“Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again,” reads the first line of Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel, “Rebecca,” a sinister tale of a new bride haunted by the memory of her widowed husband’s seemingly perfect first wife. It is a story of deception and illusion, which is fitting for the deepening mystery surrounding the Broadway staging of the show.
The beleaguered production is the subject of Patrick Healy’s New York Times story published Tuesday, which chronicles the money trail -- or lack of one -- behind the Broadway debut of “Rebecca.” The scheduled Broadway production had been canceled last winter due to funding difficulties, but plans were revived this year. In order to move ahead with a fall opening, producer Ben Sprecher had been counting on a $4.5 million investment from one Paul Abrams, a South Africa-based business consultant unknown in Broadway circles. But they money never came, as Abrams reportedly died mysteriously of malaria in the UK sometime in or before August, when Sprecher told the Times he was informed via email of his investor’s unexpected death.
According to Healy’s report, Sprecher had never met Abrams nor spoken to him on the phone -- Abrams had canceled the only face-to-face meeting the two had scheduled. The producer told the Times he flew to the UK after Abrams died in order to settle the investment with an estate representative, who referred to him or herself simply as Wexler and communicated exclusively with an email address created last month via Domain Discreet Privacy Service. Sprecher returned to New York without a meeting and without a check. Now the producer must fill the $4.5 million gap in order for the $12 million show to go on: He told the Times that he has financial commitments to make up the difference but would not say from whom.
A thorough investigation by the Times has yet to turn up an obituary record or any trace of Abrams’ existence (nor has any digging on the part of IBTimes). According to the Times, two colleagues of the investor, including Wexler, have communicated only via email -- one using an AOL address -- and did not provide any records confirming the presumed millionaire’s life or death.
The developing story has echoes of the second act of “Shattered Glass,” the film adaptation of the book about Stephen Glass, a young fabulist working as a reporter for the New Republic who manufactured flimsy paper trails to support the existence of invented stories and sources. But in the case of “Rebecca,” it’s still unclear whether the vanished investor ever existed in the first place -- and if he did appear from thin air, who conjured him. When asked by the Times if he believed Abrams did not actually exist, Sprecher said, "You'll have to go and get that information somewhere else."
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Healy gave a brief interview to NPR on Tuesday discussing his work on the story. Asked who might benefit by inventing Abrams, he said, “Some have theorized that this Paul Abrams figure may have been created out of whole cloth to try to attract other investors into the show. There is no evidence of that; Ben Sprecher says that is not true. But, on the other hand, he has not been able to confirm the identity of this man, Paul Abrams.” Healy added that he did not wish to point any fingers and reminded his interviewer that there was still no way of knowing if Abrams was a figment of anyone’s imagination.
Multiple messages left for the Sprecher Organization were unreturned; a representative for Actor’s Equity Union declined to participate in the story on her own behalf and on behalf of Actor’s Equity President Nick Wyman, who is among the cast of “Rebecca” and provided interviews to the Times.
A press representative for the production and an agent for one of the actors said that cast members are being paid for this week in full, confirming what Sprecher told the Times. Sprecher told the paper last week that rehearsals for “Rebecca” would not begin, however, until the outstanding money was in the bank. On Wednesday, the Times reported that Sprecher had informed the cast via email that rehearsals would begin on Oct. 1, but there was no indication the financing had materialized. Wyman is quoted in the story as saying that he is counting on the show going up, despite being unsure if the money is in the bank yet. Another cast member also expressed optimism about the show moving forward.
“I find it sort of personally strange that people who are still involved with ‘Rebecca' don’t want to get to the bottom of who [Abrams] was,” Healy said in his NPR interview. Indeed, the cast of the show appears to remain optimistic and committed to the flailing production, taking their producer’s word alone that the show will go on. The press representative for the production confirmed that none of the current cast have dropped out amid the latest turmoil and delays; in the spring, two leads in the previous incarnation of the New York City staging reportedly dropped out as they had signed on to star in “Les Miserables.” They were replaced by Jill Paice and Ryan Silverman.
Reached by phone, Paice’s agent too expressed confidence about the show’s prospects and said the actress was still committed (and unavailable for comment.) The press representative for the show did not respond to an email message Wednesday asking about whether the outstanding financing was in place.
Tickets for the show are currently available for purchase via Telecharge for performances beginning Nov. 20.