The Playgoer: Quote of the Day

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Quote of the Day

"To find a new Sondheim show that made money on Broadway, you have to reach all the way back to "A Little Night Music" in 1973. 'Forum' and 'Night Music' duly noted, every other Sondheim show since 1973 — among them, 'Merrily We Roll Along,' 'Sunday in the Park With George' and 'Passion' — were financial disappointments on Broadway. The 1979 original, Tony-winning production of 'Sweeney Todd' returned only 50 percent of its $1.5 million investment on Broadway, says its producer, Marty Richards. A Sondheim show 'rarely becomes a marriage between the critics and the audience,' says a theater investor."

-Michael Riedel, in a terrific little survey of Sondheim-economics. Of course, the hook of the piece is how the new Sweeney may finally turn this fate around. Of course, it sure helps that the overhead is low.

Reidel might have also added that this string of commercial "failure" climaxed with Sondheim's only completely new musical of the last decade, Bounce--which could not find backing for a New York production at all! Maybe it's a bad show--but imagine a major American novelist not being able to get published??? At some level we have to support our greatest artists through their middling work. Otherwise they will stop creating.

The underlying question illuminated by this is, as always: why do we continue to entrust one of our most important artforms to an increasingly hostile marketplace?

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