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Offering a fresh way of helping you keep up with art and entertainment happenings around the Capital District.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dark Days on Broadway

In tough economic times, one of the first things people cut back on is entertainment. It's my understanding things like restaurants and theater are not eliminated from a budget - they are merely downsized. For example, instead of eating out once a week people go to a restaurant or the theater every two weeks.

The term is called "going down the ladder."

Broadway just had a few rungs cut off their ladder. In January 13 shows are closing. That's about half the shows that were running in December. Imagine 50% of all Broadway shows closing within weeks of each other.

Certainly some shows like "White Christmas," deserve to close. It was a low-quality show that exploited the classic Bing Crosby-Danny Kaye film. Too, whatever appeal it had was seasonal.

A case can be made that "Hairspray" had also worn out its welcome on Broadway, especially since the film came out last year.

However, one expected the Mel Brooks musical "Young Frankenstein" and the comedy "Boeing, Boeing" to last through the spring. Sadly, unknown titles like the well-received "Slavia's Snowshoes" could not survive long enough to develop a word-of-mouth audience.

I tend to have little sympathy for an industry that charges up to $125 a ticket and runs for years without showing a profit. But as a person who loves theater it is scary that an industry that thrives on tourism and expense accounts is doing so badly.

It makes me wonder how the economic problems that are expected to continue (at least) through 2009 will affect local performing arts organizations. I know of no arts organization boasting about their healthy finances. I'm afraid many will be facing a tough year.

Just as important, I worry about scheduling choices that will be made with an eye towards safe titles, with a presumed audience appeal. Seasons of Neil Simon plays (even the good ones) are not what theater needs at this time.

With government and corporate grants evaporating - don't be surprised to see several of our theater organizations flirting with disaster. 2009 will be a very hard year.


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