The audience for the final Broadway performance of The Civil War June 13 rose to its feet four times during the show, cheering a musical crowds have embraced but critics dismissed.
The enthusiasm is a good sign for the announced road tour, beginning in Cincinnati in January 2000: Its concept-concert quality, with all the vocal pyrotechnics, is an obvious audience hit that might fare better in the provinces.
Frank Wildhorn's pop take on the war between the states closed June 13 at the St. James Theatre after 61 regular performances and 35 previews.
Standing ovations, begun by front-row "Civvies" -- hardcore fans of the show -- came after the musical numbers "Freedom's Child," "Someday," "How Many Devils" and "River Jordan" (during which the audience clapped along).
The crowd also roared approval in the middle of numbers when singers belted high notes, when villainous war profiteers were shot, and when lovers were reunited. By the final song, performers were in tears and fans rushed down the aisles to throw a cascade of flowers onto the stage. Michael Lanning (Capt. Lochran) shouted, "Bless you!," Cheryl Freeman and Michel Bell (Bessie and Clayton Toler) embraced, and Keith Byron Kirk (Frederick Douglass) raised his hands to the crowd in appreciation.
Afterward, about 100 people waited for autographs and applauded as each actor came out from the stage door.
The show, which had a formative run at Houston's nonprofit Alley Theatre before being reworked by Jerry Zaks, was written by Wildhorn, Alley artistic director Gregory Boyd (book) and Jack Murphy (lyrics).
In a series of pop songs, the tensions of the American Civil War are played out in the musical. Although the shuttering means the loss of millions of dollars, the show is expected to have a national tour beginning in Cincinnati in January 2000. Some have suggested a country or pop star could give the musical extra marketing punch.
The musical is expected to play some 32 Pace markets; Pace Theatrical Group is one of the co producers of the show.
Announced so far are:
Cincinnati (Aronoff Center) Jan. 18-30
Indianapolis (Clowes Hall) Feb. 1-6.
Baltimore (Mechanic) Feb. 8-13.
Chicago (Palace) Feb. 15-27.
Providence (Performing Arts Center) Feb. 29-March 5.
Cleveland (Palace) March 7-19.
Atlanta (Fox) March 21-26.
Wilmington (The Playhouse) March 28-April 9.
Nashville (Performing Arts Center) April 11-16.
Pittsburgh (Heinz Hall) April 18-23.
Louisville (Kentucky Center) April 25-30.
Columbus (Palace) May 2-7.
Hershey, PA (Hershey Theatre) May 9-14.
Hartford, CT (Bushnell) May 16-21.
Tempe, AZ (Gammage) May 30-June 5.
Costa Mesa, CA (Orange County Performing Arts Center) June 6-11.
Denver (Buell Theatre) June 13-25.
Seattle (Paramount Theatre) June 27-July 9.
Portland, OR. (Civic Center Theatre) July 11-16.
More dates are expected to be announced.
The musical, which critics have dismissed as an MTV response to the war and audiences have cheered for its powerful imagery and voices, was nominated for Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Score.
Briefly this spring, Wildhorn had three shows on Broadway: Jekyll & Hyde, The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Civil War. Pimpernel closed May 30 at the Minskoff Theatre, but will resume performances Sept. 8 at the Neil Simon Theatre, in a recast version.
The Civil War opened April 22 following previews (which began March 23).
The company was informed of the clsoing prior to the June 8 performance.
Civil War is produced by Pierre Cossette, PACE Theatrical Group, Bomurwil Productions, Kathleen Raitt, Magicworks Entertainment, Inc., and Jujamcyn Theaters.