Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What's Up With Broadway This Season?

For Broadway musical aficionados the first half of the 2012-2013 season has been one of the worst in recent memory.  Let’s look at some of the numbers—only four new musicals have opened since August.  One of these, A Christmas Story - The Musical, can be certified as a hit.  Based on the beloved holiday movie the show, for the week of December 16th, is playing to 99% capacity with the average ticket price just over $102.00 (average of the inexpensive balcony seats, mezzanine, and orchestra).  This made it the fourth highest grossing musical—new or continuing—on Broadway.  Not bad.  But A Christmas Story - The Musical is a limited run and will be closing on December 30th.

The other three, Bring It On—The Musical, Chaplin, and Scandalous, either have already closed or will be doing so within the next two weeks.  By January 6th there will be no original musical playing on Broadway.  You could argue that Bring It On was a success since the producers originally planned a limited run on Broadway after an extensive national tour.  Opening on August 1, 2012 the production was suppose to close on October 7th, but was extended to January 20, 2013.  Soft ticket sales backed up the closing date to December 30, 2012.

Chaplin will close after less then four months on Broadway.  In my review I praised Act I, but Act II was a mess and the score is rather forgettable.  I’m surprised the musical stayed open this long.  Only Rob McClure’s performance as Chaplin was noteworthy and Tony voters will not forget later this spring. 

Scandalous, shuttered its doors after four weeks.  With uniformly unflattering reviews its claim to fame is that book and lyrics were by television personality Kathie Lee Gifford.

Three revivals have opened this fall and two, Elf and Annie, are doing well at the box office.  While not selling out they are playing at 86% and 87% capacity (as of the week of December 16th), respectively.  Their average ticket price indicates not a huge number of discount tickets being sold.  But, Elf is also a limited run show and will be shutting down on January 6th.  The third show, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, is a rousing success, but is struggling mightily.  Scheduled as a limited run through March 13, 2013 don’t be surprised if it closes beforehand. 

That’s the complete fall musical season.  Not very impressive.  When you factor in the bizarre circumstances surrounding the collapse of financing for the musical Rebecca, that was due to open in November, it makes the beginning of the Broadway season even more disastrous.

So, what does a Broadway musical fan do?  For new productions we will simply have to hold-off until April.  That’s when Motown - the Musical, Cindy Lauper’s Kinky Boots, and the London smash hit Matilda, open on Broadway.  There might be a few more new shows (Diner – The Musical, with a score by pop star Sheryl Crow, is planned for April 2013, but…) and a smattering of revivals, but as of this posting that’s it.  Why do we all need to wait until then?  There are many potential answers or combination of possibilities—the economy, the ability to raise the necessary funds to capitalize a show, theater availability, and producers wanting to open as close to the Tony Award deadline as possible, which will be near the end of April 2013.

If these three musicals are hits as well as a few other new shows and revivals then our disappointment with the first part of the 2012-2013 season will be a memory.  Right now both Kinky Boots and Matilda seem like surefire winners.  Kinky Boots received enthusiastic reviews in its Chicago pre-Broadway tryout this past October and Matilda ran away with the 2012 Olivier Awards (London’s equivalent to the Tony Awards) including Best Musical.  We can only hope a precocious schoolgirl with magical powers and a bevy of footwear fetish drag queens can save the Broadway musical season.

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