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'Phantom' casts a long shadow

It passes 'Cats' as the longest-running show on Broadway. Its success is indicative of a robust theater scene.

January 11, 2006|Patrick Pacheco | Special to The Times

Gerald Schoenfeld, chairman of the Shubert Organization, viewed the celebration for "Phantom" as a valedictory of sorts. "I don't think this will ever happen again," said Schoenfeld, whose theaters have housed almost all the mega-musicals, including "Cats," "Phantom," "Les Miserables" and "Miss Saigon." "The costs are too prohibitive, so I think the tendency in the future will be toward simplicity, new innovative concepts in design. That doesn't mean you won't get another 'Wicked,' but the odds are much longer."

Schoenfeld also noted that the current instability of creative collaborations did not necessarily bode well. "You don't have the Lerner and Loewes, Rodgers and Hammersteins, Bock and Harnicks, Kander and Ebbs of the past who created one show after another," he said. "What you have now are hybrids."

But Thomas Schumacher, whose production with Peter Schneider of "The Lion King" for Disney has probably the best chance of beating the record (if "Beauty and the Beast," No. 6, doesn't get there first), rebutted the notion. "Our creative team on 'Lion King' -- Julie Taymor, Garth Fagan, Donald Holder -- had never worked together before," he said, noting that there were any number of shows, like "Wicked" and "The Color Purple," created by talent popular in other areas but inexperienced on Broadway. Among them is Phil Collins, who is about to make his Broadway debut with Disney's "Tarzan" this season.

"There's one myopic thing on Broadway, and that's 'if it didn't happen on Broadway, it didn't happen.' It's not just this eight-block radius we're talking about tonight," he said. "Right now there is great work being done all over this country, from the West Coast to the East Coast, that could lead to the next record-breaking hit. And it won't be the marketing, or the critics, or the producers, who'll make it that. It'll be the audience."

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