SECOND UPDATE, 7:29 a.m. with link to Today show appearance.
UPDATE, 5:25 a.m. with more information below:
The musical that poignantly poses the question “Who will love me as I am?” got its answer last night: Very few.
Side Show, the $8 million reboot of a 1997 flop about freak-show legends Daisy and Violet Hilton, helmed in his Broadway debut by Dreamgirls and Gods And Monsters director Bill Condon, will fold after the Sunday, January 4 matinee, the producers announced this morning. The original production also closed on January 4 — 1998, after 91 performances, a record the new version will not match. After successful tryouts at the La Jolla Playhouse in California and the Kennedy Center last summer, the heavily revised show opened November 16 at the Jujamcyn-owned St. James Theatre to several glowing reviews, including a rave from the New York Times’ Charles Isherwood:
“Being a freak is virtually the new normal, so the timing couldn’t be better for the thrilling Broadway revival of Side Show that blazed open Monday night at the St. James Theater. The musical by Bill Russell and Henry Krieger, about conjoined twins searching for love and fame, or maybe just a half-measure of happiness, seems eerily appropriate for an era in which oddballs, outliers and anybody with a desperate need for the spotlight — and a way with a webcam — can achieve celebrity of some kind.”
The musical stars Erin Davie and Emily Padgett as the twins, who in the late 1920s are rescued from life in a sleazy but familial freak show and become sensations in the somewhat higher echelons of the vaudeville circuit. The true story was referenced in Tod Browning’s 1932 genre film classic Freaks.
Despite the notices, however, audiences weren’t convinced and Side Show consistently came up short at the box office against formidable competition at the all-important holiday season from more family-oriented shows, including Wicked, Disney’s Aladdin and The Lion King; Matilda and Pippin. Last week, Side Show took in just $483Kb at the box office, well under half its gross potential of $1.1 million and likely below its running costs. With the bleak weeks of January and February looming, when Broadway attendance falls off significantly and weak shows are culled from the roster, the decision was shocking yet not unexpected.
The closing was officially announced this morning following an appearance by Davie and Padgett on NBC’s Today show, singing their Act II show-stopper “I Will Never Leave You”:
Closing the show was undoubtedly a painful decision for the producers, led by Darren Bagert and including Jordan Roth, president of Jujamcyn; and a blow for Jack Tantleff, who as the much-admired head of Paradigm Talent Agency’s theatrical literary department, represents most of the talent involved in reviving the show.
But it is a savvy move as well, for smart producers know that you can’t make people go to a show they don’t want to see, and acting otherwise by throwing good money after bad invariably is a losing proposition.