Arts Desk

Why Do D.C. Theater Pieces Flail on Broadway?

The Velocity of Autumn

The Velocity of Autumn

After just 16 performances on Broadway, Arena Stage's multi-million dollar production of The Velocity of Autumn closed yesterday. Producers made the announcement last Wednesday, mere hours after the play received a Tony nomination for Best Leading Actress in a Play. Ticket sales were dismal, the New York Times described it as "a little strained and too whimsical," and neither its acclaimed stars nor director Molly Smith couldn't save it.

This isn't the first born-in-D.C. production to flail upon reaching the Great White Way. In some cases, producers rushed popular D.C. productions to New York before resolving lingering issues. In other cases, topics that played well in the District didn't resonate with New York audiences. And because space on New York stages is so expensive, out-of-town productions sometimes flee before they've gotten comfortable in a new setting. Here's a rundown of those quick-to-close shows and the reasons they folded.

One Night with Janis Joplin
(touring production, played at Arena Stage in 2012 and 2013, on Broadway in 2013)

Number of Broadway performances: 140

Reasons it closed: While musical revues can tour endlessly in smaller markets, they have trouble filling New York houses eight times a week. The New York Daily News quibbled with the book, writing, "[Joplin] brings up the blues so much that she wrings the color and potency out of the idea and has you seeing red." The show was scheduled to move to the Gramercy Theatre off Broadway in late April but that opening has been postponed indefinitely due to production issues.

Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson
(debuted at Signature Theatre in 2007, on Broadway in 2012)

Number of Broadway performances: 29

Reasons it closed: A musical about an evangelist, co-conceived by Kathie Lee Gifford, that opened in New York right after Hurricane Sandy didn't last long? Color anyone surprised.

A Time to Kill
(debuted at Arena Stage in 2011)

Number of Broadway performances: 33

Reasons it closed: Evidently, no one wanted to pay $100 for a two-hour law procedural. According to the New York Timesthe production only grossed $215,431.

Follies
(revival premiered at the Kennedy Center in 2011, on Broadway in 2011)

Number of Broadway performances: 158

Reasons it closed: It was a limited production. The closing date was announced when the musical transferred from the Kennedy Center.

33 Variations
(debuted at Arena Stage in 2007, on Broadway in 2009)

Number of Broadway performances: 85

Reasons it closed: This was another run of predetermined length—Jane Fonda could only commit so much time to Broadway.

Glory Days
(debuted at Signature Theatre in 2008, on Broadway in 2008)

Number of Broadway performances: 1

Reasons it closed: Limited advance ticket sales, young and inexperienced creators, and mixed reviews that burned director Eric Schaeffer prompted producers to shut Glory Days down after one night.

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