We all know the Broadway shows that run for years and years, like The Phantom of the Opera or Chicago, but sometimes Broadway shows are more short-lived—sometimes they don’t even make it to opening night. As any theatre super-fan can tell you, some of Broadway’s shortest runs remain fans’ favorite shows, and catching a legendary production during a brief run can lead to major bragging rights in theatre circles.
In honor of the March 13 concert of Rachael Lily Rosenbloom and Don’t You Ever Forget It at Feinstein’s/54 Below, we’re taking a look at nine of those shorter-lived Broadway shows, all of which closed before reaching opening night.
1. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Began previews December 12, 1966
Closed December 14, after four previews
Breakfast at Tiffany’s had a lot going for it, with a score by Bob Merrill (Funny Girl, Carnival!), book and direction by Abe Burrows (Guys and Dolls, How to Succeed…), Mary Tyler Moore and Richard Chamberlain starring, and a popular Truman Capote novella for its source material—which had only five years previous received a highly successful movie adaptation starring Audrey Hepburn. In fact, it was the most hotly anticipated production of its season and had the highest advance sales. Nevertheless, the show was plagued with many issues—and rewrites—during its two out-of-town tryouts, and when the show arrived in New York, producer David Merrick decided that despite the healthy advance the show was in no shape to open. The show did receive a live cast album featuring the original Broadway cast, and in 1995, a studio cast recording of the score was produced featuring Faith Prince, Hal Linden, Jonathan Freeman, Ron Raines, Patrick Cassidy, and original co-star Sally Kellerman.
2. The Freaking Out of Stephanie Blake
Began previews October 30, 1967
Closed November 1, after three previews
The Freaking Out of Stephanie Blake was to be screen actor and comedian Jean Arthur’s triumphant return to Broadway, her first Main Stem appearance in nearly 20 years. Arthur played a spinster from Ohio who visits her niece in New York before traveling to Europe. She finds her niece is part of a group of hippies, and generation gap-derived humor ensues. The production was plagued with problems from the beginning; director John Hancock quit during rehearsals following an argument with the show’s producer. The beginning of previews had to be postponed—it was originally scheduled to begin October 10. Arthur then collapsed during a performance, which gave producer Cheryl Crawford the perfect excuse to call off the whole thing. The show’s ensemble, by the way, featured a then 20-year-old Andrea Martin.
3. Rachael Lily Rosenbloom and Don’t You Ever Forget It
Began previews November 26, 1973
Closed December 1, after seven previews
Written by Paul Jabara, Tom Eyen, with music by Jabara and lyrics by Jabara, Paul Issa, and David Debin, Rachael Lily Rosenbloom was actually intended for Bette Midler. When Midler declined, Ellen Greene (later to become famous for Little Shop of Horrors) stepped in to play the title role, an aspiring diva whose extra “a” in her first name is said to be the one missing from her idol, Barbra Streisand. Perhaps too campy for Broadway, it quickly became apparent the show wouldn’t have a long life there and it hasn’t been seen much since, though Feinstein’s/54 Below is producing a concert version March 13, 2017.
Began previews September 6, 1975
Closed September 11, after six previews
Fresh off the mega-hit Grease, choreographer Patricia Birch and dance arranger Louis St. Louis returned to Broadway in 1975 with Truckload. St. Louis penned the score alongside lyricist Wes Harris and Birch took the reins as director and choreographer. The show told the story of a group of travelers who hitch-hike cross country in a musical bus—St. Louis played piano as the onstage bus driver. The plan was to forgo an out-of-town tryout and open cold on Broadway, but after six previews, it turned out that a Broadway opening wasn’t in the cards.
5. One Night Stand
Began previews October 20, 1980
Closed October 25, after eight previews
One Night Stand featured a score with music by Jule Styne, and given that his catalog includes such classics as Gypsy, Funny Girl, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and Bells Are Ringing, the subject matter for this particular show must have been surprising to Broadway audiences: The show finds its audience invited to a concert, presented by a popular stage and screen composer (played by Murphy Brown and Sunday in the Park with George star Charles Kimbrough), with the finale of said concert set to be his suicide. Though the show closed in previews and has been unseen since, it did receive a cast recording featuring the Broadway cast.
6. The Little Prince and the Aviator
Began previews December 26, 1981
Closed January 17, 1982, after 16 previews
Count Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 1943 classic The Little Prince is one of the most beloved children’s books ever written; so that many stage and screen adaptations have been tried over the years shouldn’t come as any great surprise. This particular effort featured a book by Hugh Wheeler (Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music), music by John Barry (Lolita, My Love), and lyrics by Don Black (Song and Dance, Aspects of Love, Sunset Boulevard). The cast included Michael York, Ellen Greene (making her perhaps the only actor with the dubious distinction of creating two lead roles in Broadway musicals that closed before opening), and a young Anthony Rapp as the Little Prince.
7. Senator Joe
Began previews January 6, 1989
Closed January 8, after three previews
A rock opera that tells the story of Senator Joseph McCarthy, Senator Joe is perhaps as infamous as the man that inspired it. Apparently, financing was so shaky that the theatre’s marquee still read Kenny Loggins on Broadway—a hold-over from the theatre’s last tenant—for all three of the show’s previews. One of its producers, Adela Holzer, served jail time for her fundraising tactics, which resulted in several investors cheated out of millions. Rumor is that this real-life story became the inspiration behind Terrence McNally’s It’s Only a Play.
8. Face Value
Began previews March 9, 1993
Closed March 14, after eight previews
David Henry Hwang’s first Broadway play, M. Butterfly, was quite a success when it opened on Broadway in 1988, winning the Tony Award for Best Play in 1989. Hwang reunited with Butterfly’s star, B.D. Wong, for Face Value in 1993, with Jane Krakowski and Mark Linn-Baker also among the cast. Loosely based on the controversy surrounding the casting of Miss Saigon on Broadway in 1991, Face Value was intended to be a farce about multi-racial casting, but critics in Boston didn’t find it very humorous. It ultimately lasted only eight performances on Broadway. The experience became the inspiration behind Hwang’s Yellow Face, which premiered in Los Angeles in 2007 before playing Off-Broadway at the Public Theater, where it won the Obie Award for Playwriting.
9. Bobbi Boland
Began previews November 4, 2003
Closed November 9, after seven previews
The most recent Broadway show to close in previews was actually a solid success Off-Broadway a few years earlier, running from March to July of 2001 at New York’s Arclight Theatre. The play centers around its title character, a former beauty queen who runs a charm school in Florida. Farrah Fawcett was to make her Broadway debut in the part, but after a week of previews, producer Joyce Johnson announced that the show was not working on Broadway as it had Off, and she was closing the show prior to its opening night. At the time, there was some hope that a revised version would play Off-Broadway the following spring with Fawcett again in the role, but this never materialized.
Flip through the playbills below: