By Christine Paluf
After 17 months charming audiences, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” will close its doors. Awarded Best Musical in 2005 by the Drama League, and nominated for 11 Tonys-including best musical, last week, the show’s producers posted a closing notice for the show
The musical was one of 39 plays and musicals that opened during the 2004-2005 season. Not since the 1982-83 season have there been more Tony-eligible productions.
Despite the nods of approval for the musical, attendance percentages were down to 65 percent last week, fifth from last on The League of American Theatres and Producers’ listing. Last year the percentage of seats that were filled for all shows was as at an all time high, 81.6 percent.
The show boasted the Tony-winning lead, Norbert Leo Butz as Freddy Benson, one of the two con-men who set out on a contest to see who can take $50,000 from a lady the fastest. Perhaps the show’s low attendance even after the closing announcement to the replacement of his alternate con-man, Lawrence Jameson.
All plays saw a boost last year, however, as statistics from The League of American Theatres and Producers June 2005 to May 2006 Broadway season report show that for the first time, Broadway attendance crossed the 12 million mark. And grosses set a new record. This means more people are going to shows, and Broadway as a whole is in a good place.
A main contributor to these increases was strong attendance by tourists. Domestic tourists accounted for more than 5 million tickets and international visitors, estimated.at over 3 million.
“This season was marked by tremendous new musicals and plays, offering audiences a diversity of shows from which to choose,” commented Jed Bernstein, President of The League of American Theatres and Producers, Inc.
“Although the strong business results continue to underline Broadway’s revenue stakes in New York,” he said in a release, “increasing cost pressures have resulted in no increase in the number of shows making a profit. Broadway is still a high risk investment.”
“Scoundrels” isn’t closing due to their poor percentages of seats sold last week, or even the change of lead actors. They’re taking the act on the road. Traveling shows help bring theater to the heart of America. They spread excitement about the craft, and help inspire a passion for theater in new generations.
“Often a Broadway show in New York will generate national publicity through press, advertising, Tony Awards and other marketing efforts, but then a touring version will reach a much wider variety of theatre-goers by traveling to local theatres across the U.S.,” Bernstein said.
Often times, plays close even at their peak. Final performances can be more or less a love fest between audience and actors. The shared energy can enliven the theater and let the play go out with a bang.
And other times the audience can just fizzle out. There’s really no telling. Each show is different. Sometimes speeches are given and after-parties prevail, other times the curtain simply falls.
We’ll have to watch next week’s turn out to see if audiences still care about con-men on the Riviera, or if this show will sail away unnoticed.