"I got to the Shubert at about 7:20," one ticket holder told TheaterMania.com. "The understudy board in the lobby said, 'At this performance, the role of Rose will be played by Maureen Moore.' They were also passing out flyers explaining that Bernadette was out. Dozens of people were milling around looking stunned, and there was already a line of people that extended through Shubert Alley almost to 45th Street. I assume they were waiting to get refunds or exchanges or whatever."
The complete text of the flyer handed out at the Shubert last night is as follows: "We regret to inform you that, due to illness, Ms. Peters is unable to appear in today's performance of Gypsy. You are encouraged to remain and see today's performance with Maureen Moore playing the role of Rose. If you prefer, instead, you may obtain an exchange or refund at any time, either at the Shubert Theatre box office or by returning your actual tickets to P.O. Box 998, Times Square Station, New York, NY 10108-0998. Please include your credit card information and billing address on credit card purchases when returning your tickets, and keep a copy of your tickets for your records. Please note that group tickets cannot be refunded to individuals but must be returned as a group through our Group Sales agents. We are sorry for any inconvenience this has caused but are confident that you will enjoy Ms. Moore's performance."
Peters's string of absences this week comes after her having missed four performances during the preview period of this third Broadway revival of the Jule Styne-Stephen Sondheim-Arthur Laurents musical, which is directed by Sam Mendes. As of last night, the star had missed a total of nine performances since the show began previews on March 31. Aside from disappointing theatergoers, her inability to perform has the show's publicists scrambling to try to reschedule nominators and voters for the various New York theater awards to see the show with Peters; the star was passed over for an Outer Critics Circle award nomination, and her continued absences may impact negatively on her chances to win a Drama Desk Award or to secure a Tony nomination. (The Tony nominating committee is scheduled to meet this Sunday, May 11, so those of its members who haven't yet seen Peters in the the show have only three more chances to do so.)
Peters made her first big splash as the ingénue lead of the Off-Broadway musical spoof Dames at Sea in 1968, then went on to star in the original companies of such Broadway shows as George M, Mack & Mabel, Sunday in the Park With George, Into the Woods, Song & Dance, and The Goodbye Girl, as well as in revivals of On the Town and Annie Get Your Gun. Though she is a two-time Tony Award winner (for Song & Dance and Annie Get Your Gun) and seems to have a large fan base, Peters has earned a reputation for not being able to maintain vocal consistency over eight performances a week. That reputation was made fun of in "See Me on a Monday," a Forbidden Broadway parody of the song "Tell Me on a Sunday" from Song & Dance that suggested audience members should obtain tickets to see Peters at the beginning of a week, when her voice is rested after a day off.
Following a rocky preview period marked by heavy Internet chatter questioning Peters's suitability for the role of Rose and wondering about her stamina, Gypsy and its star opened to a rave review from Ben Brantley in The New York Times and several other extremely enthusiastic notices, but there were also largely negative assessments from the Daily News, Newsday, and Variety.
On Monday, May 5, a New York Times article by Jesse McKinley titled "Gypsy Struts, Silencing Naysayers" described the show as "the best-received revival of the season" and held that critics had been "almost unanimous" in their praise of the production and its leading lady. In an e-mail response to a TheaterMania query on Tuesday, McKinley wrote that "if [Peters] continues to miss performances, it will definitely merit a story on its own." In the Friday, May 9 entry of his weekly "On Stage and Off" column, McKinley erroneously reports that Peters "was back in Gypsy" last night.
The Gypsy press office is not providing tickets for critics to review Maureen Moore while Peters is out. Because the star's absence last evening was apparently not announced until shortly before curtain time, TheaterMania.com was unable to immediately reach any spokesperson to comment on when Peters might return to the production.