Broadway closes 13 shows

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Broadway’s electric bill is going way down this month as almost half of the theaters go dark when 13 — count them, 13! — shows close before the end of January. (Stupid recession!) Although it’s ironic that one of the shows that’s closing is titled 13, it’s pretty depressing that so many shows are closing at once.

Now, some of these shows have already overstayed their welcome. I doubt anyone is crying about the demise of the reality-show revival of Grease. Similarly, I suspect the end of Katie Holmes’ (All My Sons) Broadway debut will not be mourned. And I’ve been waiting for Young Frankenstein to close ever since it opened, despite the casting of Megan Mullally and Sutton Foster.

And then there’s Spamalot. The recent addition of Clay Aiken to the cast strongly suggests that the show had run its course and then some. But I will always be grateful that it gave us Sara Ramirez in a Tony Award-winning turn as The Lady of the Lake.

More importantly, though, are the shows whose ends all thinking, feeling people must mourn.

Gypsy

Patti LuPone’s turn as Mama Rose was the best thing to hit Broadway last year. The show is so frickin’ good that it is an absolute crime that it is closing two months early. (Again, stupid recession!) If you’re in New York this week and haven’t seen the show, run, don’t walk to the St. James Theater to snap up a final opportunity to be in the presence of pure genius.

Spring Awakening

Now, I’m not a huge fan of rock scores, and I was not blown away by Spring Awakening. But this musical got legions of teenagers to want to see live musical theater, and it provided a context for parents to discuss difficult issues of sexuality and sexual behavior with their children. (There’s even a parents’ guide website.) Any show that hooks kids on musical theater and facilitates parent-child communication about sex is a keeper in my book.

Hairspray

Finally, there’s Hairspray, the best new musical of the new millennium thus far (except, perhaps, for Urinetown). With this show, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman established themselves as the best composer/lyricist team since Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. Marissa Jaret Winokur was perfect as full-figured heroine Tracy Turnblad, and Harvey Fierstein, unlike John Travolta, got that Edna Turnblad existed somewhere between woman and drag queen. The show tackled size discrimination and race relations and, as John Waters noted, will lead to high school productions in which “finally, the fat girl and the drag queen will get the starring parts.”

Sigh. I will now observe a moment of silence and tip my hat to the mass departure of the greats and not-so-greats. And I will patiently wait three months until 9 to 5 arrives to breathe a little life back into Broadway.

Which of these shows have you seen? And which will you miss?

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