Some audiences may not yet be back in full force
The back-to-back closing notices for Broadway tuner “Scandalous” and play “The Anarchist,” both announced Tuesday night, punctuated a spate of recent Rialto shutterings that suggests it’s been tougher this fall than ever for some new shows to gain traction with auds.
The word on “Scandalous,” closing Dec. 9, and “Anarchist,” exiting Dec. 16, came just a few days after news that middling seller “Chaplin” would exit in January and a few weeks following the brief open-and-shut run of play “The Performers.”
Most critics would argue that the shows tanked because they weren’t very good: Reviews for all these productions mostly ranged from mixed to downright poisonous.
And it’s not as if all new titles are having the same kind of trouble. Al Pacino topliner “Glengarry Glen Ross” has stormed its way into the millionaires’ club, and Jessica Chastain starrer “The Heiress” — which attracted as many pans as raves — is doing steady biz. Holiday musical offering “A Christmas Story” also seems to have successfully tapped into some yuletide bounty.
But the pileup of closings seems to confirm, at least to some degree, the fear among legiters that the lingering fallout from superstorm Sandy has kept some auds from returning in full force to Broadway.
It’s easy for Gotham dwellers to forget that for a lot of suburbanites, the extensive damage wrought by Sandy outside the city is still preventing the resumption of full, business-as-usual service from public transportation options including the Long Island Rail Road, the commuter train service that gets a lot of Long Islanders into and out of Manhattan every day. Such transportation instability seems likely to have kept more than a few suburbanites from taking a trip or two into Gotham over the past month.
That’s notable because it’s those local theatergoers, from affected areas such as Long Island and New Jersey, who help keep new shows afloat. In most cases, Broadway productions initially attract sales from city dwellers and tri-state residents who can be seduced by local marketing campaigns and media coverage; it’s not until a show has been around for a while that it begins to cultivate the kind of national profile that would pull in tourist auds.
For these shows, the box office bonanza of Thanksgiving and Christmas are no help either, since in most cases it’s the big-name, long-established productions that tend to rake in the dough when out-of-towners flood the city.
It’s not necessarily clear that any of the three soon-to-shutter shows would have lasted any longer in the absence of an extreme meteorological event. But there’s a distinct possibility that they lacked an extra cushion of local auds that they might have otherwise enjoyed had they opened at another time.