NEW YORK — In another example of Tony fallout, Baz Luhrmann’s production of “La Boheme” will close June 29. The Puccini war-horse about bohemian lovers in Paris had been nominated in the musical revival category but lost to “Nine.”
The Broadway “Boheme” enjoyed huge pre-opening press, a star-studded preem and rave reviews when it opened in December.
It came out of the B.O. shoot at around $1 million a week during the Christmas and New Year’s sessions but quickly tapered off to levels under its $600,000 break-even.
In early April, Luhrmann told Daily Variety, “We have the groovy audience, but we don’t yet have the coach audience.”
A musical like “Rent” or “Cabaret” is considered a box office success at half the receipts it takes to keep “Boheme” running. But again, “Boheme” is an opera, with three rotating casts of singers. Also, Luhrmann and his wife, designer Catherine Martin, did not stint when it came to delivering an opulent eye-popping production that won her a Tony for scenic design.
“Strangely enough, everything is human in our show,” Luhrmann said, explaining the show’s high running costs. “We talked about putting a few engines on some of those trucks and knocking $200,000 off the show.” He also “indulgently insisted” on 29 musicians in the pit, even though the Broadway Theater required he use only 26. Under the new musicians contract, the venue has a minimum of 19. Ironically, the musicians strike, fought over the issue of those minimums, contributed to the show’s B.O. decline.
When it leaves Broadway, “Boheme” will have played 29 weeks, 12 previews and 228 regular perfs. It is expected to return $2.5 million on its $8.5 million capitalization.
The show in many ways replicates the fate of Broadway’s previous attempt at so-called high culture. Matthew Bourne’s ballet “Swan Lake” opened well in October 1998 with lots of media hoopla and a nice advance. Subsequent ticket sales, however, did not warrant an extension beyond the show’s limited engagement of 12 weeks.