Another Opening, Another Closed Door (Part I)
Hands on a Hardbody, the new Broadway musical based on the 1997 documentary about a group of Texans competing to win a truck in an endurance competition of the most Survivor-esque proportions, announced today that it would close after only 28 performances. With a score by the innovative Phish frontman Trey Anastasio and a libretto by Doug Wright (I Am My Own Wife), this news delivers a slightly harsher than expected blow to an industry which is already struggling.
Though the musical received mixed to good reviews, it couldn’t stand the test of the Great White Way, perhaps because it is fundamentally a small sized, intimate musical which has been over-inflated to fill a Broadway stage. Reporting on average a $32 ticket price, Hands on Hardbody just couldn’t bring in the audience members when placed next door to adorable moppets (Matilda) and heart-warming, life affirming drag queens (Kinky Boots).
As a fan of both Anastasio and Wright, I find myself firmly parked in neutral. After all, shouldn’t big names be an automatic selling point, especially in the Big Apple? What about all those pot-smoking, Ben and Jerry’s guzzling tourists with tonnes of cash to spend on live performance… oh right. It’s an unfortunate end-result, to see first prize go to Cyndi Lauper while Mr. Anastasio is left with the empty spoon… but who knows, maybe this interesting, little musical that couldn’t will find a new road to success soon.
What it is about us? (Part II)
Speaking of shows which should be able to could, Brendan Healy issued one of the classiest calls to action ever seen in Toronto theatre last week, imploring audience members to come see what is effectively the marquee show of Buddies 2012-2013 season. Written by Daniel MacIvor, directed by Healy himself and starring some of the hottest names on the Toronto theatre scene, Arigato, Tokyo should be packing in houses night after night. However, according to Healy’s note, though critical and audience response has been “overwhelmingly positive,” actual tickets sales have been “shockingly low.”
Last week, I also had dinner with a friend of mine who is the associate producer of another small but visible Toronto based theatre company. We talked about Healy’s note, about the lower than expected sales for the critically lauded A Craigslist Cantata and the difficulty she is currently experiencing in trying to get people out to her company’s shows – despite the company’s long history of producing truly important theatre. Though we’re both relatively new on the theatre scene, we couldn’t help but commiserate over the fact that this difficulty in getting people to come see a show didn’t seem to be such a rock-up-a-mountain battle a couple of years ago.
So I ask you, readers, are you still going out to see plays/musicals/dance shows/live arts? Or has something replaced the performing arts for you in your weekly activities? What makes you lay down the dollars to see a show, and what will make you keep those bills tucked snuggly in your wallet? Because if the powerhouse duos of Healy&MacIvor or Anastasio&Wright can’t bring in the audience members, what can? I’m not asking this rhetorically – I really mean, what can get you to go the theatre, to see a show which you know is worth seeing and to tell your friends to do the same? Please let us know what you think below – because what’s the point in producing great work if no one sees it? After all, if an actor recites a monologue in a forest with no one around to hear him, has he even performed at all?
(And go see Arigato, Tokyo: you’ll be glad you did.)