The Times has a couple of articles about Sunday’s big Broadway closing day. Nine shows shut down (with more shutting down later this month). This is a bad thing, of course; you never want to see all those folks out-of-work, all those writers losing out on royalty checks. And yes, it’s a sign of the economic times; in the past, you’d never get nine shows closing in one day, not even in January. All that said, what did Broadway really lose this week, and what will it lose for the rest of the month?

For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll be avoiding the big financial impacts: the loss of jobs, the loss of rental income, and all the business related stuff which, truly, is unavoidable and the real sadness of this all. I’m interested purely in the shows right now. My list (and the links) come straight from the Isherwood article.

The Broadway shows closing this month:

‘ALL MY SONS,’ closes on Jan. 11. — Limited run from the start, which means it’s not closing early. Been playing to packed houses (96% in the last week of 2008), made back its investment, affirmed Katie Holmes as a bankable star (sort of), an unquestionable hit. Not a victim of the economy. Could have run a lot longer if the stars were available.

‘BOEING-BOEING,’ closed Sunday. — Made its money back. Outperformed expectations, in my opinion, making it to a partial replacement cast (including The Noxzema Girl, who was pretty good and very pretty {prettier than Natalie Portman [I’ve given it a lot of thought, and Ms. Portman just isn’t pretty like people say she is, folks], I think} ). It’ll do well on tour. Mark Rylance reached the end of his contract,  and while they surely could have renegotiated, without him, the show would have run its course. An unqualified success. Maybe a bit of a victim, but certainly not a tragedy.

‘DIVIDING THE ESTATE,’ closed Sunday. I wasn’t a fan of this show personally, but it played to pretty full houses most (if not all) of its run. It was a Lincoln Center/Primary Stages production, which means (a) it was a not-for-profit venture, which changes the rules a bit, and (b) it was a limited run. It will move on to a run at Hartford Stage with the same cast (for the most part — Elizabeth Ashley moves on to August: Osage County). I’d call this one a success, and I’d say it’s not really a victim.

‘GREASE,’ closed Sunday — Let’s be honest about this Grease. It was all conceived as a reality show prize. It was tame, innocent, nothing like the overtly sexual and faux dangerous film (and full disclosure, I didn’t see this production, but saw enough performances at parades and other places to feel confident in my judgement), and still, it was Grease, which means it could make money in its sleep. I don’t think the Broadway production recouped (I could easily be wrong on that), but there’s a national tour with Taylor Hicks that should make a fortune. I won’t call this a hit, but it’s certainly not a disaster, and should make money. Probably a victim, but with an almost two-year run and the tour in progress, I wouldn’t cry for this one.

‘GYPSY,’ closes on Jan. 11. — Okay…here’s a victim. Sort of. This wasn’t a limited run show, but Patti Lupone’s contract was scheduled to end in March, and if she didn’t re-up, the show would have closed then. The only thing that matters with this show is the lead performance; it’s not a show you can recast. The decision to close in January was clearly a product of the economy, and proof that even the best reviews ever couldn’t necessarily save a show in times like these. I’m sure it didn’t make a ton of money, and it’s not likely to tour, but this certainly has to be considered an artistic success (I didn’t love it, but I saw it early). Still a clear victim — the first one so far.

And that seems like a good place to take a break. Part Two will follow…soon.

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