Musicals strike upbeat theater note in weak U.S., UK economies

Wed Apr 10, 2013 8:18am EDT
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By Belinda Goldsmith

LONDON (Reuters) - A slate of new musicals has given the two major international theatre districts, New York's Broadway and London's West End, an upbeat start to 2013 despite economic weakness curbing the spending power of theatre fans.

The earning clout of theaterland in New York and London is considerable with Broadway sales rising to $1.1 billion in 2012 although attendance slipped and London sales nudging up to 530 million pounds ($830 million) with slightly higher attendance.

But industry groups in both cities this week reported optimistic starts to 2013 in terms of revenue and attendance, citing the power of feel-good musicals in an economic downturn.

"Musicals really are the thing that makes Broadway pump and this year we are seeing some excellent shows," said Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of The Broadway League, adding that 80-85 percent of Broadway's revenue came from musicals.

"We have ridden out the financial crisis on Broadway with revenue up about 1.5 percent this year despite the impact of Hurricane Sandy that hit New York hard."

She said powerhouse musicals like "Wicked" and "The Lion King" continued to do well and have been joined this year by a revival of "Annie", "Cinderella" which opened last month, and two openings this month, "Motown: The Musical" and "Matilda".

"Kinky Boots", Cyndi Lauper's first Broadway score, opened last week to good reviews and a strong box office. A much-anticipated revival of "Pippin" is due later this year.

Not all new musicals on Broadway have fared well. "Hands on a Hardbody", a downbeat musical about a competition for a truck, is closing due to poor sales after just 28 regular performances.   Continued...

Actors Stark Sands (L) and Billy Porter are shown in this undated publicity photograph from the Broadway production of the "Kinky Boots" which opens on Broadway April 5, 2013. REUTERS/Matthew Murphy Copyright/Handout