In a letter dated Oct. 7, subscribers to Show Music magazine were informed that the magazine had operated at a loss since Goodspeed Musicals took it on and was ceasing publication immediately.
Subscribers who still had balances with the magazine, run by the not-for-profit Goodspeed, were offered several options, including refunds, back issues or the option to donate the balance to the Goodspeed Opera House Foundation.
"You have truly made Show Music the most prominent musical theatre publication in the country," the letter reads. "For that reason, it is particularly difficult for us to inform you that effective with our Fall 2002 issue, publication of Show Music magazine has been suspended indefinitely.
"As you may know, Show Music has been a labor of love by a dedicated staff and a proud accomplishment for Goodspeed Musicals. However, Show Music has been operating at a loss since Goodspeed Musicals began publishing it. Over the years, the deficit has become substantial and has detracted from Goodspeed's primary mission of preserving our musical theatre heritage by producing older musicals and providing a home for the development of new musicals. It was an extremely difficult decision to suspend publication of Show Music magazine."
The letter went on to say "should we find a way to resume publishing Show Music in the future, we will contact you immediately." However, there is no concrete plan or timeline for a revival of the publication, a Goodspeed Musicals spokesman told Playbill On-Line Oct. 30, but the company has explored various scenarios for a return of the magazine, including stripping it down to its bare essentials — the writing. Until funding comes through, however, whether from an angel or by corporate or government grant, the magazine is effectively dead. "Unfortunately, not one of these [scenarios] has come out strongly enough for us to continue at this point," a Goodspeed spokesman said, adding that Goodspeed would welcome offers and suggestions.
Reviving the magazine would cost $50,000-$100,000 a year, he said. No staff jobs were lost in the suspension of the magazine, though longtime free-lancers lost their outlet. Staff jobs were absorbed into the organization.
Playbill On-Line reported in September that the glossy quarterly bible for lovers of musical theatre would stop publishing after its fall issue, which appeared the week of Sept. 23.
The magazine is an arm of the Tony Award-honored Goodspeed Musicals, the Connecticut not-for-profit that operates a musical theatre library and stages new works and revivals in two theatres — the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam and the Norma Terris in Chester. The magazine was cherished by readers who sought news and reviews about musicals and cast albums from Broadway and around the world, but was not a moneymaker.
"Our focus has to be what's on the stage...and there comes a point when you can't do everything and you have to prioritize," a spokesman said. The money-losing magazine had become a "kind of distraction" from Goodspeed's main mission of producing, though the glossy was "a jewel in the crown" of the organization, a spokesman said.
Las Vegas-based founder and editor Max O. Preeo, who penned the (unbylined) review sections within the magazine, said he didn't want to see it go but was not part of the day-to-day management of the magazine, which is published on the East Coast. He said Goodspeed producer Michael Price invited him to help find funding to help Goodspeed to salvage the magazine.
Preeo, 63, founded the publication as a six-page newsletter in 1981 because, at the time, there was no central publication where fans of theatre music could find out about new releases. Preeo grew up in Clarinda, IA, in southwest Iowa, where his only access to musical theatre was via cast albums. In founding the magazine, Preeo, who made his living over the years as an accountant, wanted to reach that isolated audience with which he identified. The readership blossomed beyond that initial target audience over the years.
Goodspeed took it on in 1991. The magazine had more than 5,000 subscribers in recent months and was also found on selected newsstands (Borders, Tower Records) and in specialty shops (such as Footlight Records).
Preeo told Playbill On-Line that per a 1996 signed agreement with Goodspeed, he retains rights to the magazine if Goodspeed ever ceases publication. In the event that Goodspeed cannot find funding to revive it, he intends to take it back and attempt a revival of it, though he admitted he has no solid funding sources at this time. He would prefer it continue under Goodspeed because "it's a perfect fit with their mission."
Show Music is considered an important marketplace for new writers trying to peddle their demos, CDs or scripts via advertising or space in the generous reviews section. Productions, books, videos and more are also reviewed regularly in its pages, and its contributors included Eric Grode (a Playbill On-Line writer) and the popular Ken Mandelbaum ("Not Since Carrie: 40 Years of Musical Theatre Flops"). Libretti from musicals such as Big and A Class Act were published in its pages, as well, creating instant collector's issues.
Goodspeed, the non-profit that gave the world Annie, Shenandoah and Man of La Mancha, can be found on the web at www.goodspeed.org.
— By Kenneth Jones