The Playgoer: A Silver Lining?

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Monday, August 18, 2008

A Silver Lining?

by Abigail Katz


As Dr. Cashmere pointed out in his post, Michael Riedel (among others) is predicting dark times for Broadway "B'way Feels Money Slump." This gloomy outlook is supported by the slew of "postponements" and cancellations that have occurred in the last few weeks- Brigadoon, For Colored Girls, and the latest victim, according to Riedel, Godspell. The worst aspect of all of this is that people who thought they were going to have good-paying Broadway gigs suddenly find themselves out of work. Hopefully they'll find other gigs, but what a blow. But to be an annoying cock-eyed optimist (no I STILL haven't coughed up the money to see South Pacific, thanks for asking) could there be a positive side to all of this? Is it in the realm of possibility that creative solutions may lead to quality productions that don't require a capitalization of $15-20 million? Will producers and investors opt for more non-musical plays, which have dwindled on Broadway in recent years due to blockbuster musical hits? Will producers and investors just get more picky about what they produce? (of course that could be a good thing or a bad thing.)

These questions may be meaningless, as even the producers of Godspell, a known and favorite work by Stephen Schwartz, who has the current number one show on Broadway, fell short of raising the mere $4.5 million needed to mount the production (unless they've magically come up with $1 million over the weekend.) And there will always be big-budget musicals, like the upcoming $18 million Billy Elliot, which I will freely admit I would like to see. But what will Broadway look like as we make our way through challenging economic times? One thing is for certain, the ticket prices aren't going to get any lower. Lets hope producers are brave enough to weather this storm and don't resort to safe and boring choices.

A cock-eyed optimist indeed?

3 comments:

the artist formerly known as jess. said...

Well, if you're a cock-eyed optimist, then I am one, too.

I think this could be seen as a good thing; if producers have to resort to being more picky, then hopefully there's a chance that less of the sensationalist-y, spectacle-y stuff that has become popular in recent years (sorry, Legally Blonde) can be filtered out.

also, despite rising ticket sales, it could direct more mainstream theatregoers to slightly less expensive fare, such as some off-broadway and off-off-broadway shows (though as far as prices are concerned, the difference isn't by much)...

there is still some positive to be seen during this economic crisis of sorts.

RLewis said...

Is it possible that this is a sign that the economy is actually getting better? A barrel of oil has come down $30, because the dollar has gained strength. This in turn means that european tourist aren't getting quite the exchange rate deal on broadway tickets that they were getting last month. Market-timing ticket-buying?

Also, while things are gettin' all essay-ish around here, Crain's has a great article about how more and more shows are skipping Broadway all together - "Who Needs Broadway?". One reason: lack of theater availability. So, I don't know how much credence I'd put in Reidel - raising money is always hard, very hard. Actually, another reason for not coming to B-way was bad critics. Add this article to the not-talked-about-enough one from Cote last week in TimeOut.

In other news: the Municipal Arts Society has replaced it's 40-year president with a big Bush booster (ny sun) - that can't be good for smaller arts org's (unless there'll be buskering in Moynihan Station). Important news, but maybe doesn't fit well with the current long-form posting.

Anonymous said...

Is it in the realm of possibility that creative solutions may lead to quality productions that don't require a capitalization of $15-20 million? Will producers and investors opt for more non-musical plays, which have dwindled on Broadway in recent years due to blockbuster musical hits?

Nice job ! At first I thought you were putting "creative solutions" and "Producers" in the same sentence, but I see you didn't. "Creative Solutions" for the current regime of "Producers" IS how to raise capital.

When the economy does get worse (and it will for those who follow Wall Street and not Politics) perhaps you'll see the old school hybrid of Actor/Manager or another Merrick who saw quality and knew how to spend capital to support it.

BC