'West Side Story,' which won't reopen, will return $10 million grant

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'West Side Story,' which won't reopen, will return $10 million grant
Isaac Powell, center left, and Shereen Pimentel, center right, in Ivo van Hove’s revival of “West Side Story," at the Broadway Theater in New York, Feb. 19, 2020. “West Side Story,” which opened weeks before the pandemic shut Broadway down, was approved for $10 million in federal aid — but it decided not to reopen, and said it would return the money. Sara Krulwich/The New York Times.

by Matt Stevens

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Earlier this summer “West Side Story,” the ambitious, avant-garde-tinged revival of the classic musical, got some significant relief: $10 million in federal funding. It was the maximum amount allowed under the new Shuttered Venue Operators Grant initiative, which devoted $16 billion in federal aid to help music clubs, theaters and other live-event businesses recover from the pandemic.

But even with that aid in its war chest, the show announced this week that it would not return to Broadway. Asked about the grant Tuesday, the show said it would give back the money.

“‘West Side Story’ will be returning the entirety of the SVOG grant with the hope that another production will be able to use the funds,” a spokesperson for the show, Rick Miramontez, said in a statement.

The revival — which was reimagined by director Ivo van Hove and choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker — opened to mixed reviews in February 2020, less than a month before the coronavirus outbreak shut down Broadway. While it was closed, its lead producer, Scott Rudin, announced in April 2021 that he would step back from active roles in his Broadway productions after he came under fire for a long history of abusive behavior; he said that he hoped the show would reopen without him.

Federal records showed that Danish San Juan Limited Liability Co., which court records said had been formed by Rudin to operate “West Side Story,” had been approved to receive $10 million under the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant initiative. Documents posted by the Small Business Administration, which runs the grant program, say that the federal funding is intended for “entities that are currently operating or intend to resume full operations.”

“West Side Story” had grossed $1.5 million in ticket sales the week before the pandemic closed it down. Miramontez did not respond when asked to elaborate on why the show had decided to close, despite the federal aid.

During the long shutdown, and with the prospects for rebounding uncertain, Broadway shows, nightclubs and arts institutions across the city jumped at the prospect of federal relief. This spring, after a long wait and many hiccups, more than 10,000 music clubs, theaters and other live-event businesses across the country got a share of a $16 billion federal grant, records show.

The records also show that many of New York’s best known cultural institutions got millions of dollars in funding, as did Broadway musicals like “Hamilton” and “Hadestown,” which plan to open next month.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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