Monday, October 27, 2008

You've Had a Good Run: Hairspray, Spamalot, Spring Awakening

It's a sad coincidence that three Best New Musical Tony-winners happened to post their closing notices within such a short distance of each other. Some people have used this happening to point to a weak economy, but I don't think the ending of these shows is so complicated. They had good runs, and their time has simply come.

Hairspray has been on its last legs for a few years, as evidenced by the casting of George Wendt, Lance Bass, Ashley Parker Angel, and a number of other "stars." The fact that it's ending at the same time as other shows, I wouldn't read too much into that. It was winding down. It's time has come.

Spamalot has been very successful and has toured successfully, stopping in my city twice. It has never been a favorite of the Broadway base, and its producers' dependency on stunt casting--Clay Aiken, Drew Lachey--started long before this recent economic crisis. It never had the heart of a Hairspray or the pizazz of Chicago, so it's not a surprise that it's not running forever. Comedies do close earlier for a reason; it's not a show that cries for multiple viewings at $100 a pop.

Spring Awakening was never destined for a long run. It's simply not commercial enough. As an adult, when I think of shows I'd like to see, the teen sex show doesn't appear on my list. Even as a person who loves musicals with intellectual content--like Parade or Marie Christine--a show about teenagers' sex drives doesn't strike me as deep. I can see why kids would like it, and I don't mean to undervalue its beautiful score or book, but I don't think it ever had the legs to run long. Again, before this "economic crisis," the show was showing signs of fatigue at the box office.

As Eva Person says (at least in the movie of Evita), "You had a good run. I'm sure he enjoyed you." The fact that these shows are all ending at the "All ashore who's going ashore" time of early January is a sign that they had a good run, and their time has come. It's not as if they are closing in July or two weeks before the Tonys. Most importantly, they all turned a profit and have either had successful tours or are embarking on one.

the Broadway Mouth
October 27, 2008

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