BY BETH WOJCIECHOWSKI
Ask any avid theater goer what their Broadway must-see shows are and the response will likely be anything from theatrical classics such as “The Phantom of the Opera” or “The Music Man” to newer favorites such as “Beetlejuice” or “Dear Evan Hansen.” Despite the general popularity of the aforementioned shows, all four will be closed by February.
The saga began when, this June, it was announced by Playbill.com that the smash-hit musical “Dear Evan Hansen” would close its curtains for good in September 2022. While this was a bit shocking due to the musical’s popularity, it was not a complete surprise as the show had been on Broadway for nearly five years — much longer than the average scope of a newer musical.
In early September, the news broke that the revival of “The Music Man” would be closing in January. This one came as a total surprise: the production had only just begun previews at the end of 2021 and tickets were still grossly expensive (nearly $500 apiece for a seat with a good view of the stage — much higher than the average Broadway ticket price of $189, according to SeatGeek).
September brought its own set of Broadway closure news.
It was a shock to all when, after 35 years of being the undisputed Broadway staple, the news broke of the impending closure of “The Phantom Of The Opera.” Ticket prices for the show steadily became more affordable over the last decade, which is usually a sign that a show is becoming less popular. The Majestic Theater, New York City’s home to the “Phantom of the Opera” since the 1980s, has had an average attendance of 89% capacity during its eight weekly showings of “Phantom,” which is relatively high for a show that has been open for three decades.
The shocking closure of “The Phantom of the Opera” was interrupted when, a few days later, it was announced by Deadline that after a very disjointed three years on Broadway, the musical adaptation of the hit 1980s film “Beetlejuice” would be closing as well.
Despite being open since early 2019, “Beetlejuice” went through many shake-ups during its three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also faced other challenges like having to switch theaters halfway through its run and a few controversial casting changes, meaning that its “three years” on Broadway was more like one and a half years of being actively open.
So the question remains: why are all these seemingly successful shows closing?
Like many of the problems plaguing the arts and culture scene in New York City at the moment, the Broadway closures can be attributed to financial losses and difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even once shows reopened in fall of 2021, Broadway weekly show grosses dropped 26% compared to their pre-pandemic numbers. While numbers have increased in the months since late fall 2021 when Broadway officially reopened, there is still a serious discrepancy between current Broadway grosses and those before the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, it was recently announced that New York Governor Kathy Hochul would be extending a pandemic tax credit that would provide $3 million per Broadway show to help pay for production costs.
Despite economic troubles within the Broadway community, theater attendance has recently skyrocketed in the latter half of 2022, thanks to the popularity of new Broadway revivals such as “Funny Girl” and “Into The Woods.”
There are tons of new shows (both brand new and revivals) heading to Broadway in the 2022-2023 season, and although the past few years have been economically tough for the theater scene, these new shows will help fill the void of newly closed shows and bring audiences back to the theater.