Friday, December 16, 2011

Bang Bang, You're Dead

Well, that was fast. After less than a month on Broadway, Bonnie & Clyde will go the way of the dodo, as it was announced that the show will close at the end of the month. This news isn't entirely unexpected, as it was reported last week the show only had tickets on sale through December 30th, although at the time producers wouldn't comment on whether or not that meant the show was ending its run. Clearly it did, and the show will become the first official casualty of the 2011-2012 season, beating out Private Lives by a whole day. (Roundabout's production of Man and Boy and Manhattan Theatre Club's Master Class don't count, as they completed their limited runs as scheduled.)

I have to say, I really think it was undeserved, and I *never* thought I would say that about a Frank Wildhorn show. Like everyone else, the press was biased against the show because of its composer (and Wonderland certainly didn't help his case). I honestly believe that had the exact same show, with the same cast and same staging, had opened with Wildhorn's name on the marquee, it would have received more encouraging reviews. Actually, the reviews really weren't that bad, but because Brantley (unfairly) ripped the show apart in the Times, the press treated the show like it had been universally panned.

I personally think the producers are making a big mistake by throwing in the towel so early. While the grosses haven't been spectacular, they also haven't been abysmal for a small(ish) show that has a relatively low capitalization of $6 million. Given the weak assortment on new musicals on the horizon, Bonnie & Clyde wouldn't have much competition among avid theatregoers who have seen most of what the Great White Way has to offer. If the producers has stuck it out through the winter months (admittedly no easy task), I really believe the show could have built word of mouth that would steadily increase box office. Had it made it to awards season, I believe it could have even been in contention for some Best Musical awards due to a sheer lack of competition. Hell, given the way public opinion towards a show typically softens after a few months of running (see Memphis, Wicked, and a host of other shows that opened to mixed reviews which suddenly became awards contenders after six months), the show may have even stood a chance at winning. And given the palpable impact Best Musical has on a shows box office, it could have ended up running for a few years, a respectable amount of time and certainly long enough to make back its money.

I truly believe this show wasn't given a fair shot because of the extremely negative association people have with Frank Wildhorn. I admit I myself was skeptical (I generally despise Wildhorn's work), and found myself flabbergasted by how much I enjoyed the show. It is by no means perfect, but very few shows are. I would argue it is about as good a show as Memphis - competent if uninventive, with a likable and talented cast doing a good job of glossing over the show's bigger flaws. Especially in a season heavy with musical revivals and light on new fare, it would have been nice to see Bonnie & Clyde nurtured a little more.

One thing is for sure: after two savage critical and commercial lashings this year, Wildhorn will probably stay far, far away from Broadway.

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