A Broadway Mystery Worthy Of 'Rebecca'

The original Vienna production of a new musical based on the novel Rebecca didn't fall prey to the woes plaguing a planned New York staging.

hide captionThe original Vienna production of a new musical based on the novel Rebecca didn't fall prey to the woes plaguing a planned New York staging.

VBW

There's a new mystery on Broadway — one about the musical Rebecca, based on the Daphne du Maurier novel.

You can't see it yet on the New York stage. In fact, it hasn't even started rehearsals. That's because the production is short $4.5 million after one of its investors died before he could hand over the money.

But as Patrick Healy reports in The New York Times, some are now wondering if this investor ever existed. Healy spoke with NPR's Melissa Block about whether this show really will go on.


Interview Highlights

On the producer trying to bring 'Rebecca' to Broadway

"His name is Ben Sprecher, and he was an off-Broadway theater landlord and producer during the '80s and '90s. And he's one of a type of theater producers who are now trying to make the jump into the big leagues of Broadway. And the big leagues of Broadway [is] producing big-budget musicals like Wicked and The Lion King and Phantom of the Opera."

On the recent suspicion that investor Paul Abrams might not exist

"Paul Abrams sort of swept into the show as its savior last spring, saying that he could put up $2 million of his own money and raise another $2.5 million. But it turned out that Sprecher, who's counting on Abrams, never actually met Abrams or talked to him by phone, and only learned in August, when he really needed this money to start rehearsals, that Abrams had died, fairly mysteriously, of malaria in Britain.

"Sprecher flew over to Britain, apparently, to try to get the money from the estate of Paul Abrams, but he couldn't even meet with an estate representative, and we have not been able to find an obituary or death record for this man, any record of his company existing — really [any] other details of someone who you'd think would have some sort of public record if they were able to write a $2 million check for a Broadway show."

The Vienna production opened in 2006. i i

hide captionThe Vienna production opened in 2006.

VBW
The Vienna production opened in 2006.

The Vienna production opened in 2006.

VBW

On who would have an interest in making up an investor

"Well, a few people — and, you know, I'm not trying to point the finger at anyone because we just don't know — but some have theorized that this Paul Abrams figure may have been created out of whole cloth to try to attract other investors into the show. There is no evidence of that; Ben Sprecher says that is not true; but, on the other hand, he's not been able to confirm the identity of this man Paul Abrams.

"It may also be a hoax, you know, that may have been someone out there who either wanted to invest and had sort of a dummy name or dummy corporate identity, or someone who was trying to pull a fast one on Broadway. We're still digging around for it."

On the status of the production

"They have a cast, they have a theater, and Ben Sprecher says that he is actively trying to raise money for the show, that he has financial commitments to replace the $4.5 million. There's no performance start date yet; all of that has been delayed. Mr. Sprecher has said he's not going to be announcing start of rehearsals or start of performances until the money's in the bank."

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