Every year so much attention is focused on which new Broadway shows will make it. Everybody wants a big hit, the next Wicked or The Lion King and as the season rolls along, producers and fans scramble to read the tea leaves. How were the reviews? Are ticket sales strong? Are at least enough tickets being sold to cover the running expenses? What's the word on the street? Is there "buzz" about the show?
There are a million ways to try to predict what will take home the coveted Tony Award for Best Musical, although even that honor cannot guarantee a long-running smash. And then some shows defy the odds, selling out despite bad reviews or industry gossip. Given the immense challenges of creating a successful Broadway show, really any production that opens on the Great White Way at all has already achieved an impressive feat. Not all are so lucky. Over the years, for every Broadway show to open, there have been several more that didn't make it into New York at all.
Click though to read my selections for the Top Ten Broadway Shows That Never Were.
Without ever playing New York, the long-running Austrian pop opera Rebecca (with book and lyrics by Michael Kunze and Christopher Hampton and music by Sylvester Levay, based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier) certainly generated a lot of newspaper headlines in town. In 2008 producers announced a 2010 Broadway premiere, which was then delayed to for financial reasons, ultimately to face an eleventh-hour cancellation in 2012. Ultimately, one of the producers, Mark C. Hotton pleaded guilty to charges, including defrauding his own collaborators to the tune of $4.5 million. The rest of the team remains committed to bringing the show in and at the very least, one has to imagine they can count on a lot of press coverage.
Jule Styne and Bob Merrill's 1971 musical Prettybelle closed in its Boston tryout interrupting Angela Lansbury's string of Tony Award-winning performances that started with Mame in 1966, through Dear World in 1969, Gypsy in 1975 and Sweeney Todd in 1979. The story (of an alcoholic redneck widow who tries to undo her deceased bigoted sheriff husband's wrongs by allowing minority men rape her) was a far cry from the typical Broadway musical of the era, so it's not hard to see why the production never made it. That said, listening to Angela Lansbury on the original cast recording, one can't help but wonder if she might have won another Tony if the show had opened on Broadway, even for one night.
8. Busker Alley
Busker Alley, with music and lyrics by the Sherman Brothers and a book by A.J. Carothers (based on the 1938 British film "St. Martin's Lane") was supposed to come to Broadway in 1995 after a national tour starring Tommy Tune. A number was even featured on the Tony Awards. Money for the production dematerialized when a minor injury temporarily took (the irreplaceable) Tune out of the show. Several years (and title changes) brought the show to New York in a 2006 concert starring Jim Dale and Glenn Close. It was then announced for a 2008 Broadway production, which also never happened.
Based on the 1968 movie "The Night They Raided Minsky's," Minsky's has been talked about for over 15 years. With music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Susan Birkenhead and a book by Evan Hunter (later replaced by Bob Martin), Minsky's was originally to be directed by the late Mike Ockrent. When the show finally premiered in Los Angeles in 2009, it was directed by Casey Nicholaw and announced for a 2010 Broadway debut. Broadway is still waiting.
6. Whistle Down The Wind
For a musical that never made it to Broadway, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman's Whistle Down The Wind, has certainly had a lot of productions! The 1996 world premiere in Washington, D.C. was directed by none other than Hal Prince and subsequent incarnations have followed all over the world with a number of different cooks in the kitchen, so to speak. Perhaps some more artists will take a stab at this piece in the years to come and maybe they will be successful in bringing the show to Broadway.
5. Love Never Dies
If it's surprising that erstwhile hit-maker Andrew Lloyd Webber's Whistle Down The Wind never made it to Broadway, perhaps even more shocking is the failure of Love Never Dies to come in. Since premiering on the West End in 2010, Lloyd Webber's sequel to his own The Phantom of the Opera has had produced many times all over the globe. Perhaps Broadway just isn't the place for sequels.
4. Annie 2: Miss Hannigan's Revenge
One has to imagine, though, that if any Broadway musical sequel should have made it, it ought to have been the sequel to Annie. Perhaps a serious love story on Broadway is not the kind of thing that lends itself to the installment plan, but a family comedy based on a comic strip seems more apt. And "Annie One" (if you will) was a product of the late 1970s, the time when sequels became the fashion. Still, Annie 2: Miss Hannigan's Revenge, never got to New York. If a show couldn't make it with the late, great Dorothy Loudon reprising her Tony-winning role as the orphanage matron with a heart of gin, what are its chances any other way? Nonetheless, a kinder, gentler rewritten version of Annie 2, now titled Annie Warbucks played Off-Broadway in the early 1990s and continues to be produced around the world.
3. All About Us
Kander and Ebb's All About Us (with a book by Joseph Stein, and based on Thornton Wilder's The Skin Of Our Teeth) has been kicking around for almost 20 years, originally under the title Over And Over. If the combined pedigrees of the veteran talents behind the show can't guarantee a Broadway production, it's hard to imagine what might. Perhaps with Kander and Ebb's long-gestated The Visit coming to Broadway this year, there is renewed hope for All About Us.
2. Martin Guerre
Martin Guerre is another show where the creators' track record would have you expecting an easier road. With Les Miserables and Miss Saigon behind them, Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, seemed poised for another blockbuster. I guess there truly are just no sure things in show business, and the road to Broadway must be one of its bumpiest roads. Martin Guerre has found more success in subsequent productions, so perhaps there's hope for a New York bow yet.
1. The Bakers Wife
Stephen Schwartz and Joseph Stein's 1976 musicalization of the 1938 French film "La Femme du Boulanger" (by Marcel Pagnol and Jean Giono) played a six-month pre-Broadway tour that never arrived at its final destination. As star Patti LuPone (in her 2002 Coulda Woulda Shoulda Carnegie Hall concert) quipped of the troubled production, "The Baker's Wife should've made it to Broadway. We should've gone into the Martin Beck Theatre and closed on opening night like we were supposed to." Indeed, for fans of Schwartz's rapturous score (which some would argue is his finest work), The Baker's Wife deserves to play far more than one performance on Broadway. I suspect we have not heard the last of this show.
(Ben Rimalower is the author and star of the critically acclaimed solo plays Patti Issues and Bad with Money, running in repertory through April 29 at The Duplex in NYC. Read Playbill's coverage of the show here. Visit him at benrimalower.com and follow @benrimalower on Twitter.)