Crazy For You to close early and Rebecca postponed

For many theatre fans, yesterday was a sad day as Crazy For You posted its closing notice. The hit musical, which transferred to the Novello Theatre following an acclaimed summer run at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, was originally booking until 28th July 2012, but will now play its final performance on 17th March 2012.

Crazy For You is a Gershwin Brothers musical, with a book by Ken Ludwig. It debuted on Broadway in 1992; a true testament to the song-and-dance musicals of the golden Hollywood era. The story centres around banker’s son Bobby Childs, who is sent to the town of Dead Rock, Nevada to foreclose on a theatre there. In brief: boy wants to be a dancer – mother wants him to follow the banking family tradition – boy is sent to small town in Nevada – boy meets feisty girl – boy falls in love with girl – boy pretends to be famous theatre producer to get girl – girl finds out – boy leaves – boy comes back – boy and girl live happily ever after. Well, that’s the gist of it anyway. It’s a real feel-good production with plenty of farce, plenty of singing and a whole lot of dancing. I went to see it shortly after its West End transfer and absolutely loved it. The cast, led by Sean Palmer and Claire Foster, were phenomenal and I’ve rarely had a more entertaining night at the theatre. I left there humming happily and resisting the urge to tap-dance down the Strand. So to hear that its run is being cut short is a real shame indeed.

Crazy For You was probably the most raved-about show in summer 2011, when audiences flocked to Regent’s Park to see it. News of its West End transfer was met with excitement and after it opened at the Novello, the word around town only got better. It was just the kind of show that was needed here. As seems to be the way nowadays though, good things don’t always last. Crazy For You only had a limited time at the Novello anyway: ABBA musical Mamma Mia moves there from its current home at the Prince of Wales Theatre in September. Still, that gave the show six more months – yet now it only has seven weeks. I would imagine that it’s that old nutshell of ticket sales that prompted this move; when a show is being talked about it sells well, but when that initial buzz dies down, even the best of shows can quickly become forgotten. It’s a disappointing reality that audiences today are fickle.

It’s not only the West End that has to deal with this turbulent nature of the industry though. Across the pond, certain Broadway shows are also facing a lack of faith but for one show, it happened before it had even begun. The musical Rebecca has had to postpone its Broadway opening until the next season, due to financial difficulties. Based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier, the stage musical has an original book by Michael Kunze and features music from Sylvester Levay. It was due to open at the Broadhurst Theatre in April and was to star former Love Never Dies co-stars Sierra Boggess and Tam Mutu, but with only two weeks to go until rehearsals, the shows producers ran out of time to raise the final 20% of the capital needed. Lead producer, Ben Sprecher, then made the decision to postpone Rebecca rather than compromise it by pushing ahead with the ‘grand and spectacular musical’ without full funding. Commenting on this shortfall, Sprecher said that, “it’s no secret that in this very negative economic climate, raising money for Broadway has become even more difficult and laborious than it has historically always been.”

Now more than ever, the focus is well and truly on money as to whether or not a show will survive.  Yes, if it isn’t selling then it can’t stay in a theatre, and if it has little hope of turning a profit then it can’t be expected to attract investors but sometimes a little faith and creative risk is needed. With the focus just on how much money a show pulls on, those are two things that are being buried.

On Broadway, a new production will often announce its cast and theatre dates before its financial arrangements are cemented in place. It works as publicity for the show and the buzz created can be used to draw in the investors they seek. Great if it works, but sometimes it backfires, as it has with Rebecca. It’s nothing new though, on either side of the Atlantic. Last year, the revival of musical comedy Moby Dick was cancelled just one week before its first preview at the Landor Theatre due to lack of funds. While audiences may be disappointed by the postponement/cancellation of a production, it’s much worse for the creative team and cast involved. The life of an actor is one of uncertainty as it is, but a show’s collapse creates a big fall-out for them. Some will have undoubtedly turned down other prospective work to do this particular role and others will have been relying on the wage it would bring them. Only a few weeks ago, Tam Mutu was tweeting about having found an apartment in New York in preparation for the run. Sometimes you just have to chalk it up to ‘one of those things’, but nevertheless, it cause undue disruption for those involved.

So with a premature goodbye to Crazy For You and a belated hello to Rebecca, the world of theatre continues to surprise – hey, that’s showbiz!

By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)

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