What happens to a show that stars multi-Tony-Award winning actress Audra McDonald when Audra McDonald suddenly leaves the show early? It closes, that’s what.
The new Broadway musical Shuffle Along, Or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed will end its run July 24 after 38 previews and 100 regular performances, producer Scott Rudin announced this week.
Rudin cited the exit of McDonald as a reason for the show’s closure. McDonald and her husband, actor Will Swenson, are expecting their first child together. McDonald announced her pregnancy in May, shortly after the show began performances, with news that she would take a leave of absence from the production starting July 24.
In a statement released announcing the show’s closure, Rudin indicated that advance ticket sales went soft with the news that McDonald would be out of the production.
Shuffle Along has enjoyed healthy business since previews began March 15 at the Music Box Theatre. The musical has played near capacity.
Grammy Award-winning singer Rhiannon Giddens was slated to take on the role of Lottie Gee in McDonald’s absence. Plans were also underway for Savion Glover, the show’s Tony-winning choreographer, to join the company July 26—the same day as Giddens.
But Glover and Giddens don’t add up to a McDonald. Nor, apparently, do the show’s other stars, which include Tony winners Brian Stokes Mitchell and Billy Porter, plus Tony nominees Brandon Victor Dixon and Joshua Henry.
McDonald also offered a statement, adding, “I am overjoyed to be expecting a new addition to my family yet completely heartbroken that our tremendously talented cast and company—my ‘ ShuffleFamily’—won't be able to continue telling this incredible story.”
Rudin had better news elsewhere on Broadway. Stephem Karam’s Tony Award-winning family drama The Humans, which he produces, and which is slated to play its final performance at the Helen Hayes Theatre July 24, will continue its Broadway run when performances resume August 9 at the Schoenfeld Theatre.
The intimate production must vacate the Hayes, which is set to undergo major renovations starting in August. But the play has been doing good business, particularly since winning several Tonys, so another theatre was found.
More Rudin news!
Groundhog Day, the new and long-aborning musical from Matilda composer Tim Minchin—based on the film comedy about Phil Connors, a misanthropic weatherman who must relive the same day again and again—may not make it to Broadway in January 2017, as previously announced, according to The New York Post.
The withdrawal of the deep-pocketed, and very busy, co-producer Rudin has put that date in jeopardy. Post columnist Michael Riedel quoted an unnamed “veteran New York producer” saying, “Scott was the force that was getting it here. Without him—or his money—I bet it goes to the West End first. And, then, depending on how it does, New York a few years from now.”
The $16.5 million show was already scheduled to go to London first. The latest development continues the fallout for the production, which it much anticipated, but can’t seem to catch a break.
On June 6, the show announced that it was canceling its first three planned previews this summer. It was supposed to have begun July 11 at London's Old Vic, but will now play its first preview July 14. Unspecified “technical requirements” were cited as reason for the change.
Then Rudin bolted. In a statement to the Times, Rudin indicated that he was “not satisfied with his ability to influence the evolving show.”
Rudin was quoted saying, “The production in New York is going to be a transfer of the London production, which is not how we had originally conceived the project when I joined it.”
The Post quoted director Matthew Warchus as saying of Rudin, “We had an elegant separation based on nothing other than having different expectations and different ways of tackling things. I think we were probably stopping each other being at our best. He remains a kind of genius in my mind.”
Maybe someday soon Warchus will wake up and find, like Phil Connors, that the day’s forecast has finally improved.
Christian Borle, who won the 2015 Tony Award for his performance as William Shakespeare in Broadway’s Something Rotten!, and has been with the show since the beginning, will finally depart the Broadway musical July 16.
Borle will next star in the Broadway revival of Falsettos, which begins October 27 at the Walter Kerr Theatre.
He’ll be succeeded by Will Chase, who will begin performances July 18. Chase originally played the part of Shakespeare in one of the first readings of the musical, prior to his casting in the television series Nashville.
There’s rarely any good news for the fast-dwindling profession of drama critic these days. But this week was particularly harsh.
Elisabeth Vincentelli confirmed via Twitter that she is no longer chief drama critic at The New York Post. The former Time Out arts and entertainment editor took on the role in January 2009.
Following murmurings on social media, Vincentelli updated her Twitter profile with “Ex-New York Post.”
The Post has noticeably reduced its theatre coverage in the last 12 months, ceasing to review every opening as was previous practice.
Additionally, Jeremy Gerard, who has covered the performing arts for more than 40 years, and once worked at Variety, has been laid off by his latest gig, Deadline.com, according to BroadwayJournal.
Deadline hired Gerard, over two years ago with a plan to have the veteran writer expand the website's coverage of New York media and theatre.
Gerard revealed the news in a succinct email that said, “I have loved working at Deadline and will miss my great colleagues there.”
And so the Agatha Christie play that has become the New York drama critics corps continues.