In the Producers, down-and-out producer Max Bialystock and his accountant Leo Bloom cook up an idea to bring on investors, produce a Broadway flop, and pocket the money. Committed to absurdity, they put on a show called ‘Springtime for Hitler” and hilarity ensued. While most real-life Broadway flops are unintentional, they’re often absurd, and for most theater fans, they bring this classic musical to mind. Check out these five Broadway musical flops.
1. Thou Shalt Not
Thou Shalt Not was an ambitious piece of theater. It was an adaptation of French writer Emile Zola’s 1867 novel Therese Raquin and featured music from Harry Connick Jr. The play explores what happens when you break the sixth and seventh commandments. But apparently, audiences didn’t want a play about murder, adultery, and tap dancing. Ironically, Susan Stroman directed this play right after having great success with a production of The Producers, but the success didn’t translate. Thou Shalt Not went dark after just 85 performances.
2. Urban Cowboy
Urban Cowboy followed the story of a young country boy who moves to the city to work at an oil refinery. He spends his nights at a honky tonk, where he meets a young lass who can’t decide if she wants his hard-working cowboy boots and an ex-con’s shoes under her bed. The music comes from country legends like Chalie Daniels and Clint Black, but unfortunately, the show flopped. The characters were undeveloped, the jokes were dumb, and although the soundtrack featured country classics, it wasn’t enough to get anyone’s foot tapping.
Adaptations of old horror novels have done well on Broadway. In fact, just before launching Dracula, its composer Frank Wildhorn had great success with his adaptation of the old classic Jekyll & Hyde. However, that success didn’t bleed into this vampire musical. Dracula sings about being lonely, but it doesn’t come across as authentic. Instead, critics said this stage production felt like an unnecessarily long Meatloaf video, and they called it a dunderheaded pseudo-romance.
From Buddy Holly to Bruce Springsteen and many stops in between, the jukebox musical is a popular mainstay on Broadway, so a show about Lennon was sure to be a hit, right? Unfortunately, not. The 2005 musical Lennon only made it through 49 performances. The script turned Lennon into a saint, and it heavy-handedly used a 70s storyline to comment on current events. Even people who purposefully go out to see flops weren’t impressed. They wanted a car wreck, but as critics said, the motor didn’t even seem to start.
Based on Anne Rice’s infamous vampire Lestat and featuring a score written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Lestat was designed to delight fans of the vampire musical, but instead, it sucked ticket prices out of their wallets and failed to impress. Critics called this show maudlin and over-filled with kitsch. While Rice’s vampire novels and countless film adaptations have done well with these characters, this show flopped after just 39 lackluster performances.