Last week, the Broadway musical “First Date,” which I reviewed for The Signal a few weeks ago, announced that it would end its short run in January. On Sunday night, “Big Fish,” starring Norbert Leo Butz, announced that it would end its run at the end of the December. The revival of “Annie” will also close its doors early next year.
Other shows like “The Glass Menagerie” and “Betrayal” are only scheduled to play limited runs and will also close in a few weeks’ time.
All of these closings made me stop and think about the current state of Broadway and theater in general. It would be unfair to entirely blame it on the consumer for not showing up to support these shows, for ticket prices are at an all-time high. It would also be unfair to solely blame the producers, who are simply trying to make a profit. In a world where we want bigger, brighter and more spectacular, the cost of putting on a full-scale Broadway show is enormous. In order to cover the cost, the show must charge more for tickets. Charging more for tickets means less people will show up.
This vicious circle can easily be related to other forms of entertainment in today’s crippling economy. People are trying their hardest to keep the market up and running, but it is becoming increasingly evident that the task is not a simple one.
That said, there are a handful of shows currently on Broadway that have had successful runs, like “Phantom of the Opera” and “Jersey Boys.” One could argue that only well-known musicals run for long, but then how can you explain the closing of “Annie” after only a year of performances? If revivals can barely stay open, how is there any hope for brand-new material to grace the Great White Way and stay there?
The solution is not easy, and like many outlets in the current economy, there may not be one simple answer.
What can be encouraged, however, is to support the arts. Whether it be theater, music, dance or anything else, the arts need support now more than ever. While attendance to sporting events has also decreased, no teams are shutting down and no stadiums are abruptly closing their gates. With the shutdown of the New York City Opera and the continuous closing of Broadway productions, the arts are on the verge of falling into trouble.
Each artistic production requires a massive team of people. Everyone from lights to costumes to set to performers need to be involved in every step of the process. Besides being a respected profession, this medium also provides jobs. Many positions have assistants and other smaller jobs, which in turn starts to give many aspiring hopefuls experience.
Many do not realize how hard it is to put on a performance. I just spent the past month working on the set of TCNJ Musical Theater’s production of “Cabaret.” Being a freshman, this was the first time I have worked on a college musical. There are not really words to describe how hard the production team and cast worked — everyone from an assistant to a lead actor dedicates so much time to perfecting the craft. There are also many jobs that people do not even know exist, like a publicist and a technical director. Without all the members poring themselves into their position, the production would fail. So many people only see the finished product, but if they knew what went on the two months before opening night, they would be simply astounded. Having worked on the show from the beginning, it is amazing to see how far it has come and watching people do what they are passionate about is simply priceless.
There may be no real solution to the problem of Broadway shows closing, and it is inevitable that some productions will fail. The arts, however, need to have continual aid whenever possible. Whether it’s a campus production or a regional show, the arts will never stop needing support. Everyone who has a love for something works hard at their craft and deserves the public’s support, and the arts are no exception.