Turns out that for some shows on Broadway, the end is not always the end, so much as a new beginning. A recent New York Times piece provides a timely look at the ways in which Broadway flops are now somewhat frequently not simply killed upon failure, but are retooled or reworked instead. Such shows as "Shrek, Legally Blonde, Tarzan and currently, The Little Mermaid opened to less than rapturous reviews on Broadway, and also underperformed at the box office. However, all of the first three were reworked then opened overseas to much more positive reviews, as well as decent ticket sales.
One major success story is Next to Normal, which was reworked at Washington's Arena Stage, then went on to win several Tony Awards. Another recent example is of course, most famously Spider-Man, Turn Off the Dark, which since its retooling is currently bringing in $1.7 million per week. The more expensive the show, in other words, the greater the incentive to fix it and attempt to recoup some of those losses.
Significantly reworking a show isn't necessarily a new concept -- such other productions as Seussical and, more recently, Sister Act and Wonderland have all had some work done before reaching opening night, while Show Boat and Porgy and Bess have been famously retooled over the years, whether to address dated aspects or to broaden appeal. The newest interpretation of Porgy and Bess has also been reworked with a jazzier, Broadway focus, opens in January 2012.
A show is a tremendous amount of work, so I'm all for the idea of tightening or fixing aspects to create a better production, and to give the show a chance to find its audience. But I can't help but wonder about the most obvious question -- haven't any of these folks ever heard of workshopping? A little more care for the foundation of the show -- the script, the pacing, the things that provide the bones upon which a production's greatness is built -- can save millions in the end.
Image courtesy of Next to Normal