Thursday, September 16, 2010

When Those Neon Lights Go Dark On Broadway

I've been thinking a lot about Broadway closings recently, especially because of the nature of last week's poll. And then, to my surprise, four big Broadway musicals have announced their closing dates, or at least announcements are expected to come shortly. It was announced several weeks ago that Fela! will shutter on January 2, 2011 and although it is yet to be confirmed, many speculate that Promises, Promises and Next to Normal will also close on that same date. Then yesterday, the producers of West Side Story announced that they too will close on  January 2nd. With new shows anxiously awaiting these open theatres, one always has to wonder if there isn't some persuasion, on the part of producers of upcoming musicals, for struggling shows to cut their losses and close. I guess nobody every really knows what exactly causes a show to close its doors and each of these shows has enjoyed an arguably strong run on the Great White Way.

Fela! and Promises, Promises are some of the first to close of the 2009-2010 TONY season, but one might argue that Fela! never truly found its audience and Promises, Promises would not be able to stay afloat once the contracts of its big stars, Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes, expire. Next to Normal was the 2008-2009 season's little show that could. Many never expected it to make it further that Second Stage where it ran off-Broadway, but it defied the naysayers, winning several TONY awards, garnering a cult following, and running for close to two years. West Side Story....well that is another story. I'm sure that Arthur Laurents expected his baby to win the Best Revival of a Musical TONY in 2009, but it lost to Hair (which closed about 3 months ago) and didn't receive the buzz that was anticipated. Perhaps it was the addition of Spanish lyrics, or the the fact that the creative team chose not to use Jerome Robbins' iconic choreography, but either way, the production lacked sparkle. Now a run of a year and a half is certainly nothing to scoff at, but this West Side Story revival was never the critical darling it was expected to be.

Of course we are sad to see these wonderful shows close, but such is the life cycle of the business of show. To quote the great Stephen Sondheim, "everyday a little death," but then again, "everything's coming up roses." When one show closes, that means a new show can open, and the 2010-2011 Broadway season is highly anticipated. It was publicly announced yesterday that one of the season's big budget musicals, Priscilla Queen of the Dessert, will take the Palace Theatre, currently inhabited by West Side Story. Many anticipate that the British transfer Sister Act will move into the Broadway Theatre once Promises, Promises closes and others speculate that the new musical Catch Me If You Can will take the Eugene O'Neill from Fela! And as for the Booth, one of Broadway's smallest houses, we can only hope that its next resident touches the Broadway community as deeply as Next to Normal did.

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