Sunday, January 04, 2009

January 2009: Reports of Broadway's death no longer seem greatly exaggerated?

Hard to read this article from the NY Times, by Christopher Isherwood, and not feel like Broadway is suffering a decline from which it may be hard to recover.

Talk about depressing:

"...more than a dozen plays and musicals — almost half of the current lineup, incredible though it may seem — get ready to close by the end of the month."

So, there were only little more than 24 shows running (musical and plays) in the first place? Yikes.

I remember seeing the final performance of Song and Dance on Broadway. Betty Buckley had taken over the role from Bernadette Peters (who I also saw). Song and Dance is by no means a great show, and is written by my least favorite wildly successful composer. But it is a tour-de-force opportunity for any great singer/interpreter...which both Peters and Buckley most certainly are.

The thrill was in watching those two perform, not in the show itself.

Isherwood is right that final performances have a certain extra bond between performer and audience. More people out there in the dark are likely to know the people on stage more intimately. Either because they actually really know them, or because they're diehard fans.

Betty brought her dog out on stage for her curtain call with her, and stayed out there a good long time soaking up the adulation. People around me shouted out to Betty...and her name.

Every night in the theatre is unique, is its own, not just the closing night. I saw the closing performance of Song and Dance. I also saw the 5000th performance of A Chorus Line (when "One" was performed by lottery winners who had performed in regional, summer stock and community productions of A Chorus Line). I saw the first post-9/11 performance of The Producers...when the cast and audience stood together at the end and sang "God Bless America". I got up on stage with Ian McKellan during his limited run of Acting Shakespeare.

Looks like it's going to be a grim winter on Broadway, but I can only hope, fervently, that the singular magic of live theatre brings the audiences back...the minute they can afford to do so.


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