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Broadway’s ‘Kate’ Gets Reprieve

Its cast and crew have come to the rescue of Broadway's 'Kiss Me, Kate,' taking not only a 25 percent pay cut allowed by their unions, but then deciding to donate an additional 25 percent out of their own pockets to purchase tickets to the musical over the next two weeks.

Those tickets will be distributed to Broadway Cares, a nonprofit theater organization, and then allocated to various groups working on disaster relief.

Producer Roger Berlind tore up the show's closing notice Sunday on stage at the Martin Beck Theatre before the matinee.

“Because of an extraordinary outpouring of generosity and good will of every member of the 'Kiss Me, Kate' family, I have the enormous pleasure of ...” Berlind said before his voice trailed off and he scattered the torn bits of paper on the stage. “The show will go on.”

“Kate” was scheduled to close Sunday because of a steep drop in ticket sales following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. It was one of six Broadway shows that decided to end their runs Sunday.

“We have been struggling to keep the show going and the economics of a simple 25 percent pay cut didn't work for this show,” Berlind said. “We were doing less business than some of the others; our running costs are high, and we were closing Dec. 30 anyway.”

At first, the cast and crew wanted to take a 50 percent pay cut, a plan rejected by the 11 unions that represented the 100 people in the “Kiss Me, Kate” company.

It was Joseph Maher, the Martin Beck's head carpenter, who came up with the idea to have the cast and crew buy tickets at the box office and then donate them. The show's leading lady, Carolee Carmello, and Dominic Derasse, who plays trumpet in the show's orchestra, joined him in winning over the company.

“I think it is a testament to the spirit of Broadway and New York,” Carmello said in her dressing room before the performance. “This company is a family, and it has risen to the occasion.

“Kate” joins five other musicals — “Les Miserables,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Chicago,” “Rent” and “The Full Monty” — which have taken 25 percent pay cuts to keep their shows running. The salary cuts involve everyone connected with the shows from actors to musicians to stagehands to press agents to scenic designers and more.

What will happen to “Kiss Me, Kate” after the two weeks is uncertain.

“We will just have to see if business picks up,” Berlind said. “Maybe we will be OK, but a lot will depend on what happens on Broadway as a whole.”

After Berlind made his speech, the play began with an actor walking on stage, sweeping off the closing notice and singing the first few words of the first song in the Cole Porter musical, “Another Op'nin', Another Show.” The audience cheered.

By MICHAEL KUCHWARA
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