PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 3-9: Where'd Everybody Go?

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 3-9: Where'd Everybody Go? So let's look on the bright side: theatre owners will be saving a lot on their electricity bills this month.
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Nine Broadway shows gave their final performances on Jan. 4. It's more complicated than that, of course. Some, like White Christmas, Slava's Snowshow and Dividing the Estate, are simply concluding their limited run. Another, 39 Steps, is simply taking a breather before reopening at the Helen Hayes on Jan. 21. But whatever the reasons, you just don't want to see a quarter of Broadway's theatres go dark at once. You just don't. What's more, three more shows — Spamalot, All My Sons and Gypsy will close on Jan. 11 and Spring Awakening one week later.

There are some silver linings. The hit farce Boeing-Boeing recouped well before closing and will begin a national tour in 2009. And no one can really feel sorry for Hairspray, which ran forever. Grease also stayed a fairly long time (too long, to some critical tastes). But doubtless the producers of those shows, along with Young Frankenstein and 13, probably feel cheated by the economy of what might have been a long run.

The next two months won't change much. There are only five Broadway openings scheduled, and the next commercial opening isn't until Feb. 5's unveiling of the Will Ferrell solo You're Welcome America. A Final Night with George W Bush. (That is, unless you count Soul of Shaolin, the Chinese dance, acrobatics and martial arts import that will fill the Marquis for three weeks in January. If any show ever screamed for the Tony category "Special Theatrical Event," this is it.)

In March, things will speed up again. Until then, hold your breath.

*** Despite the many exits (and one entrance — Mary-Louise Parker began previews Jan. 6 as Hedda Gabler at Roundabout Theatre Company's American Airlines Theatre), The Broadway League let the world know that all is not gloom and doom. The trade group announced Jan. 5 that the year just ended — Dec. 31, 2007-Dec. 28, 2008 — took in $940,871,190 at the box office. And that didn't even include figures for the recently closed Young Frankenstein, which notoriously did not report its grosses. Paid attendance for Broadway during this period reached 12,319,902, and theatre seats were 75.6 percent filled.

The year-end figures were "virtually flat compared to those for 2007," which were $939 million, according to the League. Still, given the recession, and the fact that the previous season included the 19-day union strike that shut down much of Broadway, that doesn't seem so bad.

***

The coming revival of Hair continues to make the news, and not always in a good way. Good news for this week: Tony Award nominee Gavin Creel will star as Claude in the upcoming Broadway revival, which is scheduled to begin performances March 6 at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. Creel will star in the role originated by Spring Awakening Tony nominee Jonathan Groff in the Public Theater's recent Central Park engagement of Hair. Bad news for this week: Wicked's Eden Espinosa, who was just announced to portray Sheila in the Broadway revival, has now withdrawn "for personal reasons." Additionally, producer Liz McCann, who was recently forced to take a back seat to new lead producer Jeffrey Richards, expressed to the New York Post her unhappiness with the former deal she had forged with the Public Theater.

The month of Aquarius begins later this month. Maybe the show's road to Broadway will smooth some after that.