Boston makes a play to become a tryout for plays. Again.

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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  • Eric says:

    Well done Boston. I wish they would bring in similar tax breaks in my city (we are far, far away). The arts is seriously in need of a bit of help here.

  • Scott says:

    We want Broadway to come workshop in Dallas/ Ft.Worth, Tx. We have; The Dallas Theatre Center, The Eisman, The Wylie, Music Hall, Irving Arts Center, The Bass, Casa, the Wynspear Opera House…and many more. Almost every High School does at least one musical a year and we have dozens of acting/dancing studios. Our economy is booming, our population is growing and we have warm weather. Come to DFW!!!!

  • Joseph Giglio says:

    What ever happened to Philadelphia or Atlantic City?
    There is always New Hope PA. Well now I wax nostalgic LOL

  • Jeff Solis says:

    Besides having savvy theatregoing audiences with tastes similar to those of New York, traditional East Coast cities made sense (not to mention easy rail and road access to ship production), Boston and DC had smart, theatre-savvy CRITICS who again mirrored NY critics. Coe , Kelly, Nugent etc. could provide constructive “advice” on what was good or bad with your show. That’s gone everywhere. More likely you’ll get a freelance critic the more remote you go. And for the most part they caught up in the “hype” of a show coming to their town (and they the $$ importance of it too) and will be “soft” on the show. Reviews in these locations tend to be all plot and little critical substance. Perfect example is this season’s “Scandalous” which Seattle critics raved over, so did the Seattle audiences. They couldn’t give the comp tickets away in New York let alone sell any (except to tourists from the Seattle area). Anyplace, USA will allow the creators to see the show up and make the obvious changes. But more often the creators and producers need the masks that blind to be ripped off to save the heartbreak later. So I say closer to NY the better, look at NEWSIES. Go back to the past and open in the first “tryout” spots Newark, New Haven, or Brooklyn (The restored Kings could be ideal) or on 175th Street with tix prices half. or third that of Bway, you’ll get audience buzz going if it is good and some NY critic responses as well.

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