A sad day for Shrek.

Yesterday, Shrek confirmed what had been circulating the street all week: the ogre will be leaving Broadway and heading back to the swamp on January 3, 2010.

How could one of the most powerful entertainment brands of the last twenty years not survive on the Great White Way?  Too expensive?  Maybe.  Too much Hollywood influence?  Who knows.

I believe the closing of Shrek represents the end of an era; an era which attempted to capitalize on kids first, and put adults second.

Over the past year and a half, we’ve seen the premature closings of shows like Shrek, Little Mermaid, and even my own, 13.

All seemingly fantastic sells . . . except for the fact that they happened to be plopped right in the midst of one of the most difficult economic climates in our history.  And no demographic was hurt more than families of four from the suburbs.

When family folk were trying to decide on a show to see, here’s what happened:

– Shows that just the kids might want to see went out the window.

– Shows that appealed to both kids and adults went bye-bye as well (Grease, Legally Blonde, Hairspray, etc.).

What’s left on Broadway now is more adult fare . . .because the parents that are still going to the theater are leaving their kids at home (another reason why plays are doing so well).

Why do you think Disney doesn’t have anything in the immediate pipeline?

I don’t think you’ll see another animated feature making its way here anytime soon, do you?

  • Scott says:

    You make it sound like HAIRSPRAY wasn’t allowed to close after playing for almost 7 years. (I’d say blame the movie or video release). GREASE – this time – closed after almost 1 1/2 (Interesting how a show originally marketed to adults for nostalgia sake morphed into a kids show -but how many times do we need to revive stuff – don’t get me started on yet another HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS).
    Personally, I don’t mind NOT sitting next to a child at the theatre. (There. I said it)
    As for animated features in the pipeline, I guess you aren’t including BETTY BOOP or cartoon characters like THE ADDAMS FAMILY? And as for kid shows, BRING IT ON (yes, the cheerleading movie) and a few others are workshopping or getting readings. Yes, even your beloved CARRIE. Put more than 4 or 5 teens or kids in it and I’m sure it will get marketed as a kids’ show.
    “Seemingly fantastic sell?” Nah, that’s just what you as a producer need to believe to work on the project. You know nothing is guaranteed. You DO know that. Right, Ken?

  • Jake says:

    I really love reading your blog, I started a couple months ago and it’s one of my favorites. But, I have to say that part of the reason why Shrek is closing must be the quality of the show. I’m a huge fan of the movie (I sort of grew up with it) and I thought the show was absolutely terrible. It wasn’t funny,and lacked the soul that made the movie by far Dreamworks’ best entry into the animated canon.
    Additionally, the Lion King continues to sell well, even after ten years. Notice that Lion King was a major critical hit, unlike Shrek (or as I like to call it, Dreck). Hopefully the closing of Little Mermaid and Shrek will put an end to commercial trash and force the big corporations to create high quality shows, not ones glorified Disney World productions.

  • LB says:

    Jake, I disagree with you. I really liked Shrek. It had a great cast and the music and lyrics were clever. I thought the scene with the dragon was awful, but overall, I thought people didn’t give it enough credit.
    Ken, while I am also sad to see Shrek close, there are plenty of options for families, even if they are not marketed as such. Of course the Lion King and Mary Poppins, but also In The Heights, Billy Elliot, Wicked, even West Side Story.

  • Jackie says:

    It is a sad day for new young theater goers. As someone who introduces NYC public school students and their families to the theater, it has been a boom to have a large selection of family friendly shows.
    13, Shrek, Hairspray, and Legally Blonde, among others, were enjoyed by kids and adults. Shows like these develop a tradition of going to the theater within families that carries on for generations.
    I am involved in the theater because I was taken as a child. Family friendly shows are important because they bring young people to the theater and keep them coming back. If we lose all family and kid-friendly content, we’re not going to have audiences for theater productions in the future, be they kid-friendly or adult-geared.

  • Christopher Dilley says:

    Hi Ken, I happened upon your blog after being linked from BWW as a result of the ‘recording of live theater productions’ blog entry.
    I honestly don’t think a movie to stage production closing is a cause for lament at this stage of the game. I also don’t feel that these recognizable commodities or youthfully cast shows are necessary to engage a younger audience.
    There is no need for a toddler to be at a Broadway show. They are more then welcome to go see “Disney On Ice” or the “Dora the Explorer” tours, but the complete bedlam that was the audience at the Lunt-Fontaine during the run of “The Little Mermaid” is a shining example of why. When I was in 6th Grade, my parents brought me to see “CATS,” then in Middle School I saw “The Sound of Music” (yes, I was bored to tears, but I saw it) on a school trip followed by “The Phantom of the Opera.” By that third show I had begun to learn what live theater was really about, started to have a vested interest and yearned to see more productions. Throughout High School I had the opportunity to see productions such as RENT among other offerings in the early 2000’s through school, youth group and my own ambition. By college I was seeing Sondheim productions and then ventured to see dramatic plays. This progression I feel was a healthy one. Forcing kids into the theater under the guise of getting to “see Shrek live on stage!” is using the same technique “Disney On Ice” does. The kids who see “Disney On Ice” certainly aren’t there to see the athletic prowess and do not subsequently become connoisseurs of figure skating, they are there to see the recognizable Disney characters.
    I feel that by dumbing down theater to draw in a younger generation, we are cheapening what should be a healthy progression into being a young theater fan. Being forced, when you’re perhaps a notch too young to understand his intricacies, to sit through a Sondheim show inspires thought, intellectual growth, and possibly a hunger to see more from either him or another composer/playwright.
    I’m fully aware that this can often times fall on deaf ears because Broadway has more or less been reduced to a place where we must bow down to the almighty dollar and are especially under the control of the TOURIST’S dollar. Although the closing of productions like “Shrek” and “The Little Mermaid’ may seem like an upswing, especially considering classic productions like “A Little Night Music” and “Finian’s Rainbow” are opening in their places, I’d hope that further down the line more originality can be brought forth on Broadway. My “sad day” was just about a year ago when a production like [title of show] was forced to close while a lackluster production of Grease thrived right around the block.

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