Broadway’s Lights Are A Little Dimmer

By Alexandra Ley
            Each January, as New York takes down its Christmas trees and recovers from the holiday tourist rush, Broadway undergoes a “mass exodus” of sorts, when many people and productions part the Great White Way. The holiday season is the most profitable for the New York theatre scene, but January and February are consistently the lowest-grossing months each year, and so many productions close in early January to beat the decline in sales. Throughout the past two years, most producers and spokespeople have attributed this to a declining national economy that prevented theatre-goers from affording Broadway tickets.
            The following shows have left or will leave Broadway this month for a variety of reasons, creating vacancies for new productions to give Broadway a shot:
January 2, 2011
Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson (Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre): This season’s surprise hit ran 94 performance before closing. Producers were unwilling to risk hemorrhaging money on future performances, but this political rock musical still grossed over its investment by about $800,000.
Up Next In the Space: A revival of That Championship Season, directed by Gregory Mosher and including Kiefer Sutherland in the cast, will begin previews on February 9.
Brief Encounter (Studio 54): Based on a British film, this play was scheduled to have a limited run and close in December, but extended its run by four weeks, increasing its final number of performances to 111.
Up Next In the Space: A new musical from Roundabout Theatre called The People in the Picture will begin previews on April 1.
Donny & Marie: A Broadway Christmas (Marquis Theatre): Brother and sister Donny and Marie Osmond had performed on television and CD before 2010, but never the Broadway stage. Their show, which included a mix of their popular hits and holiday carols, was extended twice from its original closing date, finally playing a total of 20 performances.
Up Next In the Space: A new musical adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, entitled Wonderland: A New Alice, will put Lewis Carroll’s characters in a contemporary setting starting March 21.
Elf (Al Hirschfeld Theatre): Like other Christmas-themed shows before it, this production was never intended to run past the holiday season or recoup its investment, at least not in a single season. This high-energy show extended its run to January 2 before bringing the curtain down, and there is talk of bringing it back for later holiday seasons.
Up Next In the Space: A 50th-anniversary revival of the 1961 hit musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, starring Daniel Radcliffe in his musical debut, will begin previews on February 26, 2011.
Fela! (Eugene O’Neill Theatre): Despite mediocre reviews, this high-energy biographical musical ran 463 performances over the course of over fourteen months. There was no indication of a specific reason for the show to close, but the show will still be seen by a wide audience. A live film production was broadcast in select theaters around the world on January 13, a production has been running on London’s West End since November, and the possibility of a touring production has been discussed, with Nigeria as one of its possibly destinations.
Up Next In the Space: A new original musical called The Book of Mormon will begin previews on February 24, 2011.
The Pee-Wee Herman Show (Stephen Sondheim Theater): This stage version of the popular children’s show of the same name starred the original Pee-Wee himself, Paul Reubens, as well as a few of the show’s other original actors. This production transferred from Los Angeles in October and extended its run after Pee-Wee fans sang its praises. It played a total of 62 performance, and was the first production to play in the theatre after its renaming in March of 2010 in honor of Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday.
Up Next In the Space: A revival of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, starring Sutton Foster and featuring Joel Grey, will begin previews on March 10.
Promises, Promises (Broadway Theatre): This highly-publicized and discussed musical revival closed after over nine months on Broadway, with a total of 289 performances. This musical was a hit when it opened in 1968, but appealed to the general public through its popular stars Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth. With Hayes’ and Chenoweth’s contracts closing on January 2nd, the producers opted to jump the gun and close the production rather than to re-cast the characters and watch ticket sales drop. The production grossed over four times its original investment of $9 million, and producers are reportedly expected to recoup its cost.
Up Next In the Space: There are no productions scheduled at this time.
West Side Story (Palace Theatre): The ticket sales of this wildly popular musical revival dropped off earlier this year, but the producers have reported recouping the initial investment, a national tour has been on the road for over three months. This production played over 748 performance since its previews started in February of 2009.
Up Next In the Space: The Toronto production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, based on the Australian film of the same name, will begin playing previews at the Palace Theatre on February 28 after two successful productions (one in Australia and New Zealand, and another on the West End).
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Belasco Theatre): After running for a total of 69 performances, this musical adaptation of Pedro Almodόvar’s film of the same title closed because of low ticket sales resulting from negative reviews. The dynamite cast, which included Laura Benanti, Justin Guarini, Patti Lupone, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Sherie Rene Scott, was not enough to beat the box office, and the production did not recoup its investment.
Up Next In the Space: Neil LaBute’s new play Fat Pig, starring Dane Cook, Josh Hamilton, and Julia Stiles, will begin previews on April 12.
January 9, 2011
La Bête (Music Box Theatre): This revival of David Hirson’s comic play mimicked the style of Molière’s seventeenth-century plays. Although this production, starring Joanna Lumley, David Hyde Pierce, and Mark Rylance, was originally scheduled to close in February at the end of a limited engagement, but low ticket sales resulted in a 16-week engagement with a total of 10 performances.
Up Next In the Space: Jez Butterworth’s new play Jerusalem, featuring a cast of Mackenzie Crook and (again) Mark Rylance, will being previews on April 2.

A Free Man of Color (Vivian Beaumont Theatre): This comedy was open for less than two months before negative reviews forced it to close after a total of 61 performances.
Up Next In the Space: War Horse, an original drama based on Michael Morpurgo’s novel, will begin previews on March 17.
A Little Night Music (Walter Kerr Theatre): This Sondheim revival, which originally starred Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta-Jones in her Broadway debut, was scheduled to close permanently last summer. But after a three-week hiatus, the spectacular Broadway duo of Elaine Stritch and Bernadette Peters stepped in to play the respective roles of Madame Armfeldt and her daughter Desiree, boosting ticket sales. Despite recouping its investment shortly before closing, it appears that this show had one more production team that wanted to beat the post-holiday Broadway slump.
Up Next In the Space: A revival of John Guare’s The House of Blue Leaves, starring Edie Falco, Ben Stiller, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, will begin previews on April 4.
In the Heights (Richard Rodgers Theatre): This hip-hop and Latin-infused musical may have caught the 2008 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Score, and Best Choreography, but its falling ticket sales prompted closure this month. Celebrities such as Corbin Bleu and Jordin Sparks made appearances in the cast, and original composer/lyricist/lead actor Lin-Manuel Miranda reprised his role of Usnavi for the last two weeks of the production’s run. In the Heights played a whopping 1184 performances for almost three years, recouping its investment in only a year, and a film version is currently in the works.
Up Next In the Space: Robin Williams will make his Broadway debut in a comedy titled A Bengal Tiger At the Baghdad Zoo, by Rajiv Joseph, with previews starting March 11 and a limited engagement running until July.
Rock Of Ages (Brooks Atkinson Theatre): This jukebox rock musical will be without a home until March 24, when the production will begin performances in the Helen Hayes Theatre. The theater’s smaller capacity will most likely increase the musical’s run and profit; at the moment, it has played 735 performances on Broadway. In addition, there is talk of a possible film version.
Up Next In the Space: RAIN, a musical tribute the Beatles, moved in from the Neil Simon Theatre and re-started performances on January 16.
January 16, 2011
Next to Normal (Booth Theatre): This rock opera about a family’s struggle with mental illness was unusual for the Broadway stage, but garnered three Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize. The production closed after playing a total of 733 performances and recouping its investment in just under a year. No official reason was announced, but yours truly was present at a performance shortly before Christmas, and there were a LOT of empty seats in that small theater. It seems that N2N’s producers wanted to avoid a January financial dive. There are still plenty of opportunities to see the show- a national tour starring Alice Ripley (the original Diana) opened in Los Angeles in November and will hit many major cities this year.
Up Next In the Space: Matthew Lombardo’s new play High, starring Kathleen Turner, will start previews on March 25.
January 30, 2011
Time Stands Still (Cort Theatre): This Donald Margulies play, with a four-person cast led by Brian d’Arcy James and Laura Linney, received fantastic reviews. With the cast’s contracts expiring at the end of January, the producers decided to close instead of find new actors. Between its two runs at different theaters over the past year, this production played 126 performances.
Up Next In the Space: A revival of Garson Kanin’s Born Yesterday starring Jim Belushi and Nina Arianda will begin previews on March 31.
This adds up to 16 productions, the same number that left in January of 2009, when it looked like the recession had hit rock-bottom. Fortunately, more producers seem to be anticipating low ticket sales, instead of acting in response to them, and the Broadway theaters are quickly filling back up.
Alex is a sophomore at Barnard College and a staff writer for The Nine Ways of Knowing. She is studying Theatre and American Studies.
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