Producer Faces $12 Million Deadline for ‘Rebecca’ Musical

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

Cast members from “Rebecca,” the ill-fated musical set in a spooky mansion of many rooms, gathered last week in a cozy Theater District basement.

They opened a benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS at 54 Below with an elegy to the show and would-be impresario Ben Sprecher, set to the melody of “Maria” from “West Side Story.”

“Rebecca!” they sang. “Ben Sprecha! Booked us in a show named ‘Rebecca!’ And suddenly her name will never be the same to me. ‘Rebecca,’ my Broadway debut was ‘Rebecca.’ And suddenly I found, a contract could just cease to be.”

Although “Rebecca” was scuttled before the first rehearsal, the cast was paid for two weeks of performances and one week of rehearsals, said Maria Somma, a spokesman for Actors’ Equity Association.

That’s small consolation for those who left work or turned down jobs for the show, originally scheduled to open in early 2012 and postponed indefinitely in September because of a multi-million-dollar budget shortfall.

For months, Sprecher was led on by a Long Island man who allegedly was paid to bring in investors who proved to be fictional, according to prosecutors.

Pay Now

If Sprecher doesn’t raise the minimum $12 million capitalization by year-end, he must return money “forthwith” to any investors who haven’t waived their right to a refund, according to offering papers obtained from the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman through a Freedom of Information Law request.

The budget is within the going rate for musicals. The new revival of “Annie” was capitalized for about $12 million.

Sprecher has said he’s talked to investors about amending the offering papers. He declined to comment for this story. His co-producer, Louise Forlenza, didn’t return an e-mail.

On October 1, at what was to be the first rehearsal, Sprecher told the company that he was exploring co-producing the show in Toronto with Mirvish Productions, according to someone who heard him and spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was private. Mirvish founder David Mirvish didn’t return a call.

Returning investor funds wouldn’t be easy. As of December 31, 2011, the production had spent $1.3 million, according to a listing of prepaid preliminary production costs, led by $700,000 for scenery. The “Rebecca Broadway Limited Partnership” had $475,223 in cash at the time.

Opening Party

The director, Tony Award-winning Michael Blakemore, was paid $37,107, plus an advance of $11,667.

Set designer Peter Davison, whose dramatic staircase was featured in the promotional material, received $16,750, nearly half his $35,000 production fee.

No payment is listed for Sprecher or Sprecher/Forlenza Productions. The general partner’s compensation was to include up to 7.4 percent of operating profits, should investors get their money back plus 10 percent.

While the production budget didn’t scrimp on an opening night party ($100,000) and gifts ($50,000), it’s no $75-million “Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark.”

Were it to open and gross $1.1 million a week, “Spider-Man” territory, “Rebecca” could repay investors in 36 weeks.

Principal actors were to be paid $2,200 to $7,000 a week. The actors playing Mrs. de Winter, Maxim de Winter and Mrs. Danvers were to be the best-compensated cast members, earning the top amount.

Holiday Cheer

D.C. Anderson, who was to play a butler in “Rebecca” and wrote the parody performed at 54 Below, said everyone previously involved with the production with whom he’s spoken has good wishes for Sprecher and the show.

Music director Kevin Stites said that while he doesn’t regret his involvement with “Rebecca” -- particularly in creating a production in Stuttgart, Germany -- he’s unemployed at Christmas despite his two-year investment.

“At times I go over this and wish they had been more forthcoming about the problems,” Stites said about the shortfall and investor “Paul Abrams,” who was rumored to have died of malaria and turned out to never exist. “But I don’t know what they should’ve said.”

Muse highlights include Jason Harper on cars and Jeremy Gerard on theater.