10:15 am EST, January 6, 2014

The Broadway Graveyard of January

By Irvin K

Broadway shows historically have a tendency to close in January, once the lucrative holiday season is over, and the box office doldrums set in. But this weekend, only one sixth of the shows on Broadway all ended their runs.

Now plenty of theaters are empty and awaiting their blockbuster spring tenants. This is the body count for Broadway this weekend.

Getting a head start on all the closings last weekend was the musical Big Fish, based on the Tim Burton film of the same name, about a father who tells tall tales and his relationship with his son. The show was a big-budget spectacle, and just did not pull in enough audiences to fill up its large theater. The show played to a theater less than 80% full, on average, and after pulling in only $10.8 million from 147,000 audience members, did not even bother staying open through New Year’s. The audiences who mostly stayed away missed quite a good show in my opinion – Norbert Leo Butz gave a tour de force performance and had the entire theater sobbing. The Neil Simon Theater will next host All the Way, a drama about Lyndon B. Johnson.

Closing a day earlier than everyone else, on Saturday, was the infamous Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark. The show would have been a gargantuan success if it had the budget of any other Broadway show in history – over $210 million grossed (and quite a few records smashed), and seen by over two million people, over the course of more than a thousand performances. But with its enormous budget, the show still lost about $60 million after all that. It also never received much Tony recognition, with only nominations for costumes and scenery. But the show went out with a bang, as J. Jonah Jameson read aloud the headline “Super-Hero Musical Defies Doubters: Runs Three Years on Broadway.” The original cast showed up to bid farewell. The show is off to Las Vegas next. The Foxwoods Theater has not yet announced its next tenant (since there is much renovation to be done after Spiderman), but there are rumors King Kong could make its home there.

And then came Sunday, January 5, with the closure of four Broadway shows. Many fans (this writer included) braved the swamps of frozen slush in Manhattan and the stealthily iced-over streets in outer boroughs to see their favorite show one last time. Rush lines still formed despite the frigid rain and sub-zero temperature, proving just how dedicated Broadway fans are.

Billy Crystal had returned with a limited nine-week engagement of 700 Sundays. The play is autobiographical in nature, and was filmed to be broadcast on HBO. The show proved very popular (who doesn’t like Billy Crystal?), and in its short time the play has made over $10 million dollars. The Imperial Theater will next host a revival of Les Miserables in March.

If Billy Crystal is popular, he’s nothing compared to Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, whose play Betrayal is another of the day’s casualties. This play is a revival of an old time-bending play about marital infidelity, and played to 100% capacity through the entirety of its fourteen-week limited engagement. Anecdotally, there was always an enormous line stretching the entirety of the street at the stage door. Seen by over 100,000 people paying $149 a ticket on average, the show made over $17 million. Producers, doubtless, can’t wait to get Craig and Weisz back on Broadway, and the Barrymore Theater will welcome another classic play revival in April: Raisin in the Sun.

The 2012 revival of Annie also closes, after becoming surprisingly successful and playing nearly five hundred performances over fourteen months. The show earned a nomination for Best Revival at the Tonys, but no accompanying nominations. With the phenomenally talented Lilla Crawford in the title role for nine months, and a trio of superb Miss Hannigans (Katie Finneran, Jane Lynch from Glee, and Faith Prince), the show proved surprisingly resilient in the face of direct competition like Matilda and Cinderella. I saw it with both Katie Finneran and Jane Lynch, and thoroughly enjoyed it both times. But since it ties in with the holidays, it makes sense to not push its luck past the holiday season. Two-thirds of a million people saw it, and brought in $58 million (far more than the previous revival in 1997). The Palace Theater has not yet announced its next tenant.

And my choice to see on this day of demises was First Date, the musical comedy about (you guessed it!) a first date, starring Krysta Rodriguez (Smash) and Zachary Levi (Chuck, Flynn Rider in Tangled). The show appears to be a modest success, running for half a year (174 performances) and filling the theater about 70% on average. It was seen by 150,000 people, but as one of the most affordable shows on Broadway ($63 average ticket price), it only made about $10 million. The Longacre Theater will next host James Franco’s adaptation of Of Mice and Men.

The energy at First Date at the closing performance was electric – the cast kept making the audience laugh with extra goofiness thrown in and received thunderous applause after every song. But Zachary Levi also cried an awful lot during an emotional musical number, and the entire cast all burst into tears during the curtain call. The standbys, writers, director, and producers were all called to the stage for a bow. Most of the theater was filled with repeat customers like me, including one girl who was seeing it for the thirty-second time. The cast and writers then performed due diligence at the stage door, signing well over a hundred playbills and taking pictures with anyone who asked.

Zachary Levi patiently waited for everyone to get his autograph and a picture, staying outside in freezing temperatures for two hours to do so. He told the fans that he does want to do Broadway shows in the future, but he wants to originate roles instead of being a replacement. But Krysta Rodriguez burst some fans’ bubbles by saying that Hit List (the fictional musical from Smash) will most likely not make it to Broadway.

The Broadway carnage is not yet over, as next Sunday Peter and the Starcatcher will play its final performance. The “play with music” that served as a prequel to Peter Pan had an eight-month Broadway run before transferring off-Broadway to New World Stages, where it has been playing for a year. Many fans will mist likely try to see it again before it closes, myself included, so the rush lines will get pretty long.

Which of these Broadway shows are you most sad to see go? Did you see any of them? Do you regret not seeing some? Post your eulogies for these Broadway shows in the comments.

Source: playbill.com

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