Broadway deflates as 5 shows fold in front of dire July 4th weekend

Broadway legit lost five shows last weekend, as marginal entries closed rather than undergo a grim July 4th holiday week which would have brought stiff operating losses.

The costly British musical Chess consumed the most red ink of the five closings, which also included the hit Fences and the flops A Walk In The Woods, Joe Turnerís Come And Gone and Macbeth.

Chess had been doing moderate business since its April 28th, 1988 opening, mainly on the strength of theater party advances, which mostly have been used up.

The show, capitalized at $US6,000,000, was a co-production of the Shubert Organization, co-authors Tim Rice, Benny Andersson and BjŲrn Ulvaeus, and London producer Robert Fox, all of whom are partnered in the successful West End production, now in its third year at the Prince Edward Theater.

Chess was revamped radically for Broadway, with a new book by Rice and playwright Richard Nelson, some new songs, and a revised scenic design by Robin Wagner. It received mostly negative notices upon opening, and was blanked in the June 5th, 1988 Tony Awards voting.

No fun week

The producers of Chess and the other exiting shows were looking at one of the poorest Broadway boxoffice weeks of the year in the current July 4th holiday frame, which has been grim for the past several seasons, with the holiday falling on a weekend.

Fences, the August Wilson drama which swept the 1986-87 prizes, achieved a hefty 525-performance run, uncommon for a serious play on Broadway these days, and substantial profits. Paramount bought the film rights early in the run.

With the departure of Joe Turnerís Come And Gone, playwright Wilson was in the unusual position of losing two Broadway productions at once.

Turner received mostly positive notices, and won the N.Y. Drama critics Circle prize as best play of the season, but proved to be a stubbornly non-commercial Broadway offering, and rarely grossed above breakeven level.

A Walk In The Woods, the 2-hander by Lee Blessing about the relationship between a pair of Soviet and American arms negotiators, also pulled mostly good reviews but failed to catch on at the boxoffice.

For the Yale Repertory Theater, where Fences, Joe Turner and Woods all had their premieres, it was a week of harsh Broadway commercial reality.

Also in the red is the departed revival of Macbeth, with Glenda Jackson and Christopher Plummer as the bloody couple. The show had a troubled tryout tour, with several changes of directors and scenery, but did socko business on the road.

The New York critics gave it the back of their collective hand, however, and it did not catch fire at the b.o. despite the marquee lure of two classical legit stars. Transcribed for ABBA World

Variety (New York) ∑ Wednesday, 29 June 1988 (Page 63)

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