Rift emerges over Broadway’s honoring Joan Rivers

FILE - In this Feb. 16, 2012 photo provided by Bravo, Joan Rivers appears on the "Watch What Happens Live" show in New York. (AP Photo/Bravo, Peter Kramer, File)

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.

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Online:

The petition: http://www.care2.com/go/z/JoanRivers

The Broadway League: http://www.broadwayleague.com

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