It’s not every day that Overland Park’s 22 year-old New Theatre Restaurant has to cancel its opening night performance. But that’s exactly what happened last Wednesday for the kickoff performance of the classic play Harvey starring Judge Reinhold.
The same Judge Reinhold who hooked up in 1982 with Eddie Murphy for Beverly Hills Cop, co-starred in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and appeared in those goofy Beethoven mutt movies in the 1990s and early 2000s. He’s also the 56 year-old Hollywood has been who the New Theatre signed to be the token “name” star in its 10 week run here of the Jimmy Stewart classic.
That is until a last minute dustup last week resulted in Reinhold bailing on the New Theatre and causing it to cancel for the first time in the company’s history, what was probably a sold out opening night performance.
Worse yet, ticket holders expecting to party with Reinhold are now stuck with a local backup / understudy until 58 year-old Englishman Charles Shaughnessy can memorize the leading character’s lines well enough and step in as lead actor on January 30.
Put simply, it wasn’t pretty…
Yet in reporting the news for the Kansas City Star, all my pal Robert Trussell could muster in the form of skinny about the dramatic falling out, was the theater says that Reinhold wasn’t happy with things after three weeks of rehearsals so they let him out of his contract and more-or-less wished him well. And a stilted email statement from Reinhold saying the New Theatre gang are jolly good fellows and he’s certain the play will be a crowd pleaser…you know, and he wishes them well too, right?
It was maybe the worst theatrical thing to ever happen to owners Richard Carrothers and Dennis Hennessy since they painted themselves into a coat closet in 1972 on opening night at the old Tiffany’s Attic at 51st and Main, and everybody says they still want to hug it out. Highly unlikely.
So that’s the real story?
“Of course not,” says local actress Carol Barta. “Any time an actor is replaced it’s not a happy thing. It’s not anything to have a picnic over. You know there’s much more about the entire situation than got published.”
Somewhat obviously, neither the New Theatre or Reinhold wanted to clear the air.
“If they wanted all the dirty laundry out they would have put it out,” Barta says. “So if there’s really more to the story – and there probably is – you’re going to have to get it from somebody that’s in the loop.”
Speaking of which, the Star could have easily gotten to the bottom of the matter and reported what really happened, but that would have entailed pissing off an advertiser.
So what is the real story behind the unprecedented breakup?
“I know the whole story,” says one local theater insider. “But it’s a little dicey.”
In a nutshell, when the New Theatre brings in one of its marquee stars – like washed up 77 year-old, former Hollywood sex symbol Dyan Cannon last year – they pay them a pretty penny, treat them like kings and build their entire marketing strategy around them.
“They come in three weeks in advance and are contracted for six days a week for rehearsals,” says the source. “But for some of these guys who haven’t done live theater for a long time, that can be kind of hard on them.”
Speaking of which…
“But they pay them very well,” says the source. “I can tell you for sure Reinhold was making really good money, probably between $4,000 and $5,000 a week. And the New Theatre owns and provides them renovated, really nice houses – beautifully accommodated – that come with a house cleaner once a week. And they get a car, cleaned and gassed up. They’re very well taken care of.”
So how do the New Theatre dudes really feel about the Reinhold disaster?
“They’re totally bummed because it’s costing them a lot of money and they had to bring in somebody else.”
As for what went down, “I think Reinhold was struggling with the role and he had not done theater in like 16 years. And sometimes the actors get nervous that the entire show is on their back. Barbara Eden came in very nervous, but she totally relaxed and never missed a performance. She was amazing.”
That was hardly the case with Reinhold.
“It was rough going, even into the second week of rehearsals. I just think he was beating up on himself and he started taking it out on other people, including the director who (co) owns the theater. And it all culminated on the last day – Monday of last week. They were doing a rehearsal and it didn’t go that bad – and Reinhold was nervous – but he absolutely had the character down. But there were some techincal problems and I think it just overwhelmed him.
“Because after that final rehearsal, he just flipped out and it’s too bad, because he would have been fine. he got upset about the fact that they weren’t taking a lunch break and he started yelling – and yelling at people – and it was the last straw. And he went in a room with one of the directors – and we don’t know what happened in that room – if he was fired or he quit. And that’s when it ended. It ended on Monday and they had to cancel the opening night show on Wednesday.”
“I know (Reinhold) didn’t plan on this happening because his wife and one year-old daughter had just flown in the night before. The theater didn’t want this to happen and Judge didn’t want this to happen, so whatever happened in that meeting must have been pretty prickly. I mean, they had to cancel opening night for godsakes and they’ve never canceled a show in 22 years. They even have a generator if the power goes out.”
Money aside, how bad might Reinhold’s abrupt and angry departure hurt the box office?
“The New Theatre may lose out on some single ticket sales, but they’re not going to lose money because they have so many subscribers. They have something like 23,000 subscribers. That’s why their shows run so long.”
And that ladies and gentlemen, is the rest of the story.
With the possible exception of – tisk, tisk – the uncorrected misspelling of New Theatre cofounder and owner Dennis Hennessy’s last name by the Star.