But what really happened was that nine shows closed on Broadway, all on the same day: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Elf, The Pee-wee Herman Show, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Promises, Promises, Brief Encounter, Fela, West Side Story, and Donny & Marie: A Broadway Christmas.
Yeah, that list looks pretty scary when you look at the sheer volume, and contemplate the number of currently empty theaters on Broadway.
But, upon closer inspection, the situation isn't nearly as depressing as it might seem. Two of those shows were specific to the holiday season (Elf, Donnie & Marie). Two were intended as limited runs and ran out their full engagements (The Pee-wee Herman Show, Brief Encounter). Two were shows that are going to be taped for broadcast (The Pee-wee Herman Show, Fela). And, yes, two of these shows were limited engagements that closed earlier than originally planned (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown). But this particular production of West Side Story had the longest continuous run of any Broadway version of that show, including the original production.
True, there are still more closings to come in the month of January: La Bête, A Free Man of Color, In the Heights, A Little Night Music, Next To Normal, and Time Stands Still. But what a lot of the boo-hoo-ers fail to point out is that some 23 new shows are scheduled for Broadway in 2011, 21 for the spring alone. What's more, currently only four Broadway theaters out of 40 have no confirmed bookings for the spring. Here's a list of what's coming, or hasn't yet officially opened:
Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark
The Book of Mormon
Catch Me if You Can
Priscilla: Queen of the Desert
The People in the Picture
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
The Motherfucker With the Hat
Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
I'm certainly sympathetic to the actors and other folks who are losing their jobs. But that's how theater works. And that's how it's always worked. To paraphrase Curtains, it's a business, folks. Some of those people will be cast in some of those new shows. Some won't. To paraphrase A Chorus Line, nobody gets into theater because they're looking for a steady job.
From the audience perspective, you'd think that Broadway stalwarts would, to a certain extent, actually appreciate when shows that have moved past their sell-by date make room for fresher shows. Remember, turnover means we have more shows to see. Wouldn't Broadway be dull if *every* show ran for 20 years?