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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