Broadway’s ‘Shuffle Along’ To Close in July, When Audra McDonald Exits

Shuffle Along closing
Julieta Cervantes

Shuffle Along,” the starry Broadway musical that was nominated for 10 Tony Awards earlier this year, will be closing much earlier than expected, with producers choosing to shutter the show July 24 — the date that Broadway favorite Audra McDonald was already scheduled to go on maternity leave.

In the previously announced plan, the pregnant McDonald would have left the musical in late July and then return in the fall, with musician Rhiannon Giddens tapped to play the role in her absence. Savion Glover, the famed tapper who is also the show’s choreographer, was also scheduled to appear in the production during McDonald’s hiatus.

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Six-time Tony winner McDonald is one big name among a cast of notables, including fellow Tony winners Brian Stokes Mitchell and Billy Porter. But according to producers, McDonald’s pull at the box office is so significant that without her, the show’s sales would have suffered to an unsustainable degree.

“It has … become clear that the need for Audra to take a prolonged and unexpected hiatus from the show has determined the unfortunate inevitability of our running at a loss for significantly longer than the show can responsibly absorb, and we have decided to close the show when she leaves on July 24,” said Scott Rudin, the lead producer of “Shuffle Along.”

The production, George C. Wolfe’s backstage story inspired by the influential but largely forgotten 1921 musical of the same name, earned largely glowing reviews when it opened in April, and sales have been strong, particularly for a production in one of Broadway’s smaller houses.

The show will have played 100 performances (preceded by 38 previews) when it closes at the Music Box Theater. It’s unclear how much of the production’s reported $12 million capitalization costs producers and investors will be able to recoup before the show closes.

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  1. SJA says:

    Just saw this lavish and wonderful show on Saturday night. Ms. McDonald did not appear, but her understudy, Darlesia Cearcy, was awesome. I think it’s a huge shame that the producers decided to close due to Ms. McDonald’s extended absence, given the show’s other Broadway heavyweights. The show has an important historical significance and needs to be seen. And in addition to the well-known actors, there’s tons of talented young performers in the production who have worked so hard and deserve a more extended run. I hope perhaps a new set of producers will revive it on tour, or bring it to London. Maybe Will and Jada or other African-American producers will bring it back. I sure hope so. It’s too good to die!

  2. wetcnt says:

    What does it matter if her name is on the marquee or not? She is always out anyway. I’ve seen it twice and she was out both times. As for the first commenter stating the show ‘is a yawn’, you should probably stick to mindless crap like Phantom and leave shows like Shuffle Along to the adults.

  3. a howard says:

    With or without Audra…the show is a great big yawn

  4. Rosanne Katon Walden says:

    I am sad as I was looking forward to seeing Rhiannon Giddens from the great retro black roots music group The Carolina Chocolate Drops step into the role. I thought that her selection was genius!!! Go on tour!!!

    • Barbara Klieforth says:

      Yes! Rhiannon Giddens would be awesome and breathe all kinds of life into the role. she is operatically trained & an amazing singer at anything she chooses!

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