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OLD GLOBE HAS A PIECE OF ‘THE WOODS’

Times Staff Writer

The Old Globe Theatre stands to profit from the future life of the new Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine musical now playing here in its world premiere.

Globe Managing Director Tom Hall negotiated a contract that gives the theater a financial share in a commercial production of the musical in perpetuity.

The show, which is virtually assured of a Broadway date, will not go into a large theater, Hall revealed at a recent public discussion. Any New York production will be slotted toward a theater no larger than the Globe, Hall said. That means a smaller house, such as the Helen Hayes Theater. The reason is that Sondheim and Lapine conceived “Into the Woods,” a fairy tale fantasy with adult overtones, as an intimate show, and they intend to keep it on that level.

Now that “Into the Woods” is up and on its way into theatrical history, Hall has had some much-needed time to breathe. That wasn’t true before the show’s Dec. 4 opening.

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Eleven days before opening this $600,000 musical, the Globe suddenly lost the services of a critical supervisor, production manager Erica Young, who suffered a severe concussion in an auto accident.

It was the first day of technical rehearsals. “Losing Erica couldn’t have come at a worse time,” technical director Loren Schreiber said. “During technical rehearsals the production manager is sort of the hub around which the theater rotates.”

Because of her concussion, Young could not even talk to others. Hall, who had a career in technical theater before becoming the Globe’s chief administrator, was pressed into work as temporary production manager. He suddenly had two full-time jobs.

That meant Hall’s work day began at 6 a.m. and ended at 2 the following morning. Production manager duties took precedence to managing director assignments, which were mostly relegated to a quick hour-and-a-half between 6:30 and 8 a.m.

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“Fortunately Erica is the finest production manager I’ve ever come across,” Hall said. “She had everything organized well and had an excellent assistant.” Department heads took on more tasks to fill the gap.

The day after the opening, Hall had a brief respite, three days before Sondheim and Lapine, who also directed, began to make changes in the show.

Officially, “Into the Woods” is sold out. However, standing room and returned tickets can be picked up some nights. According to one Globe official, “It is the toughest ticket we’ve ever had.”

That’s due in part to Sondheim’s reputation. As with any show by the acknowledged reigning king of the American musical, “Into the Woods” attracted its share of Sondheim fanatics. Ticket requests have flowed in, not only from Spring Valley and La Jolla, for this crisscrossing of Brothers Grimm fairy tales, but also from Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York.

On opening night, four major New York producers were in the audience, Hall said. However, none have put any money into the show--so far. “There’s a great deal of talk. Rocko Landesman, who produced ‘Big River,’ has been out to see the show,” Hall said. “Many people have been out to see the show. There’s a lot of chatter.”

Sondheim and Lapine return Wednesday and will remain through the Jan. 11 closing, to consider possible changes. “Clearly, when you get in the arena of a multimillion-dollar production in New York, you want to make every addition or deletion you can make,” Hall said. “I would assume, at the least, there would be an extended preview in New York. . . . “

Previews, Hall noted, are one of the differences between commercial and nonprofit productions such as the Globe’s. Lapine and Sondheim’s Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, “Sunday in the Park With George,” had four weeks of previews. “Into the Woods” had only four days at the Globe.

For now the show is attracting its share of Sondheim fans, including Barbra Streisand. Another is William Cunningham, a New York City photographer, who subscribed to the entire season, just to be sure he would get a ticket to “Into the Woods.” Cunningham, 42, then bought two more tickets so he can attend the final three performances when he flies out on a trip that will combine work with pleasure.

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Another fan is Alan Wilson. When Wilson called the box office to order a ticket, he told the sales clerk he lived in Darling Point, but the connection was not clear. “What state is Darling Point in?” Wilson was asked. “My dear,” Wilson replied, “Darling Point is not in the States. It’s in Australia.”


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