Stephen M. Silverman
November 14, 2003 12:27 PM

To judge by this week’s news coverage, Rosie O’Donnell should have kept her TV talk show, Gruner + Jahr should have kept McCall’s magazine rather than turn it into Rosie, and the musical “Taboo” should have stayed in London — or maybe even just in the mind of Boy George.

But why fight progress?

Still, there’s no denying that the $10 million “Taboo,” which opened on Broadway Thursday night and was bankrolled by O’Donnell, is going to have a tough time making it on the Great White Way.

To put it mildly, critics were not kind to the show, which traces the rise of ’80s British pop personality Boy George (who plays a small role onstage), and ticket sales are reportedly weak.

A reporter for New York’s Daily News called Telecharge on Thursday and inquired if 20 seats might be available for the opening night performance and was told, “There should be no problem.” Preview performances reportedly played at 51 percent capacity.

Among those in the opening-night audience were Kathleen Turner, Penny Marshall, Susan Lucci, Bebe Neuwirth, Barbara Walters and Kiss rocker Gene Simmons, says the News, and The Times reports that the evening contained two standing ovations: one when producer O’Donnell entered the theater before the show, and another when the show concluded.

But then came the reviews.

The Wall Street Journal calls the show an absolute mess and just as awful as rumors had said it was, and The Washington Post calls the cast wasted (as in poorly used) — while The New York Times compares “Taboo” to “Cats,” only not in a good way.

Times critic Ben Brantley says that the theatergoers watching the stage action might expect the furry creatures at the Plymouth Theater to break into a song like “Memory.” Instead, the actors are simply stuck in what Brantley terms a disaster.

In a separate story about opening night, The Times quotes O’Donnell, 41, as saying at the party: “I am overwhelmed. I think it’s a beautiful show. You want to know what I’m about? Go see the show.”

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