Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Post-Tonys Drop Off

Tomorrow marks two weeks since the Tony Awards, and the usual purging of theatres has begun as shows that are Tony-less limp off into history.  That is not to say that the picture is all bleak - the Tony winners seem to be doing OK, as is the first new show of the 2011 - 2012 season.

Naturally, there is always some post-Tony nominations drop off to get the ball rolling.  This year, it was limited to just one: Wonderland.  This was no surprise, really, considering the critical drubbing it got and the subsequent lack of audience interest.  It is a little surprising, though, that not one element of the show was deemed Tony nomination worthy.

This whole season has been full of limited-run plays and play revivals, and given that so many were/are star-driven vehicles, it looked like it would be a repeat of last season.  Then, a hue and cry went up from Broadway stage actors bemoaning the fact that these shows were doing the "grab it and go" thing, jacking up ticket prices so only the elite could attend, and loading them with TV and movie stars who get Tonys and leave, never to return, and having the show close before anyone could see it.  Yes, this season looked pretty much the same on paper.  But a funny thing happened on the way to repeat land.  The critical acclaim, if there was any, went largely ignored; the rest got uneven notices. 

But this year, the audience wasn't to be the fool.  No, this year audiences seemed to decide for themselves, ignoring the acclaim and letting their tastes (and limited pocket books, I'm sure) dictate which shows would stay or go.  (Ask the star-less but acclaimed shows Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and The Scottsboro Boys tell you all about that!)  I'll bet no one was more surprised than the producers of That Championship Season and Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo that they weren't hot tickets.  Chock full of assumed box office gold in the likes of Robin Williams and Kiefer Sutherland, I'll bet they were all ready for Tony glory and pockets full of dough.  Instead, just one Tony nod between the two (for an unknown actor, mind you), and both shows have/will have finished their limited engagements with a whimper instead of a bang.  Add the much touted, audience ignored revival of Arcadia to the leave-on-time-but-who-even-noticed list.

So far, two limited runs have announced early closings, too.  Jim Belushi's debut vehicle, Born Yesterday, may have made a Broadway name for its female co-star, Nina Arianda, but it will be gone weeks early, closing tomorrow.  Tonight will be the closing performance of the three star (Ben Stiller, Edie Falco and Jennifer Jason Leigh) revival of The House of Blue Leaves, again closing weeks early.

Two shows that started as limited runs that got extended also announced closing this week: The Importance of Being Earnest and RAIN: The Beatles Experience on Broadway.  The former will cut its last extension by a week, while the former, which had been selling tickets into January, will now close September 4.  While neither got a Tony boost this season, neither could be called a flop by any definition, though.

The Motherfucker with the Hat went the conventional route, struggling, as most plays do, at the box office, despite a stellar cast, but becoming a sensation after a media blitz and several Tony nods.  The show would have closed today, but ticket demand was such that it extended through July 17.

And there are two other star vehicles we can deem a success, and even lament that they must close: John Leguizamo's one man show, Ghetto Klown , which twice extended, will end on July 9, and this year's Best Revival of a Play, The Normal Heart, will close as scheduled (so far, at least) on July 10.  To be fair, neither show was a hot ticket, playing to heavily discounted, decent attendance figures, but both shows, The Normal Heart especially, got box office bumps from the Tony telecast.  And it looks like plans are afoot for a tour and London engagement of the latter.

Things aren't much better over in London, either, with two high profile shoes announcing closings this week or so.  Love Never Dies will not be living up to its title or its predecessor, closing in August. You know what sucks about that?  The cast found out on the news like the rest of the public!  Priscilla Queen of the Desert went the more kind, gentle way, telling its cast that it will probably close at the end of the year, though no firm date has been chosen.  At least they can stay employed and look for future work, right?

Speaking of that show, it isn't doing boffo box office here, either, which is a shame, since it is probably the most fun show on Broadway at the moment, a feel good, heart-warming story, amazing spectacle and tunes they encourage you to sing and dance to.  You have to give them credit, though, for really trying - their ads are touting a Best Costumes Tony Award like it was a Best Musical win.  Good for them!

Of course, shows come and go, it is the Broadway circle of life.  Bonnie and Clyde and Follies wouldn't have homes, right?

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  1. I was personally offended that Priscilla resorted to the use of Yellow Face when African American ensemble members portray Japanese tourists in the Act I finale, bowing and kowtowing and exhibiting all sorts of stereotypical behavior (also, both of the understudies for Cynthia, the Filipina mail order bride, are not Asian). It's a shame that a show that claims to find understanding of differences must trade on stereotypes to do so.

  2. Hey, Pun!

    I understand your point. At least that part of Act 1 goes by quickly. I can only imagine how you felt about the portrayal of Asians in ANYTHING GOES. I found that to be very offensive as well.



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