The Revolving Doors of Broadway: January 2010 Edition

Initially, I planned on writing about the large amount of closings on Broadway set for this month. Not counting limited holiday engagements, we lost or soon will be losing:

  • The 39 Steps
  • Burn the Floor
  • Ragtime
  • Finian's Rainbow
  • Shrek the Musical
  • Superior Donuts
  • Oleanna
  • Bye Bye Birdie

Counting the genuine limited engagements, like White Christmas and Hamlet, there are many, many empty Broadway houses at the moment.

However, they are filling quickly, so I'm not as red flag about it as I thought I'd be. I'd put the threat level at orange, not red. Purchase advance tickets for spring and summer with caution. Twyla Tharp's new dance show Come Fly Away - based on the music of Frank Sinatra - is coming March, as is American Idiot - the Green Day musical based off the album of the same name. Promises Promises with Kristen Chenoweth is on its way just like The Addams Family with Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth. There are waves and rumbles about other shows that could transfer from in town or out of town, revivals that could be hanging in the wings, off-Broadway shows that might make misguided jumps to Broadway, etc.

Still, it's unlikely that all the new shows (Promises Promises is a revival), some I haven't listed, are going to survive. Tharp's last show bombed, and it's no lock that a new modern rock musical or a TV franchise will bring in the box office. With the closings of well acclaimed revivals and originals in plays and musicals because everyone decided to throw money at Hugh Jackman and Jude Law the past few months, Broadway seems to be in a fast turnover period that always leaves theater fans nervous. On the one hand, more new shows is a good thing; on the other hand, it's the long running shows like Wicked, Phantom, and Mamma Mia! that seem to survive these tumultuous periods, the theater equivalent of cotton candy at the carnival - sweet at the time but ultimately forgettable when the next shiny object comes along.

So, what's going to happen in the coming months on Broadway? Expect lots of shows  to keep turning over. I'd also anticipate shows like Fela or Next to Normal that go beyond the standard conventions of musical theater to struggle, if not shutter, before the summer. Am I just being a big old pessimist for no reason? I don't think so. I'm normally optimistic about Broadway even at the year end/beginning shutter session. This just seems like a bunch of shows that announced extended runs or great standing just up and closed without warning. That's the worry.