It's a Broadway apocalypse as 6 big musicals close in 2 weeks

What was that old saying that the only sure industries in a recession were sin, sex, and entertainment? Word must not have filtered down to 42nd Street, because in the past few weeks, the cream of Broadway's musicals have soured. By the end of January, six long-runners--most of them once tipped to run for years--will be dead.

The hurdle of paying $120 a ticket has finally proved too great an obstacle for the average theatergoer, and audiences are drying up. The Broadway bloodletting, which represents about a third of its long-running musicals, includes Hairspray (closing Jan. 18), Young Frankenstein (Jan. 4), Spring Awakening (Jan. 18), Grease (Jan. 4), and 13 (Jan. 4), Monty Python's Spamalot originally posted a closing date in mid-January, but even that suicide note proved too optimistic, and it recently shortened its life by another week, ending Jan. 11. One long-running non-musical, the farce Boeing-Boeing, will also take its final bow Jan. 4.

Add those casualties to the recent closures of Legally Blonde, another long-runner and A Tale of Two Cities, which got its head chopped off after just a few weeks. Gypsy shutters March 1 after the contract of its headliner, Patti LuPone, expires.

Disney Theatricals, which currently produces Mary Poppins, The Lion King, and The Little Mermaid, is so desperate for business that it's giving tickets away. Between Jan. 6 and March 13, it will give one kids' ticket away free for every adult ticket purchased to one of its shows. For that deal, available until Friday, call 866/870-2717 and give the code KIDS.

Showstoppers on Broadway

    In this image released by Sam Rudy Media Relations, Reed Birney and Marin Ireland in a scene from Sarah Kane's "Blasted," now playing at off-Broadway's Soho Rep. in New York. (AP Photo/Sam Rudy Media Relations, Simon Kane) ** NO SALES **

    AP

    In this image released by the O&M Company, actors, clockwise from foreground, Matt Cavenaugh, Leslie Kritzer, Lori Wilner, Harvey Fierstein, Philip Hoffman, Tom Wopat and Faith Prince are shown in a scene from "A Catered Affair," at Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre in New York. (AP Photo/the O&M Company, Jim Cox) ** NO SALES, MANDATORY CREDIT: Jim Cox **

    AP

    In this image released by the O&M Company, actors, clockwise from foreground, Matt Cavenaugh, Leslie Kritzer, Lori Wilner, Harvey Fierstein, Philip Hoffman, Tom Wopat and Faith Prince are shown in a scene from "A Catered Affair," at Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre in New York. (AP Photo/the O&M Company, Jim Cox) ** NO SALES, MANDATORY CREDIT: Jim Cox **

    AP

    In this image released by Sam Rudy Media Relations, Reed Birney and Marin Ireland in a scene from Sarah Kane's "Blasted," now playing at off-Broadway's Soho Rep. in New York. (AP Photo/Sam Rudy Media Relations, Simon Kane) ** NO SALES **

    AP

    In this image released by Barlow Hartman Public Relations, David Alvarez stars as Billy Elliot and Haydn Gwynne stars as Mrs. Wilkinson in a scene from the musical "Billy Elliot," playing at Broadway's Imperial Theatre in New York. (AP Photo/Barlow Hartman Public Relations, David Scheinmann) ** NO SALES **

    AP

    In this image released by Barlow Hartman Public Relations, David Alvarez stars as Billy Elliot and Haydn Gwynne stars as Mrs. Wilkinson in a scene from the musical "Billy Elliot," playing at Broadway's Imperial Theatre in New York. (AP Photo/Barlow Hartman Public Relations, David Scheinmann) ** NO SALES **

    AP

    In this image released by The Publicity Office, from left, Zachary Booth, Jonathan Groff and Cassie Beck are shown in a scene from Craig Lucas' "Prayer for My Enemy," now playing at off-Broadway's Playwrights Horizons in New York. (AP Photo/The Publicity Office, Joan Marcus) ** NO SALES, MANDATORY CREDIT: Joan Marcus **

    AP

    In this image released by The Publicity Office, from left, Zachary Booth, Jonathan Groff and Cassie Beck are shown in a scene from Craig Lucas' "Prayer for My Enemy," now playing at off-Broadway's Playwrights Horizons in New York. (AP Photo/The Publicity Office, Joan Marcus) ** NO SALES, MANDATORY CREDIT: Joan Marcus **

    AP

    In this image released by Richard Kornberg and Associates, Laura Heisler and Martin Moran in a scene from "Too Much Memory" by Keith Reddin and Meg Gibson. This contemporary retelling of "Antigone" is currently playing at off-Broadway's Fourth Street Theatre in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Kornberg and Associates, Paula Court) ** NO SALES **

    AP

    In this image released by Richard Kornberg and Associates, Laura Heisler and Martin Moran in a scene from "Too Much Memory" by Keith Reddin and Meg Gibson. This contemporary retelling of "Antigone" is currently playing at off-Broadway's Fourth Street Theatre in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Kornberg and Associates, Paula Court) ** NO SALES **

    AP


This dismal spell for theater is a banner period for savings. For the next few weeks, most of Broadway's tickets are undergoing a fire sale, with rates regularly 50 percent off both online (check BroadwayBox.com for the going deals) and in person in Times Square at the new TKTS booth.

The spring, which usually brings a bumper crop of musicals vying to be the next Wicked (one of the only shows still packing them in), is so far thin on productions with open runs: Dolly Parton's adaptation of 9 to 5 and revivals of West Side Story and Hair are three of the few.

It seems like the only person in the business to make money these days is Nick Spangler, a former star of The Fantasticks, now playing near Times Square. On Sunday, he won the $1 million prize on CBS's The Amazing Race with his sister. Sock it away, Nick. That money may buy you a couple of seats to a show in a few years.

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