There’s an odd trend popping up on Broadway that I’m getting a kick out of. Shows that recently closed on Broadway are coming back a year or two later for limited sit down engagements. This is not to be confused with cash grab moves like staging a revival of Rent in a smaller Off-Broadway theater or testing out material just long enough to be eligible for Tonys ala Bring It On.
No, this is referring to touring productions taking a Broadway house for a few weeks over the summer. Playbill announces the newest beneficiary of the trend is Fela!. This was one of my favorite new shows a few years ago when it popped up off-Broadway. The musical recreation of a Fela Kuti concert where he tells his life story while announcing his retirement (due to political opposition) is a thrilling show.It didn’t exactly set Broadway on fire the first go around. It felt like the show was kept open to keep it in the Tony voters minds and then dragged along after a post-awards glow till the end of the year. I was happy as it meant being able to get discount tickets to see it a few times. However, where is the audience for another run of this?
The Hair revival that won all the Tonys a few years back did the same thing after it closed. I seem to recall the box off receipts weren’t that great, either. The show hadn’t even been closed for two years and the same production was thrown back on the Great White Way.
These rumors pop up occasionally but don’t always come through. There was hope of this happening last year with The Scottsboro Boys and this year with the Follies revival. And we’re still waiting for that limited return of the Ragtime revival.
I understand the business of it. You have a tour that can go anywhere in North America. A theater is vacant for the summer in NYC. You can easily squeeze in a three, four, five, or six week run in between longer sit downs without much effort. Your tour is selling well enough to allow you to take the hit if the Broadway stop doesn’t sell out. I just question what it does for the brand of the show in NYC if it comes back and doesn’t sell well.
Thoughts on this phenomenon? Love to hear from you. Sound off below.