Boston used to be one of THE tryout cities (along with New Haven and Philly) for big Broadway musicals. Shows like Funny Girl and Anything Goes all tapped their toes on a Boston stage first, before shuffling off to Broadway second.
That trend slowed down in the last couple decades of the 20th century (except for the fictitious Bombshell on “Smash”).
A few reasons, of course . . . the visibility/proximity to NY, the number of people interested in new plays or musicals, etc.
And most importantly? Cost.
See the early success of Boston as a pre-Broadway tryout, and the business it got as a result, allowed everything to get a bit more expensive without anyone really caring. The hotel prices went up, the advertising went up, and you betcha, the labor went waaaaay up.
And, as with all businesses, if you keep raising the price of admission, and there’s another place to go that offers a similar and maybe even better or more convenient option, that’s what people will choose. So Boston fell away, and Chicago and San Diego and Seattle and Atlanta picked up the slack (heck – I’m trying out Somewhere in Time in Portland, OR!).
But, if you know any Bostonians or Masschusettsians or just plain ol’ Red Sox fan, you know we’re not going to take this wicked depressing news lying down.
Legislators proposed a new law last week that would give developing shows a $3mm tax credit for bringing their show to Beantown instead of going elsewhere. And this puts good ol’ Boston in the fray with other tax credit locations like Louisiana, Chicago and more. You can read the article here.
I’m betting the legislation will pass. Stay tuned and I’ll be the one to let you know.
But I’m not so sure you’ll see an increase in the number of shows trying out in Boston. It’s a bit too little too late.
And there’s a lesson in this that Broadway, and all businesses and anyone selling anything, from tickets to talent to tentpoles, should learn. There is a breaking point for all customers. They were find other alternatives if prices rise beyond what make sense/cents.
They will find places like . . . like Portland.
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