The recent acclaimed Ragtime revival is just one of many recent examples of a Broadway show that was pretty well liked and enthusiastically reviewed yet could not eek out a review of more than two months--and even that at a heavy financial loss at that. It's, sadly, not exceptional anymore--after such well-received plays as Journey's End, Brighton Beach Memoirs, and Well. But for a popular musical I supposed this is news--as is the closing of the Finian's Rainbow revival, despite a last minute effort to save it by, of all people, the jailbound Garth Drabinsky.
(I didn't see Ragtime, but did see Finian's at Encores, which I enjoyed very much and found the 1947 musical totally viable.)
So without making any crusade about it, I do think there's yet more to learn about current Broadway's problems from the Ragtime case--the common factor between all these shows being, No Star.
But the Ragtime also displays a truly clueless set of assumptions about what it takes these days to transfer a nonprofit hit to the commercial venue of the "Main Stem." Michael Riedel last week laid the blame squarely at the feet of Michael Kaiser, the head of the Kennedy Center, which premiered the Ragtime revival and then fought to get it to Broadway:
Sources say a driving force behind this $8.5 million fool's errand was Michael Kaiser, the head of the Kennedy Center.
"He really wanted a Kennedy Center show on Broadway, and was very particular about it being billed as a Kennedy Center show, even though they really didn't put up all that much money," a production source says.
Kaiser unsuccessfully tried to raise $250,000 last week to keep the show afloat, sources say.
There were some old hands on board, including veteran producer Emanuel Azenberg -- "the only voice of reason in the room," says a source. But a lot of the producers were novices who fell for the usual nonsense about how "audiences are loving our show, we're getting standing ovations every night, we just need time for word of mouth to kick in."