Monday, August 21, 2006

Which Broadway Musical Will Depart Next?


Which Broadway Musical Will Depart Next?

This is shaping up to be a major year for the Broadway musical. If you include the musicals that have already opened -- Martin Short: Fames Becomes Me and Kiki & Herb: Alive on Broadway -- there are thirteen shows that have been confirmed for the 2006-07 theatrical season. Plus, there are still many more tuners circling like vultures in need of a theatre. Which raises the question: Which current musical(s) will go the way of Sweeney Todd and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels in seeing an early demise?

Much of the guessing has centered on The Wedding Singer. True, Laura Benanti's temporary departure and weekly capacities in the 60+ percent range haven't quelled the speculation, yet reports of its impending death may be greatly exaggerated. The show continues to take in a half million dollars each week, and rumors abound about upcoming cast changes. One rumor was just confirmed in the case of Matthew Saldivar's replacement: "American Idol" finalist Constantine Maroulis. Still, there's no doubt that many a show would love to land at the 1215 seat Al Hirsdhfeld Theatre.

Then there's the most celebrated musical this decade: The Producers, which has never been quite the same after the departure of its original stars Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. The musical comedy attracted only 59.5% of its capacity last week. Sure, it's still taking in over $500,000 each week, but its glory days have long since passed. The question is, are its producers willing to pull the plug just yet? With 1510 seats at the St. James Theatre, its departure could pave the way for a large-scale production to take its place.

The rest of Broadway's musicals are enjoying about 80% or better in terms of capacity so it appears very doubtful that we'll see any of them close anytime soon.

The current slate of original (non-revival) and/or transferred productions includes, in chronological order:
Announced musical revivals include:

So what's looming out there?

First and foremost, there's the last collaboration of John Kander and Fred Ebb, Curtains, which seems assured of a Broadway mounting this fall or early 2007. However, it is desperately in need of a large house to help producers recoup high costs associated with the production.

Without being specific, book writer Rupert Holmes has told The Journal News' Peter Kramer: "[T]his show in particular is a big show and there are only a few theaters that it can go into that will allow it to make back its investment. It's not a matter of being greedy. It's math. There are some shows where, even if you sell out, you still can't make money because of the expense of the show. that only a couple Broadway theatres are suitable." Is the 1417 seat Imperial Theatre -- being vacated by Dirty Rotten Scoundrels -- the appropriate size? Or would it require the even larger St. James?

Curtains ' show-within-a-show "Robbin' Hood" is a pre-Broadway production set at Boston's Colonial Theatre. Ironically, an actual pre-Broadway tryout is set for the very same Colonial this September with the Walter Bobbie-helmed High Fidelity, based on the film of the same name from 2000. With tunes by Tom Kitt and Amanda Green and book by David Lindsay-Abaire, High Fidelity has everything it needs in place (including cast: Will Chase, Jenn Collela and Christian Anderson, among others) except for a Broadway stage. Still, the show is still expected to land there as early as November. This appears to be a relatively small musical that wouldn't necessarily require a large house.

Less certain are adaptations of Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities" and Frances Hodgson Burnett's "A Little Princess." While it's previously been announced that Jill Santoriello's musical adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities had a choreographer and design team in place, it certainly won't be ready as originally promised for a October 2006 bow on Broadway. While Princesses -- with book by Bill and Cherri Steinkeller and original score by Matthew Wilder and David Zippel -- had its world premiere at Seattle's Fifth Avenue Theatre last year, its last major movement toward a Broadway berth was its March 9 reading at New York's Dodger Stages. No word on theatres for either one.

Among revivals, a revival of The Wiz has been in the works for over three and a half years. Originally planned by Des McAnuff for a Broadway mounting in 2004, his production will finally see the light of day at the La Jolla Playhouse this September 26, but there's been no definitive word on a Broadway transfer.

There are also persistent rumors of an imminent Broadway transfer of the critically-acclaimed Menier Chocolate Factory production of Sunday in the Park With George. While the show has already closed in London, a 2007 Broadway mounting is widely considered to be a fait accompli. But again, there's no news regarding where it will land.

Certainly, as movement occurs, I'll be reporting on it. In the meantime, my anticipation is already building for many of these musicals.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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