The Mystery of the Disappearing Producer

Reported death of a major "Rebecca" investor leaves cast unsure of next step

Actors in a Broadway-bound production of the musical “Rebecca” have found themselves in limbo following the disappearance of an investor who was to have contributed nearly one third of the show’s budget. The investor may have died, though reports are now casting doubt on whether he ever existed in the first place.

Ben Sprecher, a producer who has helped finance plays such as the 2005 revival of “The Odd Couple” with Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane, is trying to drum up a $4.5 million budget shortfall in light of reports that an investor named Paul Abrams had died. 

The problem: Sprecher, who enjoys a solid reputation, had never met Abrams, or even spoken to him on the phone. In August, he learned by e-mail from “associates” of Abrams that the mystery man had died in Britain. Of malaria. The New York Times has been unable to find any proof of his death, by way of obituaries or death notices.

Sprecher and fellow producer Louise Forlenza told the cast last week that they have arranged alternate financing. In a statement issued to Playbill, they said: “Signed contracts for those investments have gone out and the funds transfers are expected within days. As soon as that occurs, production will resume and the new first-rehearsal date set.” The cast was told they would be paid for the week of Sept. 24, when rehearsals were to begin, “whether or not” they do.

At last report, a show spokesperson told the Times yesterday that “financial commitments are in place, but the money has yet to be deposited.”

“Rebecca” is based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier about a mysterious English estate called Manderley. The version expected on Broadway, the show’s English-language premiere, has been honed in Europe, most recently in Stuttgart, Germany. 

Jill Paice (“Curtains,” “The Woman in White”) and Ryan Silverman (a one-time Raoul in Broadway’s “Phantom”) are the leads, with a principal cast that includes Karen Mason (“Mamma Mia!”), two-time Tony nominee Howard McGillin (“Phantom”) and James Barbour (“Beauty and the Beast”).

Previews at the Broadhurst were to begin Oct. 30, before a Nov. 18 opening; updated information has not been released. Below is video of the German company of “Rebecca.”

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