’Rebecca’ Canceled Because of Mean E-Mail, Say Producers

A scene from the ill-fated musical "Rebecca." Latest developments in the off-stage drama include the arrest of the man who was hired to find investors. The producers have filed a lawsuit against Mark Hotton. Photographer: VBW, Alexander Ch. Wulz via Bloomberg

In a move that surprised no one who has been following Broadway’s latest backstage soap opera, the producers of “Rebecca” have canceled the opening this season of the $12 million musical, while vowing to return someday, somewhere.

The producers, Ben Sprecher and Louise Forlenza, blamed a mean e-mail for scaring off a last-minute investor, leaving them “with no option but to postpone the show,” according to a statement released by the show’s publicist, Marc Thibodeau.

The statement didn’t identify the new investor, who remained as elusive as the previous would-be savior of the show.

“I wish I knew what happened, but I haven’t been able to get Ben to return my call,” said a key investor in the show, who requested anonymity while holding out hope that “Rebecca” may yet rise from the ashes.

In the wide-ranging statement, the producers noted an earlier reprieve: “After Paul Abrams, a major investor, passed away in London, on August 5th, 2012, and who, with three other colleagues, represented the last portion of $4.5 million of the full capitalization for the production, the Shubert Organization generously granted a delay and rehearsals were postponed for several weeks.”

Paul Dead?

Reporters have been unable to verify the existence -- or the demise, reputedly from malaria contracted in Africa -- of Paul Abrams. Sprecher has said that he never met him.

“Sprecher and Forlenza had subsequently managed to virtually fill in the missing gap during the last three weeks, primarily from a new investor, their own funds and an additional commitment from an investor who had already made a substantial investment,” the statement said.

Last Friday, however, “at approximately 1 p.m., Sprecher and Forlenza were informed that an extremely malicious e-mail, filled with lies and innuendo, had been sent directly to the new investor that morning from an anonymous third party. The e-mail was designed to scare this investor away and it succeeded. The investor withdrew.”

Sprecher himself was quoted in the statement as saying that he was “having a terrible time grasping” why anyone would do such a thing (malicious gossip being as rare on Broadway as gambling in Rick’s Cafe).

Earlier Cancellation

The cancellation leaves little hope that the show, directed by Francesca Zambello with an assist from Michael Blakemore, will ever see the light of day in New York.

A planned opening last spring was canceled when Sprecher and Forlenza were still searching for investors after the marquee had gone up.

Shubert, for whom Sprecher once worked as a theater manager, owns the Broadhurst Theatre, a choice Broadway venue where “Rebecca” was to have opened.

Though patient with his former partner, Shubert Chairman Philip J. Smith, also joining the released statement’s rich chorus, said that the company wishes “Ben Sprecher and Louise Forlenza success in bringing this show to Broadway in the future,” a none-too-subtle hint that they would have to peddle their goods elsewhere in the future.

Shubert will have no problem finding another tenant for the Broadhurst. With long runs like “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Mamma Mia!” tying up Broadway’s best theaters for multiyear runs, producers watch venues housing shows in trouble like hawks circling for the kill.

Among the many strikes against “Rebecca” was the fact that while it had extended runs in various European cities, including Vienna, Budapest, Helsinki and Bucharest, it lacked the imprimatur of a London or prestigious U.S. pre-Broadway outing. Blakemore, the respected director of “Copenhagen” among other hits, had been signed to provide luster to the producing team.

Other shows in that category, including “Cyrano the Musical” and “Metro,” met terrible fates in the time before nasty e-mails could purportedly stop a show dead in its tracks.

(Jeremy Gerard is the chief U.S. drama critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include John Mariani on wine and Craig Seligman on movies.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE