SHARE


Mr. Malloy also said that the show made the cast changes out of financial necessity.

“The show was in desperate shape; sales after Ingrid leaving Aug. 13 were catastrophically low,” he said on Twitter. “Show would have closed.”

Producers of the show had no immediate comment on Mr. Patinkin’s withdrawal.

But earlier in the day, the show’s producers had issued an apologetic statement. “As part of our sincere efforts to keep ‘Comet’ running for the benefit of its cast, creative team, crew, investors and everyone else involved, we arranged for Mandy Patinkin to play Pierre. However, we had the wrong impression of how Oak felt about the casting announcement and how it would be received by members of the theater community, which we appreciate is deeply invested in the success of actors of color – as are we – and to whom we are grateful for bringing this to our attention. We regret our mistake deeply, and wish to express our apologies to everyone who felt hurt and betrayed by these actions.”

The show’s producers announced in February that Mr. Onaodowan, a member of the original “Hamilton” cast, would step into the show’s leading male role after Mr. Groban left the show in early July.

But this week, the producers abruptly cut short Mr. Onaodowan’s expected nine-week tenure, saying that during his final three weeks, he would be replaced by Mr. Patinkin, who became famous with “The Princess Bride,” won a Tony Award for “Evita” and is now featured in television’s “Homeland.”

Although producers periodically replace lesser-known performers with big-name actors in the hopes of selling more tickets, the move at “The Great Comet” prompted outrage among some black actors. They turned to social media to express their concern that Mr. Onaodowan was not given sufficient opportunity to succeed before being replaced by a white actor.

There were multiple complicating factors. Mr. Onaodowan’s tenure was always going to be short — it just got shorter. Mr. Patinkin is unquestionably better known on Broadway, which could have boosted publicity for the show and ticket sales during a traditionally slow end-of-summer period. (On Thursday, for example, he was interviewed on NBC’s “Today” show.) And the production is among the most diverse on Broadway, with an African-American actress, Denée Benton, playing Natasha, and multiple other nonwhite actors in the company. (This month, Actors’ Equity gave the show an award for “extraordinary excellence in diversity on Broadway.”)

But some performers argued that the casting change reflects a larger problem in the entertainment business. The move “raises questions about how Black actors are valued and supported within Broadway,” declared the website BroadwayBlack.

Rafael Casal, a writer and performer who called attention to the producers’ move on Twitter, called it “infuriating.”

“It’s like the integration of baseball, where a player has to be twice as good,” Mr. Casal said in a phone interview.

Mr. Onaodowan, who spent months preparing for the role, including learning to play the accordion, posted a response on Instagram on Friday morning — before Mr. Patinkin dropped out — saying, “In spite of everything, I am grateful to have had the time to bring this character to life with a remarkable cast that truly make the Imperial Theater a sacred place every night.”

Although the show’s lead producer, Howard Kagan, had said Mr. Onaodowan would be welcome to play the role again at a later date, the actor said he did not intend to do that.

“I will not be returning,” he said.

To no one’s surprise, the show’s grosses have dropped since Mr. Groban’s departure. The show had been bringing in about $1.2 million a week with Mr. Groban in the role of Pierre; it brought in $923,571 last week, with Mr. Onaodowan as Pierre. That’s still higher than the amount for most Broadway shows, and still more than the production’s running costs, but not as much as the musical was likely to bring in with Mr. Patinkin in the role. Mr. Patinkin was scheduled to play Pierre from Aug. 15 through Sept. 3.

The producers had not said who was to play Pierre after Labor Day, but they appeared to be considering the occasional use of well-known performers in key roles to excite interest — a strategy many other shows use.

The most prominent performer to express concern was the actress Cynthia Erivo, who won a Tony Award last year for her performance in a revival of “The Color Purple.” Ms. Erivo posted a series of seven messages on Twitter on Wednesday, suggesting that the changeover was unfair to both Mr. Onaodowan and Mr. Patinkin.

“I honestly am flabbergasted,” she posted. She added, “The disrespect of both actors is highly concerning.”

Several other performers weighed in as well. Adrienne Warren, a Tony nominee for “Shuffle Along, Or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed,” also called the news “infuriating.”

Ariana DeBose, a “Hamilton” alumna now starring in “A Bronx Tale” on Broadway, called for more attention to challenges faced by nonwhite performers.

And Kristolyn Lloyd, featured in the “Dear Evan Hansen” Broadway cast, said the situation was all too familiar.

Continue reading the main story



Source : Diversity Concerns Prompt ‘Great Comet’ Casting Shakeup