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It’s a Jungle Out There — for Musicals and Theater Companies


by Jerome Weeks 3 Dec 2008

The KERA radio story: The extended online story: The cancellation of the tour of the Tarzan musical — set to come to Dallas in March — has caused one of the producing partners to fold and left the Dallas Summer Musicals with a loss of $225,000, at least. The American Musical Theatre in San Jose […]

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  • The KERA radio story:
  • The extended online story:

The cancellation of the tour of the Tarzan musical — set to come to Dallas in March — has caused one of the producing partners to fold and left the Dallas Summer Musicals with a loss of $225,000, at least.

The American Musical Theatre in San Jose announced Monday that it has closed — after 74 years producing stage shows. The California company was one of the co-producers of the Disney musical tour, along with the DSM, the North Carolina Theatre in Raleigh, NC, and Atlanta’s Theater of the Stars, which mounted the production.

Allegedly, the Atlanta company used some of the money advanced for Tarzan to fund other productions. According to Michael Jenkins, president and managing director of the DSM, the American Musical Theatre has already filed a lawsuit against Theater of the Stars.

And the Summer Musicals is weighing the idea.

“We’re terribly disappointed” by the situation, Jenkins said Wednesday. “We’ve had to turn the situation over to our legal counsel here in Dallas to analyze what other options might be available to DSM.”

For the American Musical Theatre,Tarzan was the big draw for its subscription series. Michael Miller, president of the AMT, told backstage.com that, by losing the show, his company lost its $225,000 investment, lost $800,000 in advance ticket sales and a projected $500,000 to $600,000 in additional sales — more than one and a half million dollars. Combined with other losses from the economic downturn, the hit was too big for the company.

Michael Jenkins, president of the Dallas Summer Musicals

Jenkins said that the Summer Musicals is still determining the extent of its own financial hit. But he said that the DSM would withstand the loss of the advance money and the loss of Tarzan from its season.

“It’s just shocking that this has happened,” he said. “It’s very unusual. It’s not the norm. ”

The cast of the Tarzan tour was laid off in early November, and Jenkins said he learned of the tour’s cancellation Nov. 11. The show no longer appears in the DSM’s website.

“We’ve taken it off sale until we can figure out what to do,” Jenkins said. “And we’re going to have several options for our subscribers” — which could include refunds and/or ticket swaps. Those options will be offered to the ticketholders later this week, he said.

The Tarzan musical was adapted from the 1999 Disney animated feature with music and lyrics by Phil Collins and a book by playwright David Henry Hwang, author of M. Butterfly. When the show opened on Broadway in May 2006, it was generally derided by critics. They said that Disney was far from duplicating the success of director Julie Taymor’s heralded, mega-hit adaptation of The Lion King.

But life on the road was still possible — for a kid-friendly musical with a big-name Disney connection and a lot of good will built up by a successful film. There are two highly successful tours of Tarzan in Europe, for instance. And other touring musicals on the DSM’s season include Mary Poppins, Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang, The Wizard of Oz and 101 Dalmations.


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