Sometimes bad things happen to good shows.

This blog is all about trying to crack the Broadway code.  What can we do to increase our odds of success?  Research?  New economic models?  Stars?

All of that analysis is essential, especially if you’re in this game for the long haul.

But Broadway and all businesses are like the weather.  You can predict it all you want, but you never know if the sun is going to shine until you’re standing outside and you can feel it on your face.

I predicted the sun would shine on The Bridges of Madison County, which is why I signed on as a producer and described my decision-making process in this blog.  So much of it made perfect sense to me:  a super-sized brand, one of the most celebrated directors of the last decade, a Pulitzer Prize winning author, a Tony Award winning composer, a celebrated musical theater star, and more.

But, despite audiences being moved out of their minds when they are sitting in those seats at the Schoenfeld Theatre, we had a hard time from day one getting people in those seats in the first place.

And on Tuesday, when the Tony Nominators failed to recognize it as a Best Musical, giving a fourth slot to a non-storied revue instead, and not nominating a fifth, the dark clouds that were already blocking our sun from getting through got stormy.

And last night, we announced that we’ll be closing on Sunday, May 18th at 3 PM.

To say I’m disappointed is an understatement.  My staff and I will go through our mourning period (along with my awesome investors), and then we’ll buckle down, and have a post-mortem to mine some positive information from this experience to help us next time.

I knew this show would be a tricky sell, but no one knew how tricky, and no one ever does, until the curtain goes up.

But one thing I do know.  History will treat this show a lot different than Broadway did.

Get tickets to see it before the 18th.

 

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Comments
  • peg says:

    I LOVED this show! I have seen it four times and I don’t understand why people are staying away from it! I did NOT like the book or the movie (in fact, I quit a book club when I got attacked for my not liking the book!). The music, the performances, the staging, everything works and makes for a beautiful evening. I will see it again before it closes and carry it in my heart for a long, long time!

  • Richard says:

    Ugh. I just. Don’t. Understand. 🙁

  • Anne says:

    I don’t get it. I sometimes think with great shows like Bridges that people think (and I am guilty of this) it will be there for a long while so right now I am going to see XXX before it closes….I can see Bridges later. This is CLEARLY wrong thinking. Of course as a theater goer, choices have to be made and sadly budgets have to be a part of those choices. BUT to be ignored by Tony, for that I am totally befuddled. I am sorry for your loss, for Broadways’s loss. I scratch my head sometimes when I see what plays for years and what closes in months. I will never understand…but then again, I am not a professional…just a theater lover.

  • Randi says:

    I am so upset that the show wasn’t as appreciated by the masses as it deserved to be. The performances and that gorgeous score are above anything this season. But the marketing was terrible and lost a lot of people who would have loved the show if they actually saw it.

  • Matthew says:

    Very disappointed that this show will close before I can get up to see it. I was really hoping it would last until I could afford another NY trip. 🙁

  • David Merrick Jr says:

    Kelli O’Hara gives a for-the-ages performance and deserves to win the Tony.

    The show itself, however, is good, not great. It’s solid enough and sometimes better than that.

    But except for Kelli, the show never really flies. And unlike the film, it doesn’t make the crucial emotional connection it desperately needed. Pasquale’s song was good, but not as memorable as the scene with Eastwood and Streep in the rain. IMHO, natch.

    And I also wonder if that “brand” you were so enamored with, is a little worn these days.

    I will agree, though, the show deserved better…

  • Mary says:

    This show had two great performers and a soaring score, but it was ultimately a weak adaptation, lacking subtlety, nuance and moments of silence in a story that is dependent on all of this things. The whole thing was overwrought and cheesy.

  • hendri says:

    i enjoyed the show very much but i thought elena shaddow did a better job than kelli, acting-wise. with kelli its too heavy, with elena it was fun. would it have worked with a Hollywood star? Maybe. kelli in king and i will do well i think but her star is not big enough to carry a new show like this. dont worry, this will live on and on in regional, foreign and amateur markets.

  • hendri says:

    i think also The set, the staging could have used more flash and been more groundbreaking or inventive. it just looked and felt a little too regional theater for me and not “broadway”

  • Polo says:

    Basing a musical on rooting for someone to commit adultry, carries a weird subliminal message. Who was the audience Middle-aged women who come to NY as tourists? Not enough of them to keep it going. I’m sorry that you have to close but I think the source material was suspect, and it just goes to show that Broadway want/needs its spectacle and anything less is a big yawn.

  • Polo says:

    “have a post-mortem to mine some positive information from this experience to help us next time.”

    http://www.broadwayworld.com/board/readmessage.php?thread=1072267&dt=102

  • Michael DiGaetano says:

    One major problem with turning a TV show or film into a stage musical is that people do associate the lead characters with who they saw in the film. I was one of the producers of the Ferris Beuller TV series and as fine an actor and great human as Charlie Schlatter is, all we heard was that he wasn’t Matthew Broderick. RIght. Because Matthew is Matthew Broderick and Charlie is Charlie. I think thats why Broadway has become so star driven. People pay a LOT of money to see a play or musical and they dont think they’re getting their moneysworth if they are seeing Denzel or Neil or Patti. Look at how poorly THe Producers an Addams Family did after Nathan left. The actors and actresses we theatre people love are mostly not household names outside of our zipcodes. Mothers and Sons and Velocity of AUtumn are both perfectly fine shows. Yet one has TV star TYne Daly and one has Academy Award winner from thirty or so years ago, Estelle Parsons. BOth women are nominated, yet Velocity is closing Sunday. I make lists of which stars I will approach for my new musical because that seems to be the only way to go long theses days

  • Michael Ian says:

    And IF you can get past the show not receiving a nom, it’s impossible to understand how the heck Steven Pasquale was overlooked. During his powerful performance of “It All Fades Away”, that amazing thing happened where the audience suddenly comes together as a unified community of people who’ve shared something emotionally universal — where the walls of the theater are just too close together to contain what has just happened.

  • Zack says:

    This show was absolutely stunning. Kelli and Steven together were simply magical; two of the best performances I have ever seen live. Their voices alone are flawless and deserve full houses every night, but their character work and overall performances are incredible to boot.
    I was lucky enough to sit front row center a few weeks ago with a student rush ticket. I left the theater in awe of the talent involved with this production and moved by the journey I had just been taken on. It is not a spectacle, like some of the other big-name musicals in the city (Les Mis, Pippin, Kinky Boots, etc) but as a concept show the story it tells is gorgeous and the lessons it teaches about love and making choices are invaluable.
    This show definitely deserved a longer run (and more nominations), and as a music theater student who is trying to be savvy with what works and doesn’t work in this industry and identify the trends, I am completely thrown by its lack of support and popularity. I think theater-goers need to remind themselves that theater should be a medium by which they are exposed to great truths and can be moved in some way… not just be entertained by expensive sets, tricky choreography, and flashy costumes. I saw over a dozen shows this season, and though many were fabulous in their own way, the one I recommended to everyone to go see was Bridges.

  • Cathy Flynn says:

    For every light on Broadway… I’m so sorry for your battered heart, Ken. (Platitudes – platitudes.) Don’t you hate to evaluate anything ? actor ? director ? producer ? proven or newbie? ticket cost vs recovery cost ? jaded by movies or TV ? 3-ring-circus spectacle or Sleuth-like-intimacy ?

    Yet, somehow every Broadway Season, there are winners and losers ~ really now, how freakin’ wonderful !

    An aside – just curious; if David Merrick had no male children – who is David Merrick, Jr, above ????

  • Richard Seff says:

    Ken, I agree that MADISON COUNTY is a lovely show. I saw it, I reviewed ,and I said so. It’s romantic and moving and your cast is first rate. Kelli O’Hara is our own Mary Martin. BUT. Has it occurred to you producers that successful non-musical movies turned into musicals take the kick out of them. Even the best of them, like yours, have a familiar ring to them. It was true of FAR FROM HEAVEN, it’s even true of ROCKY though that at least adds some elements that could not be filmed. Still, we’ve seen it before, and that will keep it from being a smash. Obscure films (like KINKY BOOTS) are ok as source material, but we have grown weary of “safe” material. Why not have another look at SHINE! which Hal Prince recommended you consider? It’s NEW, it’s had 7 fine reviews from 7 critics who loved in at NYMF. I admire you, but revivals and rehashed movies may be ‘safe’
    but see what happens? You waz robbed, but you’re a first class producer. Only be brave, like Ostrow and Cohen and Prince and Fryer and Feur&Martin were — with new material. Stay at it — you’re going to have an ANNIE of your own. Why not make it SHINE?

  • George Rady says:

    Sorry to hear… but I’m sure there will always be a “child” in there for a mother to love! As a “guy” this was just one of those “Broad-way” shows that I couldn’t put on my List… nor could I see the movie or read the book… I suppose it would be like me trying to convince a “chic” to see and Action Movie… starring Justin Bieber???

  • George Rady says:

    On the other hand – can’t wait to see Kelli O’Hara is Valencienne in Susan Stroman’s production of “The Merry Widow” next year at the Met!!!!!!!!

  • Ellen says:

    I have enjoyed reading these other comments as think to weigh in here.

    To be sure I prefer plays and rarely miss one that comes to the Great White Way. I do see musicals of course but they often have to have what I am looking for and often that is great big dance numbers & laughs (however I did see Company twice in 4 days and bought the sound track with Raul so there are no absolutes:). That said, when I heard a friend mention he was investing in the musical- “The Bridges of Madison County” long before I knew another thing about it, it was a head scratcher to me (no offense Ken!). It is such a sad story and anyone who saw the movie still remembers every heart wrenching frame and it is only in those precious micro moments does the impact of the story land and there’s no room for that on a Broadway stage. Nevertheless, I have often wondered if Sutton would have made the difference. Someone commented that they felt Kelli’s acting was too heavy… I think so… Even in an interview I saw her in she was grave… Nothing light about her. She expressed being troubled with folks seeing her (brand maybe) as an adulterer and I cannot say I remember her even smiling in that interview ‘cept when talking about how her costar got her thru the more vulnerable scenes. Honestly she seemed pained and well I guess more than one of your readers may have picked up on that too.

    I have some good news tho Mr. D. More later on that- Good luck on it’s next leg. All bests-
    Ln

  • Esther says:

    I think Zack hits on a key problem.

    Judging from friends on Twitter and Facebook, the people who were most enthusiastic about Bridges were also the friends least likely to have purchased a full-price ticket. Like Zack, they did rush or TDF or they got comps.

    No Broadway show can survive on rush, TDF and comps. It needs people buying full-price tickets.

    I realize that a lot of my friends are younger and I wonder if they’ll eventually graduate to full-price tickets as they become more financially successful. I’m not sure. If not, Broadway will only increasingly become what they decry – a theme park for tourists filled with overblown spectacle.

    If you aren’t able to support the art you love to the extent that it needs to be successful, no one else is going to do it for you.

  • Janis says:

    Gee I’m sorry. What a shame. It’s hard to believe such an accumulation of talent was not appreciated by a large enough audience to sustain a long run.
    Searching my mind for a reason, maybe despite sounding like a good idea at the time, Bridges was a poor choice of material. The book was a character driven secret pleasure for middle aged females and the movie was pretty much the same. Perhaps secret pleasures are not the material of great Broadway musicals.
    I hate the thought, but maybe the Broadway audience, like the Hollywood audience, has been dumbed down to the point of buying tickets only to the most expensive non-story, non-character spectacle incessantly hyped on TV.
    And perhaps both audiences are being dumbed down due to the lack of better stories driven by powerful characters.
    The Tonys may also be going in the direction of spectacle which would be a huge loss, not only to the investors who support expensive spectacle driven shows, but to audiences who who are offered little more than circus on TV, in movies, and on Broadway.
    Maybe it’s time for Broadway to forget shows that have been hits as movies, TV or print and get back to “making” their own hits. Might be a good idea to stop the more money, more profit thinking as well and make stars rather than stealing them from some other media.
    Maybe it’s time to focus on reducing the cost of producing great original shows like the terrific shows that made Broadway famous.

  • Paula says:

    I need to comment on the remark that Kelli is not a big enough star to carry the show. I am
    greatly dismayed at that comment. Read her
    list of credits – Light in the Piazza, South Pacific, The Pajama Game, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Far From Heaven, Carnegie Hall, concerts, etc., etc. Sure, Elena was having fun peeking
    into the life of her neighbor. Kelli had a “heavy” role to play-stuck in a marriage she
    questioned and having to choose between that and
    an opportunity to find happiness with another man.
    The actors were superb,and it is a real shame that the show was not recognized as a contender for Best Musical. As it was said in baseball,
    “They Wuz Robbed”.

  • Rick says:

    I adored this show and am beyond baffled by the lack of recognition it received from certain critics and the Tony nominators. Thank you for a beautiful and thrilling night of theatre!

  • Ginny says:

    The dig at After Midnight feels uncalled for (not one person on that stage is any less talented than the stars of this show – they’ve just been given fewer opportunities in the past). There are merits to Bridges, but at the end of the day it’s ANOTHER movie put on stage without any big risks or creative leaps.

  • Brian Jones says:

    Fortunately, this is one of those shows that every regional theatre and every community theatre will license and it will be a hit at the local level – with those who can’t make it to NYC and pay a fortune for tickets – for audiences to love. I don’t know how the economics work for a show’s life after broadway, but I guarantee it will produce plenty of revenue from royalties from around the country and around the world.

  • Barbe McMillen says:

    Loved the book, but didn’t see the movie unti it came to cable. Maybe some stories are meant to be experienced alone rather than with a crowd.

  • Ed Katz says:

    Ken, I share your frustration.
    Really enjoyed ‘Bridges’ and the performances of Kelli, Steven and (in an almost thankless role) Hunter Foster.
    I feel the same about ‘Velocity of Autumn’- an excellent play closing far too soon (Sunday). As with ‘Bridges,’ ‘Velocity’ also received a nomination for Best Actress- Estelle Parsons (who is amazing) but was shut out of Best Play.
    Sad indeed.

  • Marina Barry says:

    I really don’t get why Bridges was shut out of the nominations. The score itself was one of the best new scores to come along and the talent in the show was Broadway at it’s finest. It was a delicate show that lacked the noise and feathers that people seem to think makes for a Tony nod I guess, not that there’s anything wrong with feathers – but why not include all genres? Kelli is amazing vocally – she always is – but I agree Steven should also have gotten a nomination. I’ve seem the show twice and will go before May 18th, sadly to see it one more time. I LOVED THIS SHOW.

  • Jared says:

    Ken, I just want to say that I too am so disappointed that “Bridges” is closing. I think it represents the best work of both Jason Robert Brown’s and Kelli O’Hara’s illustrious careers, and I was blown away when I saw it. I have multiple friends who have reacted to the news of the closing with “That’s so sad, I wanted to see it” and I have chastised them for waiting so long to do so. If all of the people who claimed to have wanted to see the show had actually taken the time to buy a ticket, things would have been different.

    But in the meantime, I want to thank you and all of the producers for bringing this show to Broadway. It was an absolutely moving night in the theatre that I’m glad to have experienced, and I agree with you that the show will likely have a long and successful life after Broadway. I’m just sorry it couldn’t last longer.

  • Alyson says:

    Broken-hearted for this cast and artistic team. Bridges deserved so much more. I found it one of the most moving theatrical experiences I’ve ever had.

  • Anne says:

    I am hoping it wouldn’t be wrong to share this post I saw on Facebook:
    I copied this recent post from my brilliant, talented and beautiful friend Zak Resnick (A name you want to remember) I thought it important enough to share. I hope you do too and SHARE, SHARE, SHARE!

    “So. I saw “Bridges of Madison County” last night, and I’m still feeling all the feelings.
    When it wasn’t nominated for Best Musical, I was upset. I hadn’t even seen it and I was upset! Now, after experiencing what I think is one of the best shows (and musical experiences) I’ve ever seen (and heard), I’m much more than upset– I’m deeply sad.
    I’m sad for this time in our theatrical history that apparently doesn’t celebrate art. I think my friend Alexander (who is a brilliant young composer in his own right) really hit something on the head when he wrote:
    “Jason Robert Brown, Andrew Lippa, Ahrens and Flaherty and Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey all had original scores this season. What’s the use of even trying if none of those Tony Winners/Grammy Winners/Pulitzer Winners can even get a best musical nomination and Jukebox musicals do?”
    Now, I don’t know anything really about the politics of the Tony Awards, but I know what happened in that theater last night. It was palpable and real and every person walked out of there changed. I left that theater feeling just a little bit differently then when I walked in. And that’s the whole fucking reason any of us do this.
    Forget about the Tony’s. Except actually before we forget about the Tony’s– Steve Pasquale…!? The very definition of a leading man.
    Ok, now forget about the Tony’s… Forget about everything except for the fact that you have a very short time to catch this show before it is so unjustly taken from this city.
    Do yourself a favor and go see it.”

  • Stephanie Ross says:

    I’m so very sad that Bridges is closing. Such a beautiful piece of theatre. Jason Robert Brown’s work is inspiring and fulfilling to experience. It’s a dream of mine to work with him one day. Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale are WONDERFUL. I’m sad that people aren’t seeing this. I’ll be there for the last performance, even though my bank account suggests otherwise.

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Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

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