Play by Play
Patrick Pacheco's inside look at the world of theater, and the crazy people who inhabit it

PLAY BY PLAY: Patrick Pacheco's inside look at the world of theater, and the crazy people who inhabit it

Broadway Bombs: Following “Chaplin,” “Scandalous” and “The Anarchist” Set to Shutter

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On the heels of  the announcement that “Chaplin” would close on January 6, comes the unsurprising news that “Scandalous” will shutter Sunday, December 6.  The show, about the evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson written by Kathie Lee Gifford and composed by David Friedman, had been racking up huge weekly losses since opening to tepid reviews last month.  Also posting a closing notice is the new David Mamet drama, “The Anarchist,” starring Patti LuPone and Debra Winger. The curtain for the dense philosophical play will come down for the final time on the 16th of December. This show also earned poor notices, though LuPone, as a Weather Underground-like activist, was praised by critics, and there was commiseration for Winger in a thankless role as the jailer from whom she is seeking parole.

Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel,  the lead producers of “The Anarchist,” can take comfort from the fact that their other Mamet production, a revival of “Glengarry Glen Ross”  has a $6 million advance, thanks to the marquee name of Al Pacino. It officially opens on December 8, after a postponement blamed on Hurricane Sandy. The mixed fortunes of these two productions follow a pattern for Mamet, whose work since 2008 has been ubiquitous on Broadway. Of his new plays — “November,” “Race,” and “The Anarchist” — only the latter has failed to recoup. The inverse is true of his revivals during this period: “American Buffalo,” “Oleanna,”  “A Life in the Theatre,”  and “Speed-the-plow.”  Only the latter has recouped, though “Glengarry” looks like it will be well in the black by the time it concludes its limited run on January 20 – if it isn’t already.  (Premium tickets are selling for $377.00.)

The lesson in all this? If you’re producing Mamet on Broadway, be sure to get a star. The box-office for the hits has been spiked by their presence: Nathan Lane in “November,” James Spader in “Race,” and Pacino in “Glengarry.”  The matching of LuPone and Winger created some excitement in the media. But  if the public wanted to see them together, it wasn’t in a 70-minute cerebral prison drama. Still, kudos to Richards for his loyalty to Mamet which seems well-founded. The prolific producer  has produced six of the eight productions and recouped on four.  That’s very impressive by the standards of Broadway where only one of seven productions ends up in the black.

Image: Joan Marcus/JRABroadway via Bloomberg

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