On again, off again musical closed at a cost of $7 mil

“Side Show,” the Francisco Franco of Broadway, is still dead.

The musical, which closed Jan. 3 at a loss of $7 million, will not return to Broadway as has recently been rumored and reported in the New York press, sources say. Plans for the show’s return have been on and off again more times than a soap opera marriage.

The musical, produced by Emanuel Azenberg, Joseph and Scott Nederlander, Herschel Waxman and Janice McKenna, opened Oct. 16 at the Richard Rodgers Theater at a cost of $5 million. Although some critics, particularly the New York Times’ Ben Brantley, liked “Side Show,” the producers were unsuccessful in convincing ticket-buyers to line up for a tuner about Siamese twins. A $2 million cash infusion to buy time failed to keep the musical alive after only 31 previews and 91 regular performances.

But within days of the musical’s closing, the producers, encouraged by the show’s creative team (including composer Henry Krieger and director-choreographer Robert Longbottom, who would later change his mind), began discussions about resuming performances in the spring, when possible Tony Award nominations could revive consumer interest. Additional investors were sought to pump an additional $2 million into the project.

On Jan. 23, the producers announced they would not reopen “Side Show.” Then they reconsidered, again.

Last week, one of the producers leaked to a local reporter that the show would in fact return in the spring. The sets had not been removed from the theater and the producers were hopeful that stars Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley, who portrayed the famed Hilton Sisters of vaudeville, would nab Tonys.

Whether Skinner, Ripley or both take home trophies — of course they’re still eligible — it won’t help business: Sources at the Nederlander Organization (which owns the theater) and others close to the production now say “Side Show” definitely will not be back. And this time they mean it.

“They’ve decided not to return to Broadway,” says a production insider, adding that the producers’ attention is now focused on London.

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