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EAGERLY ANTICIPATED CONCERT REDUCED TO MERE PHANTOM AS CRAWFORD CANCELS S.L. DATES

One of the 1992-93 theater season's most eagerly anticipated events - Michael Crawford guest-starring in "The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber" - has been canceled.

The show had been scheduled Nov. 3-8 at Symphony Hall.The official announcement from the Theater League of Utah (hammered out after lengthy, long-distance negotiations with the producers in New York City and both Crawford's and Lloyd Webber's agents), said simply: "The national tour of `The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber with special guest star Michael Crawford will close in Chicago on Oct. 25. Due to a change in his obligation to another project, Michael Crawford is not available to perform in the concert beyond Oct. 25."

The announcement added that Crawford, however, "looks forward to performing in Salt Lake City in the near future."

The Theater League is notifying its season subscribers by mail, asking them to return their tickets for refunds.

John Ballard, president of The Space Agency and its subsidiary, the Theater League of Utah, said Wednesday morning, "I hope that when Crawford does this [showT again, he will consider us at the top of his list."

He said TLU subscriptions were up about 15 percent from last year - probably based on Michael Crawford's name.

"The worst thing about this is that it does affect our credibility," said Ballard, "but we won't bring in the show without Crawford. We don't want people to think we're fooling them. If we can't deliver the show with Crawford, we'll give them their money back."

He hoped Utah audiences would understand "that this is something totally out of our control."

Ballard added that every performer's contract includes a clause allowing him to cancel. It's a "we'll do this, unless we have something else we'd rather do" situation.

"These cancellations are always a possibility," said Ballard. "Hal Holbrook's contracts allow 45 days' notice."

The Deseret News first heard rumors of a possible cancellation by Crawford when a reader - one of the singer's fans - called on Friday. That same day, the Theater League had been contacted by Pace Theatrical Group Inc., the New York-based producer of the show, asking the Salt Lake promoters to delay single ticket sales from Monday until next Friday, explaining only there were some "problems" with the engagement.

By Tuesday, Ballard and his staff were busy negotiating with agents in New York.

I contacted a publicist for the national tour, Karen Vock of Gatchell & Neufeld in New York City, late Tuesday afternoon. While stating that the tour had, in fact, been canceled, she did not have any details on Crawford's other project.

She said, however, that the "Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber" show had been on the road for the past three and a half years and "was a fabulous concert and very successful, even without big-name guest stars."

The show - featuring Crawford - just opened a two-week run at Radio City Music Hall and earned a respectable review in Variety. The only other dates still scheduled for the tour are West Palm Beach and Chicago.

The "Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber" tour had also been scheduled Oct. 27-Nov. 1 in Milwaukee and, following the Salt Lake dates, Nov. 10-15 at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, and then Vancouver, British Columbia.

When I contacted Misha Berson, drama critic for the Seattle Times, in an effort to track down the national promoters on Tuesday, she was surprised to learn the tour was canceled. She had been out of her office for a few days and had just returned to find a notice announcing tickets were going on sale for the Paramount Theatre engagement.

Unlike the Salt Lake performances, which were part of a subscription series, the Seattle booking was separate from the Paramount's "Best of Broadway" package.

Damien Jaques, drama critic for the Milwaukee Journal, said there had just been a brief notice from the venue there about the cancellation, with no explanation.

In Salt Lake City, Crawford's concerts were supposed to be the centerpiece of the Theater League's 1992-93 season, which just opened with a Sept. 22-26 engagement of the national touring production of "City of Angels."

Other stage productions booked by TLU for its current season are "Meet Me in St. Louis," Jan. 26-31, 1993, and Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Jesus Christ Superstar," during April, with specific dates not yet set.