Adding to the woes of Bristol’s struggling subsidised houses, the city’s leading commercial venue – the Bristol Hippodrome, owned by LiveNation and considered one of the country’s number one tour venues – is cancelling five weeks of performances this summer due to poor ticket sales. The entire Bristol run of The Producers has been pulled, and the upcoming visit of Starlight Express has been shortened by a week.

The touring production of Mel Brooks’ West End and Broadway award-winning hit The Producers opened on 22 February (previews from 19 February) at Manchester’s Palace Theatre and is currently running for a month in Birmingham. It was due to hit Bristol from 21 August to 22 September 2007.

A show spokesperson told that other tour dates will go ahead as scheduled. After the August hiatus, The Producers continues to Southampton (25 September-13 October), Glasgow (6-17 November) and Cardiff (27 November-8 December). Dates planned for Edinburgh (11 December-19 January) were previously cancelled.

In Brooks’ irreverent comedy, based on his 1968 Oscar-winning film, washed-up theatre producer Max Bialystock and his timid accountant Leo Bloom cook up a scheme to make a fortune by presenting a sure-fire flop called "Springtime for Hitler", care of the world’s worst director, cross-dresser Roger DeBris. The production currently stars Cory English (as Max), Joe Pasquale (Leo) and Russ Abbot (Roger).

In a statement, Hippodrome general manager Tracey Keight said that it was “with great regret” that the show’s Bristol dates were cancelled. She continued: “I would like to extend our sincere apologies to patrons who have already purchased tickets for The Producers. Despite the fact that The Producers was a great success in the West End, this has not been the case in Bristol where advance ticket sales have not been sufficiently strong in order to make the run viable. Such decisions are only made once all other options have been exhausted.

“We are aware, through recent media coverage in the region, of the concerns of many regarding the state of live theatre in Bristol and would like to assure everyone that the Bristol Hippodrome is regarded as a flagship venue in Live Nation’s portfolio of UK theatrical venues and as such is a very desirable venue for producers to bring their shows. Aside from this news regarding The Producers, the Bristol Hippodrome has recently enjoyed great success with new product such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Riverdance and the forthcoming visit of Mamma Mia!.”

Ahead of The Producers, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s roller-skating musical Starlight Express was scheduled to run at the Hippodrome from next Tuesday 17 July to 11 August 2007. It will now close in Bristol a week earlier, on Saturday 4 August.

Meanwhile, in the city’s subsidised sector, Bristol Old Vic has attracted national headlines and public outcry surrounding its sudden closure, on 1 August, for a minimum of 18 months for a £7.5 million refurbishment (See News, 4 Jun 2007). A public appeal has been launched to raise an additional £2 million necessary for the theatre to reopen. And the city’s similarly cash-strapped Tobacco Factory, whose artistic director stepped down this month after clashes with the theatre’s board (See The Goss, 4 Jul 2007), has also launched a fundraising campaign.

- by Terri Paddock