The hasty closing notice put up by Broadway musical “Disaster!” in the wake of the 2016 Tony Awards nominations underscores the downside of awards-season hype: The hoopla of it all giveth, but it also taketh away.
Now set to close May 8 — two months before its posted end date of July 3 — “Disaster!” didn’t walk away empty-handed from the Tony nominations: Cast member Jennifer Simard was one of the day’s surprises, emerging with a featured actress nod. But given the unlikelihood that the attention from that one nomination could move the needle at the box office, where “Disaster!” has struggled, producers opted to throw in the towel early.
The situation underscores one of the thorniest problems facing the producers of struggling shows. When are the potential rewards of Tony attention enough to keep a money-losing show open, and when is it better to pack it in?
There’s no easy answer, especially since the only award generally acknowledged to have a significant effect at the box office is the trophy for new musical. The benefits of any other awards-season attention are mostly of the unquantifiable, brand-boosting variety, and even those can be iffy at best.
Take the new musical “Bright Star.” That show has had trouble attracting attention in the shadow of “Hamilton,” but its surprise success with the nominations — five in all, including one for the coveted new musical prize — has given it a much-needed profile boost. In the wake of the nominations announcement, producer Joey Parnes said he definitely saw a bounce at the box office thanks to all that attention.
Will it be enough to provide substantive life support for “Bright Star”? That remains to be seen, but in a season in which “Hamilton” is the presumptive winner, scoring a best-musical nomination is generally seen as the true prize. There’s a distinct possibility that a performance segment during the Tony ceremony could yield a bigger bang for the buck, should “Hamilton” interest cause a spike in telecast viewership.
Among other shows left out of the nominations hubbub, “American Psycho” (which received two nominations in design categories) has been reporting somewhat soft sales for a large-scale musical. But with last week’s gross inching up to $600,000, there may be enough of a base there to build from, especially if the show capitalizes on its well-known title and the love-it-or-hate-it response it seems to engender.
“Tuck Everlasting,” meanwhile, has struggled to draw crowds, and its one Tony nomination for costume design won’t help. But with no segment on the Tonycast to pay for or award voters to win over, producers of “Tuck” can channel funds into marketing directly to the family audiences that would sustain it. (Performances on the Tony Awards can cost up to a quarter of a million dollars.)
Over at “Disaster!,” however, producers didn’t envision enough of a potential reward from their one nomination to keep the show going. The musical shutters at the Nederlander Theater Sunday, with a return run of “Motown” already due to land at the venue in July.