Broadway finds show fundraising tougher amid crisis

Mon Jan 12, 2009 9:21am EST
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Broadway producers are finding it tough to attract investors for new productions as the global financial crisis begins to take a toll on the Great White Way.

And sluggish tickets sales have caused the closure of shows, adding to the sense of gloom on Broadway.

While several shows traditionally close at the start of the year to make way for new productions ahead of the Tony Awards, more than usual are taking their final bow -- 12 shows have finished and another four are due to close by February 28.

The economic turmoil "certainly had an impact on my show and on a number of shows that might have made it through this coming summer," said producer Margo Lion, whose show "Hairspray" closed on January 4 after more than six years on Broadway.

Several shows could not secure the financing needed to open in the coming months -- "Godspell," "Vanities" and "For Colored Girls" -- and producers blamed the economy, said Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of trade group The Broadway League.

"It's not uncommon for shows not to get financing if they're not sure-fire hits in tough economic times," St. Martin said. "Even in great times, a lot of shows don't get financed."

"Hair" was a hit on Broadway and London's West End in the 1960s, but Andrew Hamingson, executive director of New York's Public Theater, which will bring "Hair" back to Broadway in March, said lining up investors for the show was difficult.

"At the time we were out looking for investors for the show it was at the same moment ... when all those companies (like Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch) either disappeared or they were acquired by other companies," Hamingson said.   Continued...

<p>A Broadway street sign hangs in New York's Time's Square, November 29, 2007. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid</p>