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15 Broadway Shows With Remarkably Short Runs

Every theatre nerd dreams of eventually writing or working on a Broadway show. However, not every show defies gravity so easily, making it especially harder for newer names to establish themselves. In fact, some shows flop so catastrophically that they are replete with empty chairs and empty tables. To shed some light on some ill-fated productions, here are 15 Broadway (Off-Broadway) shows that closed after remarkably short runs:

1. ‘Lucky Guy’

This 2011 Off-Broadway musical about a budding songwriter’s misadventures in Nashville starred Kyle Dean Massey (“Pippin,” “Nashville”) and Leslie Jordan (“Will and Grace,” “American Horror Story”). Although it was slated to run for two months, the production closed after 10 days.

2. ‘Idol: The Musical’

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This 2007 Broadway musical, inspired by American Idol, was written by Jon Balcourt, who is currently an associate conductor for “Dear Evan Hansen.” Unfortunately, Balcourt’s musical closed after its opening night.

3. ‘Rachael Lily Rosenbloom (And Don’t You Ever Forget It!)’

This 1973 Broadway musical written by pop singer-songwriter Paul Jabara starred Ellen Greene (“Little Shop of Horrors”), Anita Morris (“Nine”) and Wayne Cilento (“A Chorus Line,” “The Act”). It is notorious for closing in previews and never officially opening. However, it was recently performed in a concert setting at Feinstein’s/54 Below.

4. ‘Bobbi Boland’ (2003 Broadway production)

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The original 2001 Off-Broadway production of this play ran for four months. The planned Broadway transfer in 2003, a star vehicle for Farrah Fawcett, shuttered after only seven previews.

5. ‘Glory Days’

This 2008 musical by Nick Blaemire transferred from the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, to the Circle in the Square Theatre in New York City. Despite positive reviews from its run in Virginia, the dismal ticket sales in New York closed the production after a single performance.

6. ‘A Teaspoon Every Four Hours’

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This 1969 comedy play by Jackie Mason and Mike Mortman set a record at the time for having the most previews on Broadway, opening (and closing) after 97 previews and a single performance.

7. ‘Carrie’ (Original 1988 Production)

One of the most notorious flops on Broadway, this musical based on the eponymous Stephen King novel closed after 16 previews and five performances. The show continued to live in infamy until a 2012 Off-Broadway revival, starring Marin Mazzie and Carmen Cusack, saved the work from oblivion.

8. ‘La Strada’

This 1969 Lionel Bart adaptation of the eponymous Fellini film starred Larry Kent (“West Side Story”) and Bernadette Peters in one of her earliest Broadway musicals. Bart never went to New York to assist with the rehearsals, and the musical was doomed to only one performance.

9. ‘High Fidelity’

This musical, based on the Nick Hornby novel of the same name, was the first Broadway show for Amanda Green and Tom Kitt. With a cast including Will Chase (“Nashville”) and Jenn Colella (“If/Then,” “Come From Away”), the musical closed after 13 performances.

10. ‘Moose Murders’

Arthur Bicknell’s legendary 1983 Broadway flop closed after a single performance. A self-described “mystery farce,” the play is now used as a comparison to how awful a Broadway play can be. However, it is produced by many community theatres.

11. ‘Anyone Can Whistle’

This early Sondheim musical was Angela Lansbury’s first Broadway show and closed after nine performances due to hostile reviews. The musical has since achieved cult status and received a 1995 Carnegie Hall production starring Madeline Kahn and Bernadette Peters. The 2010 “Encores!” production starred Sutton Foster and Donna Murphy.

12. ‘Into the Light’

This 1986 musical starring Dean Jones (“Company”) tells of a physicist who wants to know the truth behind the Shroud of Turin. It closed after 13 previews and six performances.

13. ‘Bring Back Birdie’

Written by the same team that wrote “Bye Bye Birdie,” this 1981 sequel to the aforementioned show closed after four performances. Chita Rivera, who played Rose, received the musical’s only Tony nomination.

14. ‘Frankenstein’

This 1981 play by Victor Gialanella, based on the classic horror novel, starred John Carradine, David Dukes (“Amadeus,” “Bent”) and Dianne Wiest (“Bullets Over Broadway”). It closed after 29 previews and a single performance. It has since found a second life (no pun intended!) in community theatre.

15. ‘Home Sweet Homer’

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This 1976 musical, loosely based on Homer’s “Odyssey,” was written as a vehicle for Yul Brynner (“The King and I”) and also starred Joan Diener (“Man of La Mancha”) and Martin Vidnovic (“Brigadoon” revival, “Baby”). The show’s closing notice was posted as soon as the first performance ended.

Did we leave out one of your favorite flops? Let us know in the comments below…

Written by Joseph Kisiday

Joseph Kisiday is a 2016 graduate from Christopher Newport University, majoring in Music Composition. Joseph's love for theatre came at a young age through discovering the musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber, such as "Cats" and "The Phantom of the Opera." When he is not writing, Joseph can be found watching operas or Miyazaki films.

17 Comments

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  1. I saw one of the nine performances of “Nick & Nora”. I enjoyed it and I still listen to the original Broadway recording today all these many years later.

  2. Two favorites:

    Dude by Jerome Ragni and Galt MacDermott closed after 16 performances when it premiered 4 years after the author’s enormous hit, Hair, opened. It featured early career performances by Nell Carter and Ralph Carter.

    Breakfast at Tiffany’s with Mary Tyler Moore and Richard Chamberlain. It had rocky out of town previews in Boston and Philadelphia under the name Holly Golightly. When it finally transferred to Broadway with its new name, producer David Merrick closed the show before it ever opened and took out a full page ad in the New York Times apologizing to preview audiences and critics for a horribly boring evening of theatre.

    • Oh, God, I did that show in Boston. It killed the theatre (seriously, they went under within a year of that production).

  3. Honestly, any Frank Wildhorn show besides Jekyll and Hyde (specifically Wonderland and Bonnie and Clyde) have had really rocky times on broadway. You’ll see the same track record: good to fantastic music but really shoddy or weak book. They usually run like a month and then close.

  4. The Utter Glory of Morrissey Hall with Celeste Holm. One night (I think) in the early 80’s. I was there. It was utterly ghastly.

  5. Someone already named my favorite: “Dude, the Motorcycle Musical” but there was also in that era: “Via Galactica” about an inter-galactic garbage man. My teacher, Klaus Holm, worked many years on Broadway. The flop he worked on that he would most refer to was the 1961: “A Call on Kuprin” which ran for 12 performances.

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