Andrew Lloyd Webber Worries About the Math of Broadway

Composer reflects on financial realities of the theater as 'Phantom' ends its epic run
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 17, 2023 3:10 PM CDT
Andrew Lloyd Webber Is Worried About Broadway
Andrew Lloyd Webber and the cast of "The Phantom of the Opera" appear at the curtain call following the final Broadway performance at the Majestic Theatre on Sunday, April 16, 2023, in New York.   (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Now that the last performance of the Phantom of the Opera on Broadway is in the books after a 35-year run, people are tossing around the phrase "end of an era." That's not quite accurate, writes Andrew Lloyd Webber in a New York Times essay. He points out that "the era of the big original Broadway musical ended long ago." Huge modern hits like Phantom and Hamilton did not originate on Broadway as, say, Fiddler on the Roof or West Side Story did. And Webber doesn't expect that to change because of the money involved. Producing a play in a small Broadway house costs $5 million, and even a medium-scale musical runs $18 million. Only a few rare shows can recoup expenses like that. "No wonder musicals now feature small casts and minimal sets," he writes. "No wonder producers turn to jukebox musicals with song catalogs everyone knows."

It's also why promising young writers are abandoning Broadway, he adds. What to do? Webber admits he's not sure, but he says it's time for Broadway backers to figure it out before it's too late. In his view, ticket prices are way too high (an average of $130, not counting the markups of digital sale platforms); theaters need to improve basic things such as restrooms; and theater unions must help by easing up on contract demands. "With the curtain now fallen in New York on the musical that has been the biggest of my career, I passionately pray that Broadway rediscovers the appetite for new scores and original work that made me so excited when I was, as (late friend and collaborator Hal Prince) always called me, a kid." Read the full essay. (More Andrew Lloyd Webber stories.)

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