Trend alert: The British are . . . cutting costs.

Little Billy Elliot broke a lot of hearts last week when he announced he was hanging up his toe shoes and closing up shop at the Imperial Theater, where he has been dancing his bollocks off for 3 years.

It was a bit of a shock, actually.  While lots of folks knew Billy’s dancing days were numbered, we certainly didn’t expect to see him take off so quickly.

So what happened?

Well, kudos to Lead Producer, Eric “The Big Buck Stops Here” Fellner of Working Title Films, for stepping up and saying this to The Post:

“It’s my fault entirely.  We’d never made a new musical before.  We believed in the vision of the show, and we decided to put on the best production we could without worrying about the [weekly] running cost.  But when you’re grossing $700,000 a week, which is not bad, and losing money, there is a problem.”

(One of the great things about the statement is that, of course, it wasn’t all Eric’s fault.)

It is a shame that Billy went down sooner than he should have . . . but that is not what this blog is about.

This blog is about a half-a-sentence towards the end of the Post article, that goes something like this . . .

“While the show continues to do good business in London (where costs are lower) . . .”

Yep, the show is still running overseas.  And probably will for some time.

I know, I know, you’re thinking that it’s running because it’s more of a British story.  Well, maybe.

But does that explain the recent conversation I had with a veteran Broadway producer who, when I asked him what he was working on, said, “I’m bringing a show in to the West End.  It’s so much cheaper over there . . . there’s less risk, and you can do more adventuresome stuff.”

Hmmmm . . .

I’ve heard this from a few folks, lately, and it’s starting to tickle my tutu.  Couple that with talk like, “a theatrical achievement like War Horse could never have been developed on American theatrical soil,” and color me concerned.

Broadway’s more cutthroat costs creates less fertile ground, which makes it harder for shows to take root.  Some would argue that’s a good thing . . . it’s a theatrical survival of the fittest, encouraging producers and writers to get better and better, or face premature wiltage.

My concern is that Producers will just start looking to plant elsewhere.

I know I’ve thought about it.


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  • Matt says:

    I wonder how much this has to do with audiences that are more adventurous, therefore giving the show a studier foundation (to use yesterday’s metaphor) for income.
    An adventurous show that is more likely to sell out based on the production alone is a lot less risky than having to play to the tourism heavy Broadway audience that, for the money they’re shelling out, expect a safe performance…which usually means a film inspiration/revival these days…

  • Levy Kook says:

    But WHY is Broadway more than West End? Is it actor/musician/stagehand costs? Theatre rental? Costume/scenic builds? Lighting/sound/projection rental? Creators royalties? Management/advertising?
    Would be highly educational to view the Billy Elliot line-item budgets side by side.

  • Erik says:

    So true, Ken. The UK is where I want to do business.

  • Margie says:

    Why can’t taxi cabs carry a postcard-sized handout for passengers listing all the broadway plays, theatre addresses and how to get discounted tickets (including tkx hours), standing room, etc. But to really make Broadway synonymous with NYC, you need to get the sports team involved. Even if it’s tokenism, why can’t a producer’s credit go to someone like Derek Jeter or another team star? Or, how about getting the sports stars to make PSAs about Broadway? They could air on TV and they could air as PSAs in Times Square. A PSA needs a problem and a solution. Problem could be: It costs “X” dollars to run the present Broadway shows. To do that, we need customers. Support Broadway.” Something like that. It could be in an ongoing campaign — just chane the sports star. They do it for drugs and other causes, they’ll do it for Broadway.

  • Margie says:

    Ken, I think you need to start work on a new musical immediately. Fiddler hasn’t been revived since 2004 — if it’s not too soon, how about Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Tevya and Susan Sarandon as his wife?

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