In a bit of a surprise move, Disney has announced that it will close down the Broadway production of The Little Mermaid on August 30th. (This is a particular bummer for Boston Conservatory folk, since BoCo alum Chelsea Morgan Stock just took over the lead after understudying the part, and performing in the chorus, since the show opened.) When the The Little Mermaid closes, it will have played 50 previews and 685 performances. That admittedly disappointing run will at least put it past Tarzan, which closed after 486 performances.
Why is this surprising? To be sure, The Little Mermaid opened to some pretty dismal reviews, and was completely shut out at the 2007 Tony Awards. But the show really hasn't been doing that badly at the box office. The weekly grosses have been consistently over $600,000 since March, and lately have been coming in at about $800,000. If that level of weekly income isn't covering the show's nut, then that's just bad producing on Disney's part. What's more, Mary Poppins hasn't been doing all that much better at the box office. Perhaps we'll hear another closing announcement from Disney sometime soon?
In their announcement about closing The Little Mermaid, the folks at Disney acknowledge that the show has been having, and will likely to continue to have, a good summer. But then there's the fall:
We are tremendously proud of the show and are confident we'll have an excellent summer but it would be fiscally irresponsible to our shareholders to risk operating losses with such a big show in the historically challenging fall months. We are closing the Broadway production to concentrate on the long future life of this title...
That's actually some remarkably frank language from a company not known for its glasnost. As for the "future" of The Little Mermaid, the show will launch a national tour in 2010. The show is likely to do well in the provinces, where people don't necessarily read Broadway reviews, and will be attracted to both the Disney brand and the name-recognition from the original movie. And there will probably be international productions as well. Tarzan, it turns out, has become quite a popular show in the Netherlands and Germany.
The closure of The Little Mermaid frees up the hideously decorated but conveniently located Lunt-Fontanne Theater. Playbill.com reports that there are rumors that the theater's next tenant will be the upcoming musical version of The Addams Family. (The cast of which is looking pretty darned fabulous: Nathan Lane, Bebe Neuwirth, Kevin Chamberlin, Jackie Hoffman, Terrence Mann, Carolee Carmello, and Wesley Taylor.) Watch this space for more details.