WHY MICHAEL BENNETT HAS SAID GOODBYE, FOR NOW, TO BROADWAY
By Jeremy Gerard Nov. 2, 1986
The last Michael Bennett workshop, and indisputably the most closely watched, was 'Scandal,' a show that never opened on Broadway.
Mr. Bennett, acting as director, choreographer and producer, abruptly shut it down in January 1985, after more than a year of intense work with the company and even more time with the show's writers.
'Scandal' had been a chancy project from the beginning. The story of a self-doubting woman caught up in the throes of marital upheaval, the show was punctuated by production numbers that revealed with no little explicitness her sexual fantasies and adventures. Despite an enthusiasm for the show that members of the team still express today, Mr. Bennett says that his decision to terminate the production was based on economic and creative factors, and that they were the proper outcome of the workshops. 'What's a workshop for?' he asks. 'To see whether a show should go into production. I have very good instincts, and I decided 'Scandal' would not work.'
That decision came as a shock to the rest of the team.
'Michael sent me the script and it just knocked me out,' says Swoosie Kurtz, who played the leading role in the show. 'He called and said, 'Honey, do you want to be the leading lady in my next musical?' I thought, Did I? He's got to be one of the four, maybe five best directors alive.
Working with him one-on-one was extraordinary - his inventiveness, his imagination, his knowledge of what should be cut and what's dead wood.'
During four workshops, songs written by Jimmy Webb and major dance numbers were integrated into a script written by Treva Silverman, a writer of the original Mary Tyler Moore television series. The director announced his plan to open the show with a brief Off Broadway run before moving it to the Mark Hellinger, a theater that he vainly attempted to become a part-owner of during that time.
The Off Broadway plan, Mr. Bennett concedes, did not go over well with the performers or the creative team. 'The crew - people who had been working with me all my life -did not want to go Off Broadway,' he says.
'They were upset because they were expecting Broadway money at a certain point,' Miss Kurtz says, 'and suddenly it was being put off again.
My own feeling was that he knew better than we what would be best for the show.'
'I think Michael's the only one who knows what happened with 'Scandal,' ' says Ms. Silverman, who had worked with Mr. Bennett for several years on the project before the workshops had begun. Ms. Silverman and Mr. Webb were reluctant to talk in detail about their work on 'Scandal.'
Another thing, for benefit of those who didn't know, Mr. Bennett once owned 890 Broadway which he sold for about $`15 million USD in 1986, just a year before dying.