The new musical revue Harlem Song, like the neighborhood it celebrates, continues to survive even in hard times. Producers of the show -- officially titled George C. Wolfe's Harlem Song in recognition of its writer-director -- posted a provisional closing notice on October 28 but rescinded that notice this week as they sought additional backing. As of this writing, the "musical celebration" will continue running at least through November 10.
Harlem Song opened at the historic Apollo Theater in early August; the producers planned to keep it going until New Year's Eve and then close it to allow for the first step in a multi-million-dollar restoration of the 125th Street venue. The show would then reopen in the renovated theater in late 2003 as a holiday attraction; if all went as planned, it would reopen every year and play through the holiday season, much as A Christmas Carol does in the Theater at Madison Square Garden and The Radio City Christmas Spectacular does at Radio City Music Hall.
However, ticket sales have yet to cover the weekly operating costs of Harlem Song. Press representative Carol Fineman told TheaterMania that except for group sales, "which are strong and rising," advance sales have lagged far behind same-day and same-week sales. Virtually all New York City entertainment venues have seen a fall-off in advance sales after last September's terrorist attacks, but the resulting cash flow squeeze is especially problematic for Harlem Song because it shares its home with a popular television show.
"Since It's Showtime at the Apollo is taped there, Harlem Song has to be broken down -- completely struck -- every week," Fineman said, "so we can only do seven shows a week." This, of course, makes for smaller box office receipts. The show did have its best one-day gross ever on Saturday, November 2. Also, Columbia/Legacy Records -- a unit of Sony Music Entertainment Inc., which is a producer of Harlem Song -- is set to release the original cast album this month, and heavy promotion of the disc could also boost ticket sales.