A Bunch of Broadway Shows Are Closing
The month following the Tony Awards typically brings a cluster of closing notices on Broadway, when shows that have not been blessed with a box office bump decide to cut their losses and pack up. 2019 is no different: King Lear was the first of this summer's crop of closures, playing its final performance just hours before the Tony telecast on June 9. It was followed by Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus (June 16), Hillary and Clinton (June 23), Kiss Me, Kate (June 30), All My Sons (June 30), My Fair Lady (July 7), and The Ferryman (July 7).
And that's not the end of the post-Tony bloodbath: Several more high-profile shows have recently posted closings notices, with three major musicals set to shutter on the deadly date of August 18. Is there something wrong on the Great White Way? Not really. During the 2018-19 season, total attendance on Broadway reached 14,768,254, while Broadway shows grossed a cumulative $1,829,312,140. Financially, the business has never been better.
But it's a business that has always been as destructive as it is creative: Many of these shows (like All My Sons and Kiss Me, Kate) were always scheduled to play limited runs. Others (like Gary) were also valiant shots at the avant-garde in an aggressively commercial space. Not every show runs as long as The Phantom of the Opera, nor should they. The life cycle of Broadway is what brings us new work and keeps things interesting.
Still, it's hard not to notice when some of the biggest shows all close within a few weeks of each other. Story of the Week offers a chronological list of closing dates this summer, with brief commentary on all of them. This is your last chance to see some of the most talked-about shows of last season.
July 14 – Burn This – This Lanford Wilson revival starring Adam Driver and Keri Russell will play its last performance at the Hudson Theatre this coming Sunday. This was always a limited run, and the production is finishing up exactly when it said it would.
July 28 – Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune – Originally scheduled to play through August 25, Frankie and Johnny announced this week that it was calling it quits a month early. This comes following a week when the house of the Broadhurst Theatre was half full and the average ticket price was $50.41. This a hugely disappointing considering Frankie and Johnny is Terrence McNally's best play, and it stars two of the finest stage actors in America (Audra McDonald and Michael Shannon) giving incredible performances. I urge you to run out and see it while you still can.
August 11 – The Prom – A heartwarming and totally original new musical about an Indiana lesbian and the Broadway sub-lebrities who adopt her as a pet cause, The Prom was my favorite underdog this Tony season. Sadly, the show walked away from Tony Sunday empty-handed. While audiences have one more month to see the show live, viewers across America will soon get to enjoy The Prom on the big screen: It's becoming a movie starring Meryl Streep and James Corden, which should reach cinemas in the fall of 2020.
August 11 – Be More Chill – This sci-fi musical by Joe Iconis and Joe Tracz rode into the Lyceum Theatre on a wave of online fandom and a sold-out off-Broadway run. Unfortunately, the youthful enthusiasm around Be More Chill wasn't enough to sustain a Broadway run for very long. The show will close after 30 previews and 177 regular performances. While it's game over on Broadway, I predict Be More Chill will level up in the next phase of its existence: amateur and high school productions. A big-screen adaptation is also in the works.
August 18 – The Cher Show – Cher is one of the biggest stars on earth, and her show is closing. This is despite a Tony for Bob Mackie's glittering costumes, and one for its star, Stephanie J. Block, who channels the Goddess of Pop eight times a week. Unfortunately, audiences have signaled that if they're going to pay Broadway prices, they want to see the real deal. They're in luck: Cher opens a residency at MGM in Las Vegas on August 21.
August 18 – Pretty Woman: The Musical – Putting the beloved 1990 Julia Roberts rom-com onstage with new songs by Bryan Adams wasn't as much of a slam dunk as one might have anticipated. The musical grossed $558,084 last week (out of a potential $1.3 million). This is a bad sign during the high tourist season, when Pretty Woman should be drawing its biggest audience. This isn't the last dance for Vivian and Edward, however: The show has announced plans for a North American tour and London run in 2020.
August 18 – King Kong – Capitalized at $30 million, King Kong was the most expensive Broadway debut last year. The investment didn't pay off. It won widespread acclaim for its groundbreaking puppet, but little love for its paper-thin book and score — and in the end, that mattered to Broadway audiences. Kong pulled in $666,542.57 last week (out of a potential $1.4 million). The producers are hoping for better luck in a new locale: They've announced a run in Shanghai for 2021.
August 24 – What the Constitution Means to Me – This is the happiest story on this list. Few people anticipated back in summer 2017 (when Heidi Schreck's theatrical lecture on the US Constitution played a week-and-a-half run at the Wild Project) that it would end up at the Helen Hayes Theatre on Broadway. August 24 is the end of the second extension of that Broadway run, which has been lauded by critics and attended by Supreme Court justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. While it now has to clear out of the Hayes to make way for the Broadway debut of Linda Vista, Constitution launches a national tour in January with a brand-new (and yet to be announced) lead performer.
UPDATE (7/18/2019): Since the publication of this article, both Waitress and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical have announced the end of their Broadway runs.
What comes next?
With so many theaters becoming available, producers are circling the rialto looking to land the perfect venue. Some of the above-mentioned theaters are already booked: Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Sturridge move into the Hudson Theatre on July 26 with their double-bill of solo shows, Sea Wall / A Life. That limited run will be followed by David Byrne's American Utopia. The Hudson will be busy for the rest of the year.
Similarly, the Alanis Morissette musical, Jagged Little Pill, begins previews at the Broadhurst on November 3. The Ivo van Hove-helmed revival of West Side Story begins previews at the Broadway Theatre (current home of Kong) on December 10. As mentioned previously, a season of plays from Second Stage is set for the Hayes, starting with Linda Vista.
That leaves the Lyceum, the Longacre, the Neil Simon, the Vivian Beaumont, and the Nederlander with no declared tenants for the fall. That is almost certain to change, with several productions eyeing Broadway runs and others having already announced them without announcing a theater.
Could we be seeing Amy Morton's delayed all-female revival of Glengarry Glen Ross on one of these stages in the near future? Jeremy O. Harris's Slave Play, which put out a mysterious casting notice weeks ago, just announced its Broadway run yesterday. At this point, the green shoots of the next season are just emerging from the ashes of the last.