The Cirque is coming to town!

Theaters don’t stay dark too long these days.  Even the ones that are tougher to fill.

I was the Associate Company Manager of the original production of Ragtime at the Lyric Theatre (then the Ford Center), and some say that producer Garth Drabinsky left a curse on the building when the company behind Ragtime went bankrupt and he went to jail.  Big shows (including some good ones like this last season’s On the Town and 42nd Street) came and went, but nothing stuck.  The theater is the kind of big barn that should have a Wicked or a Lion King but . . . instead it got Hot Feet.  (Actually – I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both On the Town and 42nd Street were two of the better productions at the theater . . . big dance shows need big stages and make big pictures for audiences to take in.)

When On the Town announced it was closing, some in the biz thought it might be a while before the theater found a new tenant (King Kong anyone?).  But then, just two days ago, it was announced that one of the most exciting live entertainment companies is creating a brand new show for this venue.

That’s right, Cirque du Soleil is taking up residence at the Lyric with a brand new show called Paramour.

It’s not the first time Cirque has put a show in the city (there were shows at the Beacon, MSG and Radio City), but this is the first one that is occupying one of our theaters.  It’s also the first one with a big-time Broadway Producer holding the reins, with the newly appointed head of Cirque’s theatrical division, Scott Zeiger, calling the shots.

What does this mean for Broadway?

Well, without a doubt it means that we’re slowly adapting to the changing tastes of our audiences, and the new group of consumers that have come into our fold over the past few years (where do you think all that growing attendance is coming from?).  And yeah, it means we’re becoming a little more Vegas, as I predicted way back in 2010.  We’ve got Penn and Teller, The Illusionists, musicals that feature popular music . . . and now a Cirque show.

But is that so bad?

Ok, so I don’t want a drag Elvis show taking up residence in one of our hallowed halls, but I will tell you that some of the most exciting moments I’ve had in a theater over the past twenty years have been at Cirque shows (my mouth is still on the floor from seeing O).  And if they can bring even half of what they’ve done at other venues to the Lyric, then Broadway will be better off for it.


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  • Eleanor T. says:

    Love Cirque. Great entertainment.

  • Robert Z says:

    Under what contract will the performers in a Cirque show on Broadway work? Maybe things have already changed, but it used to be that union performers were not allowed to work cirque shows and they have been unable to make a deal over the years. Does a show belong on Broadway if its primary union’s talent is not allowed to audition or work?

  • Hartporter says:

    I have no problem with Cirque having an NYC presence. There should be room for every kind of entertainment there, and they are truly wonderful shows. I just wish we weren’t losing a Broadway house to them. In the old days, there was the Hippodrome for this kind of spectacle. It would be amazing to see them create that kind of venue for their shows. Has it just become too expensive to contemplate that kind of investment in NYC? We need MORE theaters in NYC, not fewer. As it is, shows are stacked-up, waiting for a house to open.

    As a side note, I am bemused by the attitude that On The Town “failed.” Do people not understand that was a very good run for a revival? Has the freak success of Chicago led them to think every old show will run forever?

  • Scott Wilkinson says:

    I love the Cirque shows as well. My only fear is that is those shows always make us mere mortals ( composers, lyricists, playwrights) seem so …well, small. Like everything in our culture has to be bigger, bolder, louder, more dangerous, more “spectaclish”, does that mean the art of telling stories will seem like old school, time capsule stuff.
    Maybe in my next show about the war of 1812, i will incorporate a man with a musket swinging from the ceiling on a rope upside down while holding a damsel in distress in one arm.

    • Hartporter says:

      I thought about that too Scott. As I said, there should be room for everything, but the economic climate being what it is, is a person going to spend over a hundred dollars on something spectacular, or something smaller? I even find myself thinking this way: “I can see a small production anywhere for a lot less. When I’m in NYC I’m going for something big!” A friend of mine’s father says: “You guys writing plays are like people still obsessed with buggy whips.” The longer I live, the more that seems to be true.

  • Thomas says:

    Cirque du Soleil, not so bad? Sorry to say but it is bad for Broadway! I am sick and tied “this” complete commercialism of a show bombarding all venues around the country. It is nothing more than a slick, so called, circus. But rather than animals, we see humans performing tricks. I do not go to BROADWAY to see a circus; I go to hear STORIES, sometime told in songs, but mostly in words that speaks to the audience in a way that is cerebral and stimulating, where one comes out of the theater, knowing that something special was experienced.

    Keep the circus in Vegas Hotels or Under a Tent, NOT in Theater houses! There was a time when Las Vegas was a great spot to see great singers and performers in small hotel theaters (small, compared to today’s venues), that was until the Circus came to town and took over! Is that what Broadway needs? I don’t think so!

    • Hartporter says:

      This idea that Broadway is, or should be, a home for art only is a recent phenomenon. If you look at it historically, it was always a mix of every conceivable kind of entertainment. So I see no reason why Cirque de Soleil shouldn’t be a part of that. (And I would argue that Cirque is wonderful art, just of a different kind. It certainly is compared to the vulgar clowns and exploited animals of the Ringling shows!) But as I said, it absolutely should not be taking a major house out of circulation. Let it build it’s own venue, as it has everywhere else. That would enable more spectacular productions, and leave legitimate theaters available for plays ands musicals. We need twice as many houses, not fewer.

  • A.J. says:

    Ken, this was one of your best posts ever.

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