Lauren Ambrose was set to star in the revival of the musical "Funny… (Bebeto Matthew / Associated…)
The abrupt cancellation of "Funny Girl" at the Ahmanson Theatre has thrown a wrench into Center Theatre Group's current season, forcing L.A.'s largest theater company to scramble to find a last-minute replacement for the musical.
"Funny Girl" had been expected to begin previews on Jan. 15, with an official opening on Feb. 1. The revival production, with stars Lauren Ambrose and Bobby Cannavale, was scheduled to transfer to Broadway in April. It was to be directed by Bartlett Sher, whose 2008 revival of "South Pacific" was a critical and commercial success.
Last week, the revival's New York producers pulled the plug, saying that they could not raise sufficient funds to cover the musical's $12-million budget. They blamed the current economic climate and said the show is being postponed indefinitely.
Michael Ritchie, the artistic director of Center Theatre Group, said in a phone interview Monday from New York that he is looking for a substitute show. "We're looking for a suitable replacement — it's going to take some time," he said.
Ritchie said that Center Theatre Group was not contributing to the show's $12-million budget. He said that rehearsals for "Funny Girl" had been expected to start in early December in New York and that designs for the show — including sets and costumes — had been almost completed.
Bob Boyett, the lead producer for "Funny Girl," did not respond to requests for comment. In a statement Thursday, he said that the $12-million price tag would have made "Funny Girl" one of the most expensive revivals in Broadway history.
A report in the New York Times said that four investors had backed out of the musical, with each having been expected to put in $750,000 to $1 million.
Some speculation about the postponement has focused on whether Ambrose could sell tickets to the musical. The announcement that the former "Six Feet Under" actress would portray Fanny Brice in the first revival of the musical in 45 years was met with surprise when it was announced in August. Ambrose has appeared in plays on Broadway, but has never performed in a musical.
"Funny Girl" made Barbra Streisand a Broadway star and later won her an Oscar for her performance in the film version of the musical.
Ritchie "found out like everyone else" on Thursday, he said. "It was the accumulation of the people who had decided not to invest. It was a quick decision. Knowing what I know, it was the correct choice to make. Even at that point, [Boyett] couldn't let the train leave the station."
A representative for Ambrose did not respond to a request for comment. Cannavale did not respond to a request for comment sent though a representative.
Center Theatre Group had already started selling tickets to "Funny Girl" and had begun promoting it.
A spokesman for CTG said that the last time a major show was dropped from the Ahmanson season was in 2007, when the theater canceled plans to present the world premiere of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," written by Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records. The replacement show was "Jersey Boys," which was a big hit.
The Ahmanson box office said that season subscribers and single ticket holders for "Funny Girl" could request a refund for the canceled show. It said that ticket holders have two weeks after a replacement show is announced to request a refund for the production.