Producers May Resurrect "The Dead" on Broadway

By Michael Riedel
New York Observer

WILL "The Dead" live on? The off-Broadway musical, which opened last week to generally strong notices, wraps up its sold-out run at Playwrights Horizons on Nov. 28.

But a plan is afoot to move the show, which is based on James Joyce's great short story, to a Broadway theater for a limited 13-week engagement.

"You can't walk away from a show like this without trying to extend its life," Greg Mosher, one of the producers, said this week. "You'd be the dodohead of the century if you did."

Mosher put the cost of a Broadway transfer at "just north of $1 million," about half of which has been raised so far, production sources say.

He is also working on keeping the show's highly praised cast - including Christopher Walken, Blair Brown, Stephen Spinella, Sally Ann Howes and Marni Nixon - together for a commercial run. Contracts haven't been signed, but discussions with agents are under way.

The performers won't be paid star salaries; indeed, they may all end up working for scale - $1,100 a week.

"Nobody involved in this project is going to get rich," Mosher said. "You don't do James Joyce's 'The Dead' to get rich."

As for a theater, the Belasco is a possibility, now that "The Scent of the Roses," starring Julie Harris, is off (its producers couldn't raise the money).

But can "The Dead" survive in the hit-or-miss world of the commercial theater? It is, after all, an arty show, and even critics who praised it expressed reservations about adapter Richard Nelson's direction (he took over for Jack Hofsiss midway through rehearsals).

Privately, a number of show-biz insiders are calling "The Dead" a "noble failure."

But Mosher is optimistic about its chances. "I believe there is a tremendous and untapped audience for serious theater on Broadway. I don't want to sugar-coat the show - it's not 'Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.' But it is a work of joy and, at the end, profound sadness. It's a full meal."