As any Tisch student knows, acting on Broadway is an unreliable profession. When treading the boards, there is always the chance that they will snap beneath you, unceremoniously sending you back to square one: unemployment. When comparing the shows of then and now it is discernible just how unpredictable Broadway schedules can be. Even productions that exceed usual standards must struggle to stay afloat in the unforgiving maelstrom of show business.
Some might say a show like “Memphis,” with its quartet of Tony Awards, including Best Musical, had that sort of magnetism. Indeed, it ran for over three years and came close to recovering its initial costs. But a lack of critical praise and uneven ticket sales eventually led the Shubert Theatre to dim its lights on Aug. 5, at least until “Matilda the Musical” begins previews in March.
“Clybourne Park” faces a slightly different scenario. Having started off-Broadway at Playwright’s Horizons, the show transferred to the West End, winning the Olivier Award for Best New Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The Broadway production was mounted as a 16-week limited engagement, and winning the Tony Award for Best Play did not change that. The show still closed Sept. 2.
The turnaround for the Walter Kerr Theater, however, is quick. A revival of “The Heiress” starts previews in October, starring Jessica Chastain and David Strathairn.
Musicals are commonly more successful than straight plays, since musicals have bigger production values and higher tourist appeal. This syndrome cursed the recent revival of Tennessee Williams’ classic, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” which was not extended and had to close on its originally announced date — the production did not make enough of an impact in the competitive 2012 awards season. The Broadhurst will soon mount a new musical: “Rebecca,” based on Alfred Hitchcock’s Oscar-winning film and the preceding novel by Daphne du Maurier.
Another noteworthy, now-closed show is the musical “Sister Act,” which originally starred Tony nominee Patina Miller before she was replaced with Raven-Symoné of Disney Channel fame. The show ran for over 500 performances, and Broadway quickly suffered from a praise Jesus overload when “Leap of Faith,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Godspell” all closed this summer. Or perhaps a movie star headlining your marquee may not always be the way to go. Nevertheless, the show did well for itself and built up a substantial fan-base.
While a show’s closing is always disappointing, it also offers an opportunity to look to the future. No matter how long a show runs or how many tickets it sells, the theater will always be moving forward.
A version of this article appeared in the Sept. 4 print edition. Taylor Turner is a contributing writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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