Theatres around the UK have been dealt a double blow after a tour of To Kill a Mockingbird was cancelled just two weeks after a run of Doctor Dolittle collapsed.
Five venues have been left with two holes in their schedules because of the cancellations.
To Kill a Mockingbird has been pulled weeks before it was due to set off following a clash with the Broadway production of the play, which is claiming to have worldwide exclusivity to the stage rights for Harper Lee’s novel. The tour was meant to visit 15 venues.
The plug was also pulled on a musical stage adaptation of Doctor Dolittle, starring Mark Williams, on January 11 – just two months into a year-long tour – after producers admitted that advance ticket sales for the show had been lower than anticipated. It was due to play at a further 18 locations.
While the two productions had scheduled different touring routes across the UK and Ireland, several venues – the Newcastle Theatre Royal, the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury, the Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin, Milton Keynes Theatre and His Majesty’s in Aberdeen – had been due to show both productions.
Capital Theatres’ Festival and King’s theatres in Edinburgh were also each due to stage one of the now-cancelled shows.
Venues have been left with holes in their schedules of up to two weeks, some with little more than a month’s notice.
The Lowry, in Salford, hosted Doctor Dolittle over Christmas while the tour was still running, however now has to fill a week in May when To Kill a Mockingbird was due to run.
A spokeswoman said: “The cancellation of To Kill a Mockingbird does present us with a programming challenge but our thoughts are with the cast and crew who were mid-rehearsal for, what we’re sure would have been, an incredible production.”
Both shows had casts of more than 20 actors, who have now been left out of work, in addition to an unknown number of crew and creatives. Following the cancellation of To Kill a Mockingbird, Equity said it would be holding a meeting to discuss the situation.
The show was being produced by Jonathan Church Productions, Curve and Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.
They claim they were granted the rights to stage the play last July. However, Broadway producer Scott Rudin is now declaring his company has exclusive stage rights and has demanded that the UK production be cancelled with immediate effect.
In a statement provided to The Stage, the Broadway producers say they “regret” the cancellation but argue that they are planning a UK mounting of the show following the New York run.
The Broadway production continues until November 1. However, the now-cancelled UK tour would only have run until June 8.
It was due to open on February 7 in Leicester. The producers said they were “deeply saddened to have been forced into the position of disappointing audiences across the UK and Ireland”.
They claim they have acted in good faith at all times regarding the rights, and added: “Atticus Limited Liability Company [Rudin’s company] made it clear that they would commence legal proceedings against the tour’s producer, originating theatre and all venues where it was due to be presented if the tour were not cancelled with immediate effect. Atticus Limited Liability Company were unwilling to consider any compromises which were proposed to resolve the situation without lengthy and costly legal action.”
Rudin’s Broadway production – which does not use Christopher Sergel’s adaptation (which premiered in 1991) but is a more recent version penned by Aaron Sorkin – has not been without its own controversy.
Last year, Rudin’s production company Rudinplay was involved in a protracted legal dispute with Lee’s estate over claims that Sorkin’s version “departed from the spirit of the novel”.
The two parties later settled out of court.
Ticketholders for the cancelled UK tour should contact their original sales point to arrange refunds.