Monday, December 20, 2004

No Show Big Stars on Broadway: Epidemic or Minor, Irritating Rash?

Well, the NY Times is practically declaring the big star Broadway musical vehicle DOA in this article [registration required.]

They pick a few bad apple examples of frequent no-show celebrities and use that paint them all with an "unreliable" brush. And, they opine, if celebs are unreliable, people will no longer pay the big bucks to see them in their vehicles, and therefore the big vehicles will die out like the dinosaurs.

I think that's BS in many ways. First of all how many people outside the confines of the New York City theatre community even hear the griping of often-absent stars? Not too many. And tourism still comprises a big part of Broadway ticket sales.

They do bring up, as a side point almost, what I think will kill Broadway musicals as a big star vehicle: how few new musicals there really are, and how much time passes between star vehicle opportunities for our broadway legends.

In the "good, old" days (the days that 42nd St. Moon mostly celebrates) there were dozens of shows opening each season. And a big star, like a Merman, had a new vehicle every season too.

You could make a living off of that if you were a "star."

No more. Look at Brian Stokes Mitchell, Marin Mazzie, Kristen Chenoweth, Bernadette Peters, Jane Krakowski, Nathan Lane etc. Do you doubt that in the old days, if they had wanted to, they could have been in some big show centered around their prodigious talents non-stop for years? Instead three and four years go between each appearance they make.

I think it's kind of cowardly of the Times to blame an actor here and there for the decline of the Broadway musical, when it has a lot more to do with economics way outside the actor's control. I'm willing to bet that Bernadette Peters' salary for Gypsy was a pretty small percentage of the budget. And the ticket returns for performances she even smaller impact.

IMHO, as they say.

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