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STAGE WATCH

New Name for 'Jellylord' and New Price Tag for LATC

January 10, 1991|DON SHIRLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"Mr. Jellylord" has become "Jelly's Last Jam."

The Mark Taper Forum musical about Jelly Roll Morton, scheduled for March 7-April 21, was re-named by its writer, George C. Wolfe, who inherited the assignment and its former title about three years ago from the writers of two previous drafts, Kenneth Cavender and August Wilson.

Wolfe, who is best known for "The Colored Museum," said that as he rewrote, he wanted "a title that captures more of the rhythmic pulse of the piece" and was "slier, more knowing, more outrageous."

Although Gregory Hines--who is married to the show's co-producer, Pamela Koslow-Hines--played Morton in several of the show's workshops in New York, he bowed out of the Taper workshops and production because of what was thought to be "a major conflict with a movie," said Koslow-Hines. That movie has now been tabled, she added. But a spokesman for Hines' manager said "he has a number of other projects that could go at any moment," including a film Hines hopes to direct.

In the meantime, Obba Babatunde, who is currently on stage in "Blues in the Night" at Los Angeles Theatre Center, got the Jelly role for the Los Angeles run. Casting of the role in future productions, which could include Broadway, remains "open," said Koslow-Hines, so it's possible that Hines could eventually return.

$6 Million for LATC?: The city's planned purchase of Los Angeles Theatre Center could cost up to $6 million.

That's how much Community Redevelopment Agency Administrator John Tuite is offering. That amount would include as much as $5.25 million to pay off the holders of the bonds that helped build the downtown theater, including legal fees to cover the default that occurred when a Dec. 15 bond payment was skipped.

The CRA also would contribute an additional $750,000 to pay transition maintenance costs as the title on the building moves from the limited partnership that now owns it to the city's Cultural Affairs Department.

The offer would be good through April. The money would come from an intra-Agency loan from the CRA's Special Revenue Fund and would be secured by tax increment revenues expected in April.

Tuite's proposal will be submitted to the CRA board today . If accepted, it will then be subject to approval by the City Council.

Earlier reports of the CRA's plan to buy LATC under the most "cost-effective" terms--which included the agency's decision to allow the Dec. 15 default--had drawn fire from two sides. Bondholders feared they wouldn't get a fair price for their bonds, while City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky urged the CRA not to "bailout" the bondholders.

"When certificate holders lent their millions to the CRA to finance the theater project they were welcomed as astute, civic minded investors," wrote Zane B. Mann in last week's issue of his California Municipal Bond Advisor. "When the investors want their principal and interest repaid, that is being characterized . . . as a bailout of profiteering cry babies. Remember that the next time your favorite bond salesman calls with a new issue of CRA bonds."

From the other side, Yaroslavsky asked "Why should my tax bill go up because someone's expectations of attendance at the Theatre Center were not met? Nobody bails me out when I make a stupid decision."

Under Tuite's plan, the bondholders would receive their principal ($4.675 million remains due, from the original $4.825 million loaned in 1982) and interest up to the date of sale--but not the additional interest and a 3% prepayment premium which they might have received on Dec. 15, 1992, the earliest date the bonds could have been redeemed under the terms of the original issue.

The bondholders will probably be mollified by this plan. "It's a happy ending, if it comes about," said John Gresham, a bond analyst who represents some of the bondholders.

But Yaroslavsky remains critical of Tuite's "bailout," he said Wednesday. If the bondholders weren't paid off, he contended, the city could still buy the building--for a lower price--and the savings could establish an endowment for LATC. The theater center might be evicted, he acknowledged, "but it would be temporary. There isn't a long line of buyers waiting to compete with the city for the property."

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