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7 Broadway Flops That We Still Love Anyway

It’s a sad fact of theatre that no show can last forever (although we’re betting “Hamilton” might prove us wrong). Sometimes, wonderful shows leave us far too soon. However, no matter how awesome the cast or how beautiful the score, there’s nothing for some shows to do but join a legendary list of Broadway’s worst-selling shows. Even though some shows are panned by critics, some flops will always have a special place in our hearts:

‘Bonnie and Clyde’

Total Broadway Performances: 36

Even though “Bonnie and Clyde” was only on Broadway for three months, the show has developed a large cult following. The score is gorgeous, and Jeremy Jordan and Laura Osnes had wonderful chemistry (not to mention vocal chops). Luckily, there is a cast recording, so we can properly mourn this show’s early closing.

‘[Title of Show]’

Total Broadway Performances: 102

Biggest Broadway Flops That We Still Love

This four-person musical is only one act, but it features some wonderful, witty songs about show business, from “Secondary Characters” to “I Am Playing Me.” The show follows Heidi, Susan, Jeff and Hunter through the rehearsal process of creating a show. After 103 performances, it probably flopped because it’s unrelatable for audience members who aren’t part of the theatre community, and it’s less flashy and commercial than most Broadway musicals.

‘Carrie: The Musical’

Total Broadway Performances: 5

This show, based on the famous Stephen King novel, is about a high school girl with telekinetic powers who deals with her religious mother and the high school prom. This show flopped, but it became the inspiration for a book by Ken Mandelbaum called, “Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Flops.” During previews, there was a mixture of standing ovations, thunderous applause and a chorus of boos. Ticket sales didn’t suffer, but the critics ripped the show apart, causing financial backers to pull their money out of the production.

‘Anyone Can Whistle’

Total Broadway Performances: 9

It’s kind of nice to know that even Stephen Sondheim isn’t perfect. This musical is about a town that creates a fake miracle in order to bring in tourism. Meanwhile, inmates from the local insane asylum have escaped. The show, originally starring Angela Lansbury, only had nine performances.

‘Side Show’

Total Broadway Performances: 91

Well, it seems as though this show “will never leave you.” This musical received a revival in 2014, but it had the same lack of success as the original Broadway production. This is a beautifully tragic story about twins in a freak show. Unfortunately, the amazing female power ballad duets weren’t enough to keep the show open after 91 performances (the revival only had 56).

‘Chess’

Total Broadway Performances: 68

This show, created by ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, is about American and Russian chess champions who face off against each other during the Cold War. The show’s premise probably led to its early closing, with only 68 performances. However, its concept album was very successful and led to the popularity of “Anthem,” “One Night in Bangkok” and “Someone Else’s Story.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0J1zN7PwPL8

‘You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown’

Total Broadway Performances: 32

Biggest Broadway Flops That We Still Love

This show about the “Peanuts” gang actually premiered in 1971, but you probably didn’t hear about it because there were only 32 performances. It wasn’t until the revival in 1999 with Kristin Chenoweth, Roger Bart and Anthony Rapp that this show was put on the map. It is now a crowd favorite and is very popular for school theatre productions.

Sometimes shows just can’t figure out how to sell out at the box office. However, we can still enjoy them through cast albums, YouTube videos and — if we’re lucky — eventual revivals!

Did we forget your favorite flop? Let us know in the comments below…

Written by Meghan Hornbacker

Meghan is a San Francisco Bay Area native currently attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. While not onstage, backstage, directing, or choreographing, she can often be found obsessing over ice-cream and Sutton Foster. We still aren’t sure which one she loves more.

18 Comments

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  1. I went to see In My Life (an original one-act musical), which was at the Music Box Theater, and I LOVED IT! The tag line was “When life gives you lemons, make a musical.” But it was a big flop and I can’t seem to find any piece of it remaining anywhere…I wish I could have a cast recording or a libretto or SOMETHING.

  2. It Shoulda Been You!! Ugh, that show was comedy gold!! Such a good plot and Tyne Daily and Harriet Harris and Sierra Boggess and Lisa Howard!!! Best cast ever!!

  3. Your discussion of Charlie Brown is woefully inadequate. The show started off-Broadway and ran 1,597 performances, closing on February 14, 1971. It then moved to Broadway and failed. But it was one of the most licensed shows in history long before the 1999 revival. The show didn’t “take off” because of that production. It only ran 149 performances. Chenoweth’s performance was wonderful and “My Philosophy” is fun, but otherwise, the revival was a misguded and mirrhless enterprise.

    • Hi Richard the title and focus is “Broadway Flops”. Lots of shows do well Off-Broadway and fail on Broadway. That was something we wanted to point out, shows don’t have to do well on Broadway to be a hit in other markets.

      • But you’re still inaccurate. You say it premiered in 1971. That isn’t accurate. It premiered in 1967. You say there were only 32 performances. That isn’t accurate. There were 1597. You say the show was put on the map because of the revival. That isn’t accurate. These are facts and they aren’t little known. Richard didn’t argue your point. He just pointed out where you were wrong.

        • Broadway premiere is different than an Off-Broadway premiere. Once again, we are talking Broadway specifically in this post. We are not arguing the significance of the show prior to its Broadway run.

          • Your “facts” are wrong. The Broadway production/revisal ran for 149 performances. As Michael and Richard stated, it ran for almost 1600 performances. Where’d you come up with 32 performances or the year 1971? There’s no arguing facts.

              • Broadway or not, to say that readers probably never heard of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown until the 1999 revival suggests that your readers know very little about musical theatre. The show was significantly on the map and a part of American popular culture for 30 years before that revival. Actors frequently used its monologues for Snoopy, CB and Lucy for audition material. Happiness became a standard, especially as performed by children’s choruses all across America. It has been extraordinarily popular in regional and school productions as soon as rights became available.

  4. Uh…. The Chess bit is inaccurate. Someone Else’s Story isn’t in the concept album. The concept album is incredible but I’m less than thrilled by what they fiddled with for the stage adaptation. This is one thing I think should never have been a ‘musical’!!

  5. Merrily We Roll Along in 1981. I think it’s Sondheim’s best score. Wonderful songs but the construction of the show, telling the story backwards, probably confused people.

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