A Broadway production of Room, Canadian writer Emma Donoghue’s stage adaptation of her bestselling novel of the same name, has shut down in rehearsals due to financial problems.
On Thursday, Room’s producers announced that the New York commercial premiere of the play with music about a woman and child held captive, which originated in England in 2017 and was most recently seen in London, Ont., and Toronto in 2022, would be “postponed indefinitely”.
“In the midst of our rehearsals we were informed by one of our Lead Producers that due to personal reasons, they did not intend to fulfill their obligations to the production,” producer Hunter Arnold said in a statement.
“Since being notified, the rest of the producing team has exhausted all possible avenues to keep the show on track, but the narrow timeline and economic shortfall created by this series of events has proven to be insurmountable.”
Room was scheduled to have its first preview performance on April 3 at the James Earl Jones Theatre. It’s unusual for a Broadway show to shut down at this stage of production; the New York Times reported that the last such example was Nerds, a musical about Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, in 2016.
“I’m brokenhearted for all those who’ve already put so much extraordinary work into this production,” Donoghue wrote to the Globe and Mail in an e-mail on Thursday. “But I didn’t despair when COVID cancelled Room in spring 2020 so I won’t now.”
Indeed, this is not Room’s first experience with a last-minute cancellation. The North American premiere was called off just a few hours before its opening at the Grand Theatre in London, Ont., on March 13, 2020.
The show did eventually return to the Grand in the winter of 2022 before then playing the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto as part of the Mirvish Productions season.
The creative team behind Room, which includes songs written by Cora Bissett and Kathryn Joseph, had made changes based on reception and reviews from last year’s Canadian performances - and was set to open in New York with a new cast led by Tony winner Adrienne Warren in the lead role of Ma.
But Canadians still involved in production beyond Donoghue included Alexis Gordon, the Shaw and Stratford Festival regular who won a Dora Award for portraying Ma in Toronto and was set to understudy the role in New York, and the veteran lighting designer Bonnie Beecher.
The Grand Theatre is “not financially tied to the Broadway production,” Caitlin Core, a spokesperson for the Ontario regional theatre, said Thursday; Mirvish is not a producer on it, either.
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