After a 16-month run on Broadway, the “ Sister Act” musical, based on the 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg, will be closings its doors.
The show, under the direction of Jerry Zaks, features a book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner, a score by Alan Menken, and lyrics by Glenn Slater. The story centers on a “singer on-the-lam who finds happiness hiding in a convent of nuns,” as described by Patrick Healy of The New York Times.
The show, which cost $10 million to put on, has had uneven ticket sales since January, and is not expected to recoup its full capitalization by the time it closes on August 26 of this year. As of March 2012, “Sister Act” was in the worst financial shape, based on box office data and interviews with those working in ticket sales.
“Sister Act” did not begin its Broadway run with extraordinarily positive reviews either. From its April 2011 opening, Charles Isherwood of The New York Times described the show, “the musical’s draggy conventionality lifts only when the sisters break out into their rousing gospel numbers, which grow more lavish as the evening proceeds.”
When the show initially opened, it received five Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical and Best Actress. Unfortunately, the show did not win. Patina Miller, who originated the role of Deloris Van Cartier, was succeeded in March by Raven-Symone, a famous Disney Channel star. Immediately, the ticket sales improved, but not by much.
As Isaac Robert Hurwitz, executive director and producer of the New York Musical Theatre Festival, tells Pia Catton of the Wall Street Journal, “I’m not sure that [religious-theatregoers] is a Broadway niche.” The 2011-2012 Broadway season saw a rise of religious-themed shows open and close rather quickly. “Sister Act” is not the only religious-based show that is not doing well. Its closing notice comes about a week after “Godspell” announced it will close this weekend. There was also a recent announcement from the show’s producers that the current revival of “Jesus Christ Superstar” will close on July 1 due to lack of ticket sales, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“June hasn’t been kind to Broadway shows with religious themes,” said Healy of The New York Times. Another show that has been struggling with mounting costs and faltering ticket sales is “ Priscilla: Queen of the Desert.” According to Emanuel Azenberg, a 3rd party producer not involved with any of the shows, choosing to close a show is one of the hardest decisions a producer has to make. “No one wants to let go,” Azenberg told Healy. “And there’s always the hope that summer will be booming business.”
One benefit that “Sister Act” has had is that the leading producer’s company, Stage Entertainment, is mounting productions across the world, in Europe, Asia, and Australia. The show is also currently carrying productions in Hamburg and Vienna and is on tour in the United Kingdom. There are plans for productions in Paris, Moscow, Sao Paolo, Seoul, and more. A North American tour is set to begin in October, starting in Toronto, Canada. Producers hope to turn a profit on the show based on all of these outside performances and upcoming tours.