Broadway theaters reverse decision, set to honor Joan Rivers

SHARE Broadway theaters reverse decision, set to honor Joan Rivers

The revealing 2010 documentary “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” helped redefine the veteran comedian’s public image.

By Mark Kennedy

Update: The Broadway League, which represents theater owners and producers, has reversed itself and will ask theaters to dim their lights in honor of Joan Rivers.

The league had said Monday that Rivers did not meet the criteria for the honor, triggering a controversy when several theater owners said they would turn off their marquee lights Tuesday anyway. An online petition was launched and several celebrities came out in favor of granting the honor.

The league changed course Tuesday afternoon, saying the lights would dim at 6:45 p.m. for one minute.

“Joan Rivers loved Broadway and we loved her,” Charlotte St. Martin, the league’s executive director, said in a statement. “Due to the outpouring of love and respect for Joan Rivers from our community and from her friends and fans worldwide, the marquees of Broadway theatres in New York will be dimmed in her memory tonight.”

Before the league’s reversal, 10 theaters — out of 40 — were set to break with the league and dim their lights.

NEW YORK (AP) — Joan Rivers will be memorialized by the dimming of Broadway’s lights, after all. But just some of them.

The Broadway League, which represents theater owners and producers, said Monday that Rivers did not meet the criteria for the honor, but several theater owners said they would turn off their marquee lights Tuesday anyway.

Rivers, who died Thursday at 81, was known primarily as a TV actress and comedian, though she often attended Broadway and off-Broadway shows and earned a Tony Award nomination.

Disney Theatrical Productions will dim the lights of its New Amsterdam Theatre marquee, as will all five Jujamcyn Theaters, including the Hirschfeld Theatre, where the Rivers family will gather Wednesday night for the dimming.

An online petition by theater producer Tom D’Angora asking the league to reverse its decision had reached 5,000 signatures as of noon, less than 24 hours after it was put up.

“I promise you, the majority of the community wants to thank and honor her,” said D’Angora, who has produced “NEWSical” and “Naked Boys Singing.” “She did so much. She was such an outspoken champion.”

“I can’t believe we can be denied the last chance to show respect and thank her. I also think if you watch her interviews and documentaries, this would hurt her feelings,” he added. “Plus, how hard is it to hit a dimmer switch?”

A spokeswoman for the league did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A spokeswoman for the Rivers family said they were in mourning and didn’t want to comment.

Some celebrities who have been recently granted the honor — a one-minute dimming of all 40 Broadway theater marquees — include Philip Seymour Hoffman and James Gandolfini, whose TV and film careers often overshadowed their theater contributions.

Rivers wrote and starred in the 1971 quick-to-close “Fun City,” was in Neil Simon’s “Broadway Bound” in 1988, and wrote and starred in “Sally Marr … And Her Escorts” in 1994, where she earned her Tony nod.

In a statement on its decision about Rivers, Jujamcyn president Jordan Roth said that “when not on stage herself, she was often seen in the audience on opening nights, cheering for all and championing the Broadway she so loved.”

Broadway stars came out in force for Rivers’ funeral on Sunday, including Audra McDonald, who sang “Smile,” and Hugh Jackman, who sang “Quiet Please, There’s a Lady On Stage.” In attendance were theater stars such as Bernadette Peters, Alan Cumming and Tommy Tune. —AP

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• Joan Rivers remembered at star-studded funeral

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