“When Garth Drabinsky is involved, people rightly worry that all the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed out,” said David Levy, a spokesman for Equity. The issues were apparently resolved, but it wasn’t the kind of incident you want at the start of a Broadway run.
Drabinsky blamed a delay in delivering final contracts for the dispute and misunderstandings about what the actors were owed when the show moved to New York from Chicago. “The Chicago contract froze the deal for New York,” he said. “No variations were allowed. They were asking for something that we weren’t obligated to give.
Additionally, Drabinsky pointed out, he is not responsible for the show’s finances — an arrangement made explicit by the limited partnership formed to bring it to Broadway. “I walked away from every tax audit element of this show,” he added. “I don’t sign checks. I don’t get involved. I never want to relive the horror of what I experienced in 1998.”
Instead, he worked to shape “Paradise Square” for Broadway. The show started nine years ago with a small-scale musical titled “Hard Times“, written by Irish American musician Larry Kirwan, lead singer of the rock band Black 47. It is set during the Civil War, in Manhattan’s gritty Five Points neighborhood, where Irish immigrants and freed Black Americans lived together – and where Stephen Foster (whose music formed the bulk of the score) resided during his final years. The spectacle culminates in the Draft Riots of 1863, when white working-class New Yorkers formed violent racist mobs over a draft lottery.
Drabinsky loved the concept, but was reluctant to ground the show in Foster’s music, with its slavery-era Southern romance. So he set about reworking the piece, hiring composer Jason Howland to write a new score (only two Foster songs remain), a succession of writers to shift the focus of the story to the owner of a saloon. neighborhood (played by Tony nominee Joaquina Kalukango), and a top-notch creative team, including Kaufman, as director, as well as choreographer Bill T. Jones.
Themes of racial justice and the immigrant experience have long drawn Drabinsky, and their motto has only grown over the years of development, which included a 2019 studio production in Berkeley, California. and the world, it was kind of weird,” he said. “And that hasn’t stopped changing. Even to the point that a few days before our first glimpse, Russia invades Ukraine. Three million immigrants are now looking for a new home.
Drabinsky also made an effort to diversify the creative team, hiring Christina Anderson, a black playwright, to revise the script from Craig Lucas and Kirwan, and composer-lyricist Masi Asare, who collaborated with Nathan Tysen on the lyrics.