This past season there were only two musical revivals on Broadway. And one of the duo was produced by a non-profit.
And next season, I only see one comin’ . . .
Why the sudden lack? Are we running out of musicals to revive? Are they so reliant on stars that they’re becoming more difficult to cast? Is their limited shelf life not as attractive to a theater owner compared to a new musical? Are Producers shying away from revivals because they’ve just become harder to make a nickel . . . never mind a dime?
Having produced a couple of very critically acclaimed revivals that couldn’t find a path to profitability, including the Tony-winning Once On This Island and the Tony-nominated Spring Awakening, I can say from first-hand experience that the answer is yes to all of those questions.
So is it time for a new model for the musical revival?
Seems like there are now three options . . .
1 – The massive must-see event, like Hello, Dolly! with Bette or The Music Man with Hugh (By the way, here’s a Broadway investing tip – if your star only has to be referred to by a first name, it’s a solid bet)
2 – The non-profit production (My Fair Lady or The King and I or Kiss Me Kate)
Or, the 3rd model . . . which, is the real shocker . . .
3 – Take it Off-Broadway
I KNOW! You never thought Off-Broadway would be a model for anything these days, did you? But with the man-eating plant sized announcement of the Off-Broadway production of Little Shop of Horrors this week with Jonathan Groff, Tammy Blanchard and Christian Borle, Off-Broadway musicals revivals are now officially a thing.
Trends happen in sets of three, and Little Shop is the third big ol’ revival to forego Broadway for more intimate pastures. There was the tiny Sweeney that recouped . . . the Yiddish Theatre Company production of Fiddler, still running at the previously cursed Stage 42 . . . and now the revival of the classic Ashman/Menken musical, which I’m sure has musical theater fans all over willing to prick their fingers and bleed for tickets. (And the buzz on the street is that the announcement of Little Shop sold a @#$%-ton of tickets on its first day . . . maybe even a record for a commercial Off-Broadway production.)
The success of Little Shop could bust this trend wide open. Already the show is demonstrating that stars (including its Tony winning Director, Michael Mayer) will work Off-Broadway, and that some shows just belong Off-Broadway (the other rumor is that the Authors of Little Shop insisted the show go to the same type of small theater it played when it opened decades ago.)
And maybe, just maybe, high profile Off-Broadway musical revivals could get the Tony Awards paying attention and honoring what happens Off-Broadway.
And maybe, just maybe, Off-Broadway would no longer be a thing and like London, we’d just have Theater in NY.
Wouldn’t that be amazing?
Big props to the Producers of Little Shop for this adventurous move. Let this be the start of something . . . small.
Get tickets to Little Shop here.
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