stage or for that matter, just who that audience is. A year ago today The Capeman closed and before that Side Show bit the dust. Since then a whole slew of other musicals including the critically acclaimed Parade have come and gone and now Captain's Courageous will fold next week. Just what is it that we want as theater-goers or does it even matter?

Not all of the musicals that folded in the last year or so were turkeys. We can dismiss Band in Berlin but let's take Side Show. Here we had a good piece of theatre, great score, great actors and even great reviews. It just couldn't find an audience. And that Broadway audience is comprised of die-hard theater-goers and tourists and therein lies the problem...the tourists! They outnumber us and they simply had no desire to see a show about Siamese twins of all things.

Broadway is a huge tourist business and those visitors keep shows like Cats, Phantom, Les Miserables, and Miss Saigon running for years. Not that those shows aren't any good, but it should tell you what sells on Broadway and who's buying tickets. Those shows I just mentioned have gone beyond being a Broadway musical as they have become tourist attractions.

It's like that in other cities too. A friend of mine who is a producer in a large mid west city told me that whenever there was a financial crunch in his organization, he would simply look at his partners with that knowing look that said 'Okay bring in Cats for two weeks and our problems are solved.' And they've booked Cats over ten times in the last decade! Why? Because it is what audiences want and it's a huge money maker.

Theatre snobs look down on the works of Frank Wildhorn, yet, he has 3 shows running on Broadway. Jekyll & Hyde, The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Civil War all have the pop composer's music and it is this music which appeals to the tourists (this theatre-goer too I have to admit). And even if his latest outing doesn't get great reviews, I'm sure Civil War will enjoy a nice run and Mr. Wildhorn can laugh all the way to the bank.

Then, of course, there is Disney and just who do you think they are catering to? You guessed it. Tourists. And now we have a fairly good show like You're A Good Man Charlie Brown struggling to make it and I believe they will. Why? They're going after their audience which will be tourists and the younger generation by offering added matinees and an unheard of 3 performance a day schedule on Saturdays.

And where does that leave us, the snob theatre mavens, the know-it-alls on the Web? Well, it leaves us at the mercy of the tourists. We can only hope to educate them enough so that when something really good comes along, we may be able to penetrate their brains long enough to get them to a box office.

In the meantime, we can always turn to plays. And it looks like Broadway is doing just that. Art, Death of a Salesman, Amy's View, Night Must Fall, The Lion in Winter, Not About Nightingales, and Ring Round The Moon are all current offerings. Fewer musicals; more comedies and dramas. Do you see what's happening? If Death of a Saleman takes to the road and is a success, you'll see more of the same in following seasons. And you know as well as I it's much less to produce a drama than a musical and could be particularly profitable on the road. There is certainly nothing wrong with a good play or comedy, but it is the musical that we all love on Broadway. But, alas, they are few and far between...and most don't last very long.

Blame it on the tourists!

Tidbits: Rumors abound on the Web that Roundabout will be doing Follies at the Selwyn next year. "I guess that the prospect of a Mendes/Roundabout Follies is part of the reason Goldman didn't want the Papermill Follies to transfer to Broadway." Hmmm....add the word Mrs. and you'll have it about right.

Busy week on The Rosie O'Donnell Show...Laurence Fishburne of The Lion in Winter makes an appearance on Tuesday. On Friday, Natasha Richardson of Closer guests and the entire cast of The Civil War perform a number. Now, if Rosie would only give a boost to our Cabaret friends that would be just great. The MAC Awards are Monday April 5th, and it would be great to see Tom Andersen on the show singing "Storybook." Now, that would make my day, and probably Tom's too. He's a nominee and we wish him well.

Will Chicago extend beyond June out Las Vegas way? Nothing signed yet. If you're seeing the show on a Wednesday or a Saturday, hit the 7:30 show. I hear the 10:30 audience is half bombed. In the Mandalay Bay theatre they have rocking chair type comfortable seats with drink holders. What ever happened to class?

The eagerly awaited The Iceman Cometh previews tomorrow. Curtain is promptly at 7 P.M. Mon. thru Sat. with a matinee on Sat. at 1...wanna bet people arrive an hour late? It's at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 West 47th Street.

The Weir, now in previews, officially opens on Thursday and we'll have Fergus on the aisle for you with his review in our Broadway Review section. The Weir was voted Best Play 1999 in London. No Wednesday matinees for this as they will be doing two shows on Sundays. Going after the tourist trade are they?

A friend who attended a run through of Marlene, the new musical play by Pam Gems, beginning previews this Tuesday for an April 11 opening at the Cort Theatre, tells me both the show and Sian Phillips, playing Marlene Dietrich, are going to be the huge surprise hit of this Broadway season.

On Friday, The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm previews at the Longacre Theatre. What? A musical? Yay! And then on Saturday Oscar winner, Dame Judi Dench opens in previews in Amy's View at the Barrymore Theatre.

Box office is now open for The Lonesome West. Brought to you by The Beauty Queen of Leenane team of Martin McDonagh and director Garry Hynes. If "the Beauty Queen of Leenane lit the fuse...The Lonesome West is the explosion!"...so goes the ad campaign. Lyceum Theatre, 149 West 45th. Tele-charge 212-239-6200.

Tony N' Tina's Wedding is in their 12th year...now at St. Lukes on W. 46th Street. Join the laugh-fest ceremony, pasta included. Visit: www.TonyLovesTina.com for details.

Chita Rivera was recently quoted, "Broadway is becoming more like Vegas and Vegas is becoming more like Broadway." Wonder if she knew Elvis: An American Artist was headed Off-Broadway. It's billed as a rock musical with all original songs. At the American Theatre of Actors, 314 W. 54th. Tickets $12.00 at Ticket Central. 212-279-4200.

If you haven't checked out our new sections please do so. We've recently added a CABARET column where we feature MAC Award nominee Tom Andersen. There's POLITICS and the ARTS where you can find out what's going on on Capitol Hill. And in SPOTLIGHT ON we talk to a Broadway Gypsy. And don't forget our REGIONAL section with news and reviews from a dozen different cities.

I hear the name on everybody's lips is gonna be New Amsterdam Theatre; solving the big mystery. And you read it here first. ;)


Wanna' talk to others about this column or anything else theatre related? Check out All That Chat


Past Rialto Columns

Search What's New on the Rialto




Privacy Policy