Everything is closing and I am very sad

j2
The cast of Jersey Boys. The show, which has been running for 11 years, announced it’ll be closing in January. Image via BroadwayBox.

I’m not even going to try to think of a pun this week, folks. That’s how serious this issue is.

Fall is the season of change. The leaves change, the weather changes, time seems to change because the sun sets sooner, and the Broadway landscape changes. The summer tourist season is over and it’s a long time before the holiday tourist season begins. So when a new show is looking to open in the spring during Tony season, they need a theatre to make their home. And so old shows are kicked out. Not just bad shows or shows that haven’t been running for years at a time. Just under-performing shows.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Broadway, at the end of the day, is a business. Theatre is a business. And if your show doesn’t keep asses in seats, your ass doesn’t stay in the theatre. I’m obsessed with reading the BroadwayWorld grosses every Monday. Last week, there was only show that met their gross potential: Hamilton. A few others came close, but most shows are sitting at the 50% potential right now. On average, only half of seats on Broadway were filled that week.

That’s just how the biz works, though. Shows run, then new shows take their place. Do you think the people who were sad when Idina Menzel’s If/Then closed after a year at the Richard Rodgers are still sad now? Because Hamilton is there now. I’m certainly not sad about it.

The of the last three Best Musical winners, two of them closed within two years of opening. On the other hand, Phantom of the Opera has been running so long that it’s not even for theatre people anymore. Seeing Phantom is its own New York tourist attraction, like going to Central Park or the Empire State Building. It’s just a thing you do. But even Phantom only brought in 54.2% last week. Shows that have been around for fifty years and are well-known to tourist audiences aren’t even performing well – Fiddler on the Roof brought in a measly 33.5% (and has already announced its closing at the end of the year, which is usually a booster).

I have no doubt these numbers will rebound around Thanksgiving. But for someone like me, who only gets to New York every two or three years and watches every meticulous move that Broadway makes, it’s heartbreaking to see shows open and close without being able to even dream of tickets. I won’t see Fiddler or Matilda or Something Rotten or Jersey Boys or An American in Paris. But you can bet your bottom dollar that Cats will run until the end of time.

Advertisements

Singing out and branching out

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-10-34-27-pm
Fools & Horses Coffee on Broadway, the room where it happened. 

Generally, I would describe myself as a confident person. I have no problem making speeches or talking in front of a crowd. In fact, I’m so good at public speaking that I made up the toast I gave at my dad’s wedding off the top of my head. While intoxicated. And I made people cry. But when it comes to theatre, it’s a whole different ball game.

I’m very intimidated by people who work in and are passionate about theatre. When I’m with someone who also likes theatre, I feel the need to appear cool. I’m scared to tell them that my favourite show is Les Mis, because of course it is, and I’m afraid to tell them that I know all the raps in Hamilton, because of course I do. I’m not as familiar with hip Off-Broadway shows or every Jason Robert Brown concert. I’m even more intimidated by people who work in theatre (like when I met Will Swenson at the stage door in New York – he was very tall and had big sideburns and was very nice to me. I felt like a scared baby hamster).

Last year, when I heard that there was a group in Winnipeg that met up once a month just to sing showtunes, I was immediately both excited and nervous. I don’t sing, but being in this environment would be amazing and I would be able to socialize with people with the same interests as me. On the other hand, these people actively participate in musicals. Oh sweet god.

So for the whole last year of its existence, Sing Out, Louise! was like the cool kids’ table to me. But when I was finally able to attend one of their events, my friend took my hand and made me feel welcome. She introduced me to her friends, introduced me to the creators, and found a chair for me so that I could sit with her. I sat there, enthralled with every performance, and I never once felt like an outsider.

I’m going to the next event next month. I’ve never been in a room full of people that actually notice when I drop a subtle Rent reference. And if you like musicals too, you should come. I will take your hand and invite you to sit at my table. We’ll sing songs together.

 

How to Succeed in Writing Without Really Knowing What You’re Doing

6a00d8341c630a53ef014e60216ce6970c-500wi
Daniel Radcliffe and John Larroquette in How to Succeed on Broadway. Image courtesy LA Times.

Was that title pun a stretch? Probably. Anyway…

 

This past summer, I did a lot of nothing, to be honest. I decided at the beginning of the year that I would quit my retail job at the end of July, but I probably would have quit anyway since my availability was wide open and I got no hours. So I worked a little bit, did some freelancing, and – oh yeah. I wrote a book.

Let me say that again, with proper emphasis: I wrote a book!!! My first book ever. Granted, it’s only a novella, but I’m pretty proud that I was able to commit myself to writing 600 words a day, five days a week, to total my 30,000-odd words by the end of the summer. The best part about it was that I got to write about theatre. I got to create characters that get to audition for big shows and I got to study Sondheim as part of my research. Pinch me. If only I had a publishing deal and a big advance to go with it.

But here’s the thing – as I’ve mentioned before, as much as I love absorbing theatre, I’m not an actor. And I wrote about actors. I wrote about struggling actors and the audition process and I made up theatre monarchies that probably don’t actually exist to further the plot of my story. I’m trying to market this book to actors who probably know a lot more than I do. Yikes. 

Right now, I feel like I’m sitting at the kids’ table, ignoring my mashed potatoes and opting to eavesdrop on the adults’ way-more-interesting wine-fuelled conversation instead. How do I graduate to being able to squeeze my little plastic chair in at the big table? Will I know what to say when I get there? Or will I just make a fool of myself?

One day, a few years ago, my mom gave me a piece of advice when I really didn’t want to go to work (that same retail job, in fact). She told me to “fake it ’til you make it.” She told me to just keep smiling and eventually I’ll feel happy. So I’m taking this same approach with my book: I’m just going to keep faking confidence, and maybe eventually I’ll feel confident.

And hey, if someone tells me I have inaccuracies in my book, I’ll tell ’em it’s fiction: maybe it’s an alternate universe of New York.