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Last Updated: Monday, 14 June, 2004, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
The drama of Theatreland's fortunes
by Emma Saunders
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Broadway's profits are down in the opening week of its new season and a number of shows are closing in London's West End. BBC News Online examines theatre's fortunes on both sides of the Atlantic.

Bombay Dreams
Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bombay Dreams has seen profits fall
It has not been a good month for Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes.

His Broadway revival of classic musical Gypsy closed two weeks ago after little more than a year, and his first West End production under his company Scamp, titled Fuddy Meers, folded on Saturday after just a fortnight.

But Mendes is not the only one suffering under the spotlight.

Profits during the first week of the new Broadway season, between 31 May and 6 June, are down 6.5%, with attendances down 7.3%, according to industry magazine Variety.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bollywood-inspired Bombay Dreams, which transferred from the West End to Broadway at the end of April, saw profits fall by $101,825 (558,480) in the previous week.

And in London, Fuddy Meers is only the latest in a string of productions to announce early closures.

The situation is much worse in London - quite a few shows this year have only lasted three or four weeks
Matt Wolf
Variety magazine
The Shape of Things, by Neil LaBute, the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie, starring Amanda Holden, and Rattle of a Simple Man are just some of the shows that have had to close their doors.

May is traditionally a difficult month for attracting audiences, but Fuddy Meers got a lukewarm response from critics.

So are Broadway and the West End in crisis - or is it just a summer blip?

Matt Wolf, London theatre critic for trade paper Variety, thinks Broadway has little to worry about.


"Gypsy did OK but not great - that's why it closed. But New York is always down during the first week of the season.

"There's always a clearout after the Tony Awards and a little pruning at the start of the summer with people going away. But I'm sure attendance figures for shows are still running higher than in London," he says.

Mr Wolf believes the state of the West End is more of a concern.

Jerry Springer - The Opera
Jerry Springer the Opera is transferring to Broadway in 2005
"The situation is much worse in London - quite a few shows this year have only lasted three or four weeks."

He also points to the fact that Broadway has some big new shows on offer at the end of this month.

"Broadway has a couple of high profile shows coming up shortly which should do well - Stephen Sondheim's musical The Frogs previews from 22 June and Arthur Miller's play After the Fall previews a couple of days later," says Mr Wolf.

"London doesn't have anything until Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Woman in White in September."

So if there is a long-term problem in the West End, what is the cause?

"People are generally more apathetic about going to the theatre in London and ticket prices are high," says Mr Wolf.

These things happen - shows close and shows open
Jeremy Austin
The Stage newspaper
"The West End is not particularly pleasant, it's difficult to park etc. You need a really good show to entice people in. Names like Maggie Smith and Judy Dench might do it.", he adds.

But not everyone has such a downbeat view. Jeremy Austin, news editor of The Stage newspaper, thinks the situation is no different to normal.

"These things happen - shows close and shows open. Fuddy Meers was a bit of a surprise, being Mendes' first shot as an independent producer though," he says.

"Thoroughly Modern Millie was big and that closed but big shows have always closed. The West End is a tough environment," he adds.


And many West End productions are still packing in the audiences, such as Mamma Mia, which recently transferred to the Prince of Wales theatre after a five-year stint at the Prince Edward.

And it is not just tribute musicals that are attracting fans - Jerry Springer the Opera has been a huge hit, first at the Battersea Arts Centre before moving to the National Theatre and then on to the West End last November.

The cult hit will open on Broadway in 2005.

And while it may be some time off, West End theatre lovers can look forward to a new production of Mary Poppins in December and a stage version of smash hit film Billy Elliot in February 2005.

Broadway raves over Mendes
22 Jan 03 |  Arts

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