Financing a Broadway musical is no easy task. With initial budgets ranging from a few million dollars (Newsies cost just $5 million to mount) to staggering sums (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark racked up costs totaling $75 million, a new record for the industry), producers have their work cut out for them. But Ben Sprecher and Louise Forlenza, the lead producers of Rebecca, a musical adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s gothic novel, have come up against possibly the worst complications a show could encounter.
Although productions of Rebecca overseas have done well, this show’s US ambitions have been beset with difficulties from the start. The production was set to open in the Spring of 2012, starring Sierra Boggess (The Little Mermaid) and Tam Mutu (a West End actor and her real-life fiance), but was postponed due to a lack of funds. It seemed that producers had finally acquired the necessary resources to stage the show in the fall season, setting a November opening and announcing new stars Jill Paice (Curtains) and Ryan Silverman (The Phantom of the Opera). But the plot thickened yet again.
In a seemingly appropriate plot twist for this gothic musical, the death of a major investor was announced over the summer, causing first rehearsals to be delayed until his or other funds could be secured. But since the mystery investor had promised a substantial portion of the budget, $4.5 million, things began to look bleak. In September, when another investor stepped forward, he received a reportedly malicious email from an insidious third party intending to scare him away. And it worked–he withdrew immediately. With the already high risk of backing a Broadway show, the last thing potential investors want to think is that a production is cursed.
Producers and cast members began to decry the fraud and abuse taken by the production and the producers. Actress Karen Mason (Mamma Mia!), who was set to star as the eerie Mrs. Danvers, was among those who wrote open letters calling for an end to the vitriol. The constant delays the Rebecca faced not only caused difficulties for producers, but also held up valuable theatre space and interfered with the careers of the actors involved.
The mystery seemed to be solved in mid-October, when former stockbroker Mark Hotton was arrested for defrauding Rebecca‘s producers. Hotton led them to believe that he had $4.5 million in financing commitments from a “Paul Abrams,” who it now seems never existed, as well as a possible $1.1 million loan that he attempted to broker when the initial funds fell through. He invented people, fabricated companies, and even staged a dramatic death from malaria to carry out this charade. It looks like this Broadway nightmare is a bit more of a scam a la The Producers than a ghost story like Rebecca, but who knows what the future will bring for this supernatural thriller? All this buzz might not be an entirely bad thing–you can’t buy publicity like this.