“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.
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.