Is Cirque sucking up Broadway sales?

Patti LuPone should play Annie Oakley some day, because the woman is the ‘straightest shooter’ I’ve ever seen.

When something’s buggin’ her, whether it’s a photographer in a theater, or a circus in Broadway’s backyard, she’s going to tell you, and everyone around you, exactly what she thinks.

This week, Patti had this to say about Cirque du Soleil and their new tenancy at Radio City Music Hall:

Cirque du Soleil – it’s the big, bad brother now. Cirque du Soleil taking a five-year lease on Radio City Music Hall is going to suck Broadway dry. … If you don’t know a particular playwright or a particular play and you’re facing a huge ticket price, what are you going to do? You’re going to go with what you know, and more people know Cirque de – the tourists come and people know Cirque du Soleil. They really are, I think, ridiculous now. Go back to Montreal.

Yipes.  I bet there are a lot of sad clowns out there right now, packing their trunks with . . . like 100 other clowns.

Patti isn’t the only one that’s pi$$ed about Cirque and their new show, Zarkana.  Broadway Producers up and down the street have been buzzing all summer about the dollars that the show is sucking off the street.  It’s major competition, and Radio City has nothing but seats to sell.  Unlike something like The Book of Mormon, whose tight ticket can actually increase demand for other shows, a show like Zarkana in that monster of a theater just diffuses the weekly grosses a bit more.

And the big complaint I’ve heard this summer is about TDF allowing Zarkana to sell its seats at the TKTS booth.  If it wasn’t there?  No doubt, those dollars would go to Broadway shows.

Do I agree with Patti?

Nah.  New York is about the best of everything . . . baseball teams (sorry Sox), bagels, and yeah, entertainment.  And if people want to produce a show, any show, then let them, and the people will decide what runs and what doesn’t.  It’s Broadway Darwinism.

While I may not like that Cirque has set up shop a few blocks from Broadway, I have two options:  1, be a sad clown about it (and no one likes a sad clown) or 2, use that competition to inspire me to be better at what I do.

Besides, is anyone else starting to fee like the sheen is wearing off of Cirque?  Interestingly enough, I recommend their shows in Vegas like they are my mom’s chocolate chip cookies . . . but I never suggest someone see a Cirque show outside of Sin City.  And I’ve never seen one myself.

So fear not Patti . . . let them franchise . . . and we’ll work harder at being original.

(By the way, you know that word I used up there .  . with the $$ instead of Ss . . . I’ve decide to replace that word in my vocab with . . . Pattied.  Because she has become such an advocate for Broadway, I think it’s only fitting.  For example, “Ugh. I’m so pattied there was no Broadway on Broadway this year.”  Ok?  Let’s try it.  Now you!)

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  • Jake says:

    All due respect, Ken, but Patti played Annie Oakley at Ravinia. If you were indicating that she should play it on Broadway, I have to say, I wholeheartedly agree! Perhaps your next project?

  • Joe says:

    “Suck Broadway dry?” I don’t think ZARKANA can be blamed for cannibalizing weak Broadway fare, such as the handful of mediocre musicals that have struggled this summer. And if it really IS competing for sales with Broadway, it certainly isn’t competing with THE MOUNTAINTOP. Or RELATIVELY SPEAKING.
    No, I am happy that ZARKANA is doing so well. $75 for a Cirque experience is much more pleasing to my once-a-year theatre friends than the $135 drag show masquerading as a Broadway musical. Maybe, after a handful of ZARKANA’s, everyone on Broadway will have to step up a little.

  • Roy says:

    Waa-waa. Everyone competes with someone. As Joe said, the fare currently on Broadway is not that enticing. I just spent a weekend in NYC and for the first time didn’t see a Broadway show. Nothing was really worth the time and/or money. Well, except for Book of Mormon for which I tried the lottery and War Horse.

  • Matt says:

    I like Patti and have met her several times after seeing some fantastic performances (I studied with one of her teachers and one of her producers), but I think the reaction to Cirque isn’t really justified, at least in a historical sense. Broadway was founded on popular entertainment and over the course of 100+ years has always featured a variety of entertainment including musicals, plays, operas, ballets, vaudeville, burlesque, folies bergere, circuses, performance art, music concerts, stand-up comedy, commentary and films. Artistry on Broadway is an evolution in Broadway’s content, not a right or requirement. And considering most of the Broadway houses are commercial, if it can afford to be produced, then it has every right to be there and the public will decide what stays and what goes (Banana Shpeel ring any bells?). Cirque is no more of a threat to Broadway than the Rockettes, ballet, symphony, concerts or sporting events, which may have shorter individual runs, but are still mostly a permanent presence around the perimeter of Broadway. The people who WANT to see a Broadway show will go see a Broadway show. The people who WANT to see Cirque du Soleil will go see that as well. It’s really not as much of an either/or situation as anyone would fear unless there is a dry spell of new shows running on Broadway and the majority of the options are the same stuff everyone has already seen on Broadway or on tour in their home town. People are inherently drawn to bright and shiny new things and the deluge of new shows opening through the rest of this year will dilute any heavy concentration on Cirque as the new thing to see. The real competition will be within Broadway itself.

  • Michael DiGaetano says:

    When actors wer falling out of the rafters in Spider-man, it probably could have been a Cirque show.

  • Evan says:

    The word Pattied is so Title Of Show on you.
    To an extent I must agree with her, but I also see the truth behind the arguments that it isn’t seriously that much of a detriment to quality theatre. Did WINTUK (surprise, CDS has already been succesfuly in NYC) ever cause a serious drop in the Rockette’s Christmas attendance? People will see what they want to see, and if they just wanna go see pure entertainment with little to no story line, then by all means go see an amazingly well produced spectacle on one of the world’s largest stages. Don’t waste your time on spectacle in a cramped, tiny, theatre watching a “$135 drag show masquerading as a Broadway show.”
    [don’t get me wrong, I love those tiny, cramped theatres when they have quality shows in them]

  • BananaHammock says:

    Also, Patti clearly hasn’t seen the crowd that has been going to ZARKANA… It has been having a bit of trouble filling its house lately– even half way… If she’s pi$$ed off about something, she should be mad that the show is lowering visitors’ expectations for quality of theatre/productions in the area…
    While YES, the show is full of spectacle, it is nothing original, and what little storytelling is there is indecipherable. 80% of the acts are “found acts” (some of which can even be seen on youtube, and not original creations like in most shows) and that plot is even WORSE/non-existant than the ill-fated Banana Shpeel. Maybe it will be more ready for an audience when it comes back next summer.

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