Grand bosses cancel Manilow musical

Jon Lee was due to star in Copacabana at the Grand, Blackpool. Theatre bosses have cancelled the run due to issues with the production company
Jon Lee was due to star in Copacabana at the Grand, Blackpool. Theatre bosses have cancelled the run due to issues with the production company
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Bosses at Blackpool Grand Theatre have taken the unprecedented move to pull next week’s production of Copacabana.

After four days of trying to contact the national musical tour’s production company ASH Productions Live, the decision has been made to cancel the six-day run which was due to start on Monday.

Last week’s run in Bournemouth was cut short and this week’s performances at Newcastle’s Mill Volvo Tyne Theatre were cancelled.

The cancellations were due to a reported row over non-payment of cast, crew and suppliers for the show.

Grand chief executive Ruth Eastwood said: “We were shocked and surprised to learn of the difficulties with the tour of Copacabana, which was selling very well at The Grand.

“In the circumstances, which are totally out of our control, we will, of course, contact all our customers and refund their tickets with apologies for the understandable disappointment this cancellation will cause.”

The theatre first tried to make contact with ASH Productions Live on Sunday and has made numerous phone calls and sent emails since then.

No reply has been received.

The Barry Manilow musical was due to star Jon Lee of former S Club 7 fame - who wowed crowds during the Illuminations’ Switch On Festival this summer.

Grand Theatre marketing manager Andrew Howard said he first became aware of the issue last Saturday and attempted to make contact with producers Antony Stuart-Hicks and Paul Leno, of ASH Productions Live, on Sunday - continuing since Monday and leaving several messages.

The Gazette has also phoned and emailed the company, with no response.

Mr Howard said: “It has been a well-received show in terms of bookings as well as press interest. It’s a show I was looking forward to as being a great booking in our programme.”

He added that representatives of the Billingham Forum Theatre, due to receive the show after the Grand, had also had no contact from the producers.

A spokesman for actors’ union Equity has confirmed it is working with Copacabana cast members after news of the cancellations. The Gazette understands deadlines set by Equity and the Musicians’ Union for their members to be paid by ASH Productions have not been met.

Copacabana’s producers were behind a failed tour of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee last year, which was due to star Darren Day - who has appeared weekly at Viva... Blackpool! this summer, in Joe Longthorne’s That’s What Friends Are For show.

Day’s management last week launched legal proceedings to recoup the money he is owed, and musicians involved in that show are threatening to do the same.

Back in August, the Grand was forced to go dark when a national tour of classic musical Annie Get Your Gun starring Jason Donovan cancelled its final weeks’ shows - including its Blackpool run.

Mr Howard added: “Musicals are good sellers and losing two does affect us.

“Panto is coming up, and that is one of our biggest earners, but we cannot afford to lose two musicals in such quick succession.

“For the theatre industry in general, this is not good news.”