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Broadway Shockers 2021: Convicted Fraudster Garth Drabinsky Returns as Broadway Producer

The Ragtime producer makes his comeback with Paradise Square.

Garth Drabinsky is the lead producer of Paradise Square on Broadway.
(© Hudson Taylor Photo)

As 2021 draws to a close, TheaterMania looks back on some of the most jaw-dropping stories of the year.

Longtime Broadway-watchers did a double take when they learned the name of the lead producer of the new musical Paradise Square, which is set to begin performances at Broadway's Ethel Barrymore Theatre on February 22: Garth Drabinsky is the Tony-winning impresario behind Kiss of the Spider Woman, Show Boat, and Ragtime. He is also a convicted felon who spent 17 months in a Canadian prison.

That was for defrauding shareholders of his production company, Livent, of more than $400 million. The damning evidence that led to his stint behind bars includes falsified financial statements and bogus invoices that allowed Drabinsky and his business partner, Myron Gottlieb, to transfer millions to their personal accounts.

New York Post columnist Michael Riedel has labeled Drabinsky "Broadway's real-life Max Bialystock" and has written extensively about his business exploits and abrasive personal style in his book Singular Sensation: The Triumph of Broadway. None of that seems to have dissuaded the investors of Paradise Square.

And perhaps there is good reason for that: Buzz is mounting around this musical story of race relations and cultural synthesis in New York's Five Points neighborhood. This is especially true for star Joaquina Kalukango, whom many (*raises hand*) see as wrongly denied a Tony Award for her performance in Slave Play. If she's as great in Paradise Square as I'm hearing, Drabinsky could be looking at multiple Tony Awards for his big comeback.

So, does that mean all is forgiven in this season of redemption? Not quite. But as a not-very-good musical recently pointed out, there is always a second act for powerful men determined to retake what they once lost. This year it's Drabinsky, but don't be surprised when others follow his lead.

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