Wednesday, March 31, 2010

damned if you do...

I try to avoid much discussion of Broadway-level production -- because, you know, why? -- but an interesting pair of items came to view this past week. First, the news that The Miracle Worker will be closing at a total loss to its backers:
After only 21 preview performances and 38 regular performances, the Broadway revival of William Gibson’s play “The Miracle Worker” will close at Circle in the Square Theater next Sunday, the producers David Richenthal and Dini von Mueffling said on Sunday. The show cost $2.6 million to mount and will close at a total loss to its producers and investors, a spokesman for the show said.
Patrick Healy notes that the production -- starring Abigail Breslin -- was notable for its unabashedly starfucking producer:
Plans for the show drew attention in the theater industry last fall when Mr. Richenthal explicitly shared a viewpoint that many producers hold privately: “It’s simply na├»ve to think that in this day and age, you’ll be able to sell tickets to a play revival solely on the potential of the production to be a great show or on the potential for an unknown actress to give a breakthrough performance,” Mr. Richenthal told The New York Times. “I would consider it financially irresponsible to approach a major revival without making a serious effort to get a star.”
He was perhaps coming on strong in response to the disabled community's unhappiness with Breslin's selection over an actually disabled performer, but at least he was honest about the goals and necessities of commercial theater. He's also wrong.

A few days later, the Times noted the critical and commercial success of Next to Normal:
"Next to Normal" is among the 25 percent to 30 percent of Broadway shows each year that become commercial hits. And while this musical benefited from positive reviews and three Tony Awards last year, several theater producers and directors said the show’s recoupment was as significant as it was unlikely, given the tough subject matter, lack of star performers and shrinking audience in a grim economy.
So good on them. Nevertheless, keeping score on this is akin to taking sides between late night TV hosts. After all, who cares? They're all rich.

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