Why Do So Many Shows Open on Broadway in the Spring? | Playbill

Special Features Why Do So Many Shows Open on Broadway in the Spring?

Roughly half the new shows from the 2023–24 season are opening in March and April.

Yesterday, Broadway producers announced the (ostensibly) last show opening this spring: Illinoise, a new dance-theatre piece that uses the music of Sufjan Stevens. That means that in the span of two months, there are 19 new shows opening on Broadway. Out of the 39 shows that opened in the 2023–24 season, roughly half of them open in March and April—causing critics, industry folks, and the Playbill staff to run up and down Times Square scrambling to catch them all like Pokémon.

But why are so many shows opening at once? 

The main reason is the Tony Awards. The cutoff for a show to open to be eligible for a Tony nomination is usually the last week of April. This year, the cutoff is April 25, so that it gives the 60-member Tony nominating committee time to finish seeing everything and then decide who will receive nominations. The Tony nominations are scheduled to be announced April 30 (check back on Playbill.com that day). This year's Tony Awards will take place June 16 at The David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and will air on CBS.

It's long been an unofficial Broadway tradition for the spring to be busy, due to the aforementioned awards cut-off. Time Out New York longtime theatre critic Adam Feldman even crunched some numbers, showing that over time, there's been a steady increase in the proportion of each season's new shows opening in March and April. 

In addition to the Tony Awards, there's another reason why more plays and musicals tend to open in the spring: the financials. On Broadway, when you open your show is just as important sometimes as who is in it or which theatre. There are pros and cons to opening a show in the fall versus in the spring. 

A typical Broadway season runs from summer of one year to spring of the next year. In the summer, fall, and winter, there's less competition to find an open Broadway theatre (because many shows wait for the spring). And because there's fewer shows opening at once earlier in the season, there's more chances to stand out and make an impression. 

But the downside of opening a show early are producers need to keep it open through January and February—notoriously slow months for New York tourism and lower-grossing months on Broadway. So a show that opens in the fall needs to make enough in profits to sustain itself through the winter in order to hopefully make more money in the spring. That's not to say that shows that open in the beginning of the season are doomed to fail: Merrily We Roll Along, Appropriate, and Back to the Future all opened in the fall/winter and have been able to sustain themselves so well that they are still running.

On the flip side, it is more challenging to find an open Broadway theatre in the spring because so many productions vie for that coveted spring splot. It is also harder to grab audience's attention when there are 18 other new shows to choose from (not to mention the long-runners like Hamilton or Wicked). 

But while shows that open in the fall need to have enough capital to sustain themselves during the toughest months of the theatrical season, productions that open in the spring don't face as high of a financial climb. If a show opens in April and then a couple weeks later, is nominated for several Tony Awards, it can receive a big marketing boost and ticket sales just from that clout. It is also unfortunately not unusual for shows to announce closures due to a lack of Tony nominations. 

Shows opening in the spring can be top of mind for Tony nominators and Tony voters when it comes to choosing who deserves the gold statuettes. Shows that open in the fall tend to re-invite voters back to see the show around Tony time. Granted, when a show opens is no guarantee of awards attention. Last year's Best Musical Tony winner, Kimberly Akimbo, was a fall show. The year before, A Strange Loop, was a spring show. 

Summer is also high tourist season in New York, and productions that open in the spring are jumping right into a highly lucrative time for Broadway, without having to worry about winter until much later.

But whether a show opens in spring, summer, fall, or winter, one thing is clear: any season is a great season to be in the theatre. Below, see the Playbills from all the shows that opened this season.

The 2023-2024 Broadway Season in Playbill Covers

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