an inevitable result of, and a small price to pay for, The Reagan Revolution.

  12. Fascinating thesis. I had always thought Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" (1980) was that director's last great art film.

  13. I think the only Kubrick films I have seen are "Barry Lyndon" and "2001".