The Scottsboro Boys is closing on Dec. 12, six weeks after opening night? I just can't believe it. I'm crushed.
According to Playbill, producers Barry and Fran Weissler and Jackie Barlia said:
"It's a show we felt we had to produce and we're proud and grateful to have brought this last great musical from Kander & Ebb to Broadway. We encourage anyone who loves challenging, provocative and original new musicals to see us in our final two weeks at the Lyceum."
Well gee whiz guys, if you felt you had to produce it couldn't you at least have given it a chance to build an audience? Doesn't a challenging, provocative work need time for the buzz to spread? Couldn't you plow some of the profits from Chicago into it to keep things going a little longer?
Like I said in my review, The Scottsboro Boys is a thoughtful, tuneful and powerful story about injustice. It gives voice to a group of 1930s Southern black men in a way that I found original and compelling and entertaining in the highest sense of the word. It also brilliantly uses the format of a minstrel show to illuminate the era's racism.
I have to wonder if we're seeing a trend toward quickly pulling the plug on a show.
It happened last fall with the revival of Brighton Beach Memoirs and last week with Elling, both of which closed a week after opening night. The Weisslers also produced the British play Enron, which had a very short life on Broadway this spring.
Are these shows so undercapitalized that they're basically being fronted on a wing and a prayer? (The Scottsboro Boys played to 59.8 percent capacity last week, with an average ticket price of $63.43.) Sometimes I think there's the mentality that we'll throw up a show and see if it sticks. If not, we'll get out quickly and move on to the next one.
Compare that with Passing Strange, which I don't remember exactly burning up the box office but the producers, including The Shubert Organization and Elizabeth McCann, at least kept it going for five months, through the Tony Awards. It won Best Book of a Musical and now has an afterlife in regional theatre.
Or Memphis, which started out slowly but has built an audience since winning the Tony for Best musical. Or Next to Normal, another musical about a difficult subject that will have been on Broadway for nearly two years by the time it closes in January, and has just started a national tour with Tony winner Alice Ripley. Or Fela!, another innovative musical, about someone little-known to most Americans, that's concluding after just over a year on Broadway.
I feel bad for the incredibly talented cast of The Scottsboro Boys, as well as for the rest of the creative team. Your work - hilarious, insightful, heartfelt - moved me so much. It was a thrilling and memorable evening of theatre.