Trend alert: The British are . . . cutting costs.
Little Billy Elliot broke a lot of hearts last week when he announced he was hanging up his toe shoes and closing up shop at the Imperial Theater, where he has been dancing his bollocks off for 3 years.
It was a bit of a shock, actually. While lots of folks knew Billy’s dancing days were numbered, we certainly didn’t expect to see him take off so quickly.
So what happened?
Well, kudos to Lead Producer, Eric “The Big Buck Stops Here” Fellner of Working Title Films, for stepping up and saying this to The Post:
“It’s my fault entirely. We’d never made a new musical before. We believed in the vision of the show, and we decided to put on the best production we could without worrying about the [weekly] running cost. But when you’re grossing $700,000 a week, which is not bad, and losing money, there is a problem.”
(One of the great things about the statement is that, of course, it wasn’t all Eric’s fault.)
It is a shame that Billy went down sooner than he should have . . . but that is not what this blog is about.
This blog is about a half-a-sentence towards the end of the Post article, that goes something like this . . .
“While the show continues to do good business in London (where costs are lower) . . .”
Yep, the show is still running overseas. And probably will for some time.
I know, I know, you’re thinking that it’s running because it’s more of a British story. Well, maybe.
But does that explain the recent conversation I had with a veteran Broadway producer who, when I asked him what he was working on, said, “I’m bringing a show in to the West End. It’s so much cheaper over there . . . there’s less risk, and you can do more adventuresome stuff.”
Hmmmm . . .
I’ve heard this from a few folks, lately, and it’s starting to tickle my tutu. Couple that with talk like, “a theatrical achievement like War Horse could never have been developed on American theatrical soil,” and color me concerned.
Broadway’s more cutthroat costs creates less fertile ground, which makes it harder for shows to take root. Some would argue that’s a good thing . . . it’s a theatrical survival of the fittest, encouraging producers and writers to get better and better, or face premature wiltage.
My concern is that Producers will just start looking to plant elsewhere.
I know I’ve thought about it.
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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.