PLAYBILL PICKS: The Top Theatre Stories of 2013

By Robert Simonson
24 Dec 2013

Original star Reeve Carney
Photo by Jacob Cohl

THE TANGLED WEB IS WOVEN NO MORE: It took three years, but those dire predictions Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark detractors made that the most beleaguered musical in theatre history would shutter at a great loss finally came true. In November, the multimillion-dollar musical, the most expensive in Broadway history, and a news magnet such as the theatre hasn't seen in a generation, announced it would close Jan. 4, 2014. Though the show was a good seller for a period of time—despite the hurricane of adverse press (actors injuries, set malfunctions, lawsuits, tell-all books, etc.) that swirled around it—tickets sales were less robust in recent months. The show was capitalized at $75 million. According to reports, it will have historic losses of up to $60 million when it closes. A Las Vegas mounting is planned for the future. Silver lining: Since the closing announcement, box-office sales at the Foxwoods Theatre have been brisk.

IT'S ALL AROUND YOU: Immersive theatre experiences—perhaps inspired by the ongoing success of the site-specific Macbeth spin, Sleep No More—enjoyed a banner year in 2013. Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, Dave Malloy's critically acclaimed electropop opera based on a slice of the epic novel "War and Peace," moved from a summer run in the Meatpacking district to a supper club-style venue built especially for the production in the Times Square area. It has now been extended into 2014. Here Lies Love, the popular David Byrne-Fatboy Slim musical at the Public Theater, which took the political rise and fall of Filipino leaders Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos as its subject, encouraged audiences to wear a comfortable pair of shoes and dance during the performance, which was set within a dance-club atmosphere. And the Donmar Warehouse mounting of Julius Caesar ushered audiences en masse into a facility that resembled a prison. Each was Theatre with a capital "T."

BROWN COMES ROUND: Composer Jason Robert Brown's career, which has run hot and cold over the past 15 years, burned blazingly bright in 2013. His The Last Five Years was revived Off-Broadway by Second Stage. Honeymoon in Vegas, a new Brown-scored musical which has been knocking about for some years, received unexpectedly strong notices at its world premiere at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey and is now aiming to play Broadway. Most significantly, The Bridges of Madison County, a new musical by Brown and Marsha Norman, set a Broadway opening of Jan. 17, 2014, at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.