Alliance cancels Stephen Sondheim show

The double dose of bad news put the Woodruff Arts Center, the umbrella organization that houses both institutions, on the defensive.

"There's stress and strain but nothing for the arts center that warrants an ominous tone," Woodruff executive vice president Beauchamp Carr said Thursday. "That said, we're not immune from the market and the world, and we're going to have to adjust our thinking to the realities of the economy."

The New York producers behind "iSondheim" said they couldn't put the money together for the project, an expensive high-tech show to be written and directed by longtime Sondheim collaborator James Lapine.

"We regret the situation as the Alliance Theatre was ready, willing and able to fulfill their commitments for financing and infrastructure to stage this production," the Frankel/Viertel/Baruch/Routh group said in a statement. "We intend to produce the show at another date."

Alliance artistic director Susan V. Booth called the news "heartbreaking" but not a total surprise. "We all have deep regrets that we won't be able to do this project at this time. But I'd be lying if I said it came as a shock," Booth said. "These are unbelievable times."

The theater is slotting a revival of 2007's celebrated "Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris" into the April 15-May 7 spot.

"The Sondheim [cancellation] is an isolated problem and it may turn out that the [replacement show] does better for the Alliance, is a better fit," Carr said. "The Sondheim would start here and go to New York, but the investors who were behind it to mount the show — old-line financier types in New York — couldn't get the money together. So this case isn't an Atlanta-specific problem, but it again tells us we all have to adjust to the realities of the economy."

At the High, director Michael Shapiro said Thursday he anticipates reduced income from membership subscriptions. But he said Wednesday's announcement of a 7 percent staff reduction was proactive. "We want to position and prepare ourselves for what we anticipate next year," he said. "Looking down the road, we think it's going to be increasingly challenging to secure corporate funding for exhibitions."

The High says it has no plans to cancel any announced exhibitions and is sewing up details on some major exhibits to be announced soon.

Staff writers Catherine Fox and Pierre Ruhe contributed to this article.

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