As Broadway Loses “Phantom,” Theater Goers Are Asking: Why Are So Many Hit Musicals Closing?

Hit Broadway musicals are dropping like flies, including ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ (which closed Sundays), ‘Come From Away’ (closing Oct. 2) and, as announced last week, ‘The Music Man’ (closed Jan. 1) and “The Phantom of the Opera” (closed Feb. 23).

Let’s take a moment to consider what this tells us about the current state of Broadway, which “reopened” exactly one year ago after the 18-month pandemic shutdown.

“Dear Evan Hansen” and “Come From Away” both opened on Broadway in the 2016-17 season after earlier stints at several nonprofit theaters. Both were still selling steadily before closing and had become leading examples of original, innovative and timely new musicals.

One might wonder whether the sweeping film adaptation of “Dear Evan Hansen” or the pro-shot version of “Come From Away” on Apple TV has affected the demand to attend live shows. However, the most likely explanation for the closures is that the large tourist audience that kept certain musicals going for years still hasn’t returned to New York.

The lack of tourists is certainly the reason “Phantom” is closing. When I attended “Phantom” before the pandemic, no one around me in the theater lobby spoke English. “Phantom” also has sky-high weekly running costs thanks to its large cast, crew, and pit orchestra.

Nonetheless, “Phantom”‘s closure is shocking due to its status as the longest-running show in Broadway history. For many who visit New York, “Phantom” is Broadway – and the closure of “Phantom” is indicative that post-pandemic Broadway is a different place. (Of course, “Phantom” may be getting a revival relatively soon, though it’ll likely be in a revamped, less expensive, and less spectacular form.)

Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster in “The Music Man”Photo by Julieta Cervantes/Supplied

On the other hand, while “The Music Man” is still generating record weekly receipts, its producers decided to shut down the series once Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster left the show rather than casting new stars and hope (probably in vain) that the large production remains profitable. It should also be noted that the revival received low reviews (making it doubtful that it could survive Jackman and Foster’s departure) and with a few rare exceptions (notably “Chicago”), even successful musical revivals rarely last. more than a year. .

If tourist audiences don’t return in the coming months, longer-running musicals will either have to shut down or launch aggressive marketing campaigns.

It should be noted that extremely long runs are a relatively recent phenomenon in Broadway history – and perhaps their time is over. While “Phantom” has provided jobs for countless theater professionals over the past 35 years, can you imagine how many more shows could have played at the Majestic Theater if it hadn’t happened?

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