Monday, July 13, 2009

The backstage drama at "White Noise"

Posted By on Mon, Jul 13, 2009 at 8:33 PM

"Broadway theater is sometimes just like community theater with more money," sighs Gary Solomon Jr., the managing director at Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré. What Solomon is referring to is the backstage drama surrounding White Noise, the Broadway-bound musical that's getting its out-of-town tryout in the French Quarter theater space that's been better known for hometown revivals of classic musicals.

Solomon confirmed the report by Michael Riedel in last Friday's New York Post ("Producer of Flops Flips Out in Hotel"), which claimed White Noise producer Mitchell Maxwell has been banned from the theater after allegedly harassing members of the cast and crew. The final straw, according to Solomon, came after a tirade in the lobby of the Omni Royal Orleans, where many of the principals were staying. "People were afraid to go back to their hotel rooms," Solomon says.

What happened? Quoting Riedel:

The volatile producer verbally abused his creative team, frightened his actors and threw such a temper tantrum in the lobby of the Omni Hotel that terrified guests called the police, several production sources told The Post.

"I have never experienced anything this crazy in my life," one member of the creative team says.

"He is not a stable man."

Solomon confirms that it was he who called the NOPD at the behest of the troupe on July 3. "I wasn't there," he said of the fracas, "but across the board their story was consistent. Above any employment relationships, I was concerned for their safety. Dealing with it in a private way would not have been the right thing to do."

The upshot? Maxwell is no longer in town, according to Solomon, and has been banned from the theater; local producer Holly Way is handling production duties, and financial matters are still being handled on a timely basis. In situations this contentious, it's not uncommon for stage performers to file grievances with their union, Actors Equity, but Solomon says that hasn't happened, though he did inform Equity of the situation.

If there's good news, it's that "the production has been great," Solomon says, saying that the cast and crew have bonded together through the hoopla. (See Will Coviello's review of White Noise in this week's Gambit.)

Interested in seeing the show? Solomon provided us an Internet code for ticket discounts -- go to the show's Web site, click "tickets," and enter the code Offer7 on the order page. It runs Tue.-Sun. at Le Petit through July 26.

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