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An Embarrassment Of Riches

I am sad to say that BILLY ELLIOT will have its final bow on November 28, but I celebrate that it will be closing after 37 weeks and 288 performances in Chicago.  Every show has a lifetime and they are just a human as all of us.  You will hear much pontificating from writers, theatre patrons, critics and the like about BILLY ELLIOT moving on – we appreciate them all as they all care about Broadway

Photo by Amy Boyle.

In Chicago.  However, if you talk to any knowledgeable producer or theatre owner they will tell you that there is no formula for how long a show will run and to run a show 37 weeks, with a 6 week notice to closing and over 365,000 people having seen the show to date is amazing.

To put BILLY ELLIOT into perspective:

o   37 weeks

o   288 performances

o   To date, with the run not yet completed, there have been 365,000 people in attendance and $27 million dollars in sales

o   What shows ran similar lengths to BILLY ELLIOT? THE LION KING in 2003 and PHANTOM in 1990. Both of these ran for 39 weeks, leaving BILLY only 2 weeks short. BILLY like THE LION KING and PHANTOM will certainly return to Chicago with as great success as THE LION KING is doing right now. Okay, BILLY didn’t beat WICKED and JERSEY BOYS, but all shows are different. BILLY did run longer than hits like LES MIZ in 1988, RENT in 1997, THE COLOR PURPLE in 2007 and MARY POPPINS in 2009.

Shows have a beginning and an end. Producers constantly re-evaluate how long their show can run – closing with 6-weeks notice after a 37-week run is standard business practice for New York and we want producers to have the same flexibility here. Some shows may run longer than others but they are all welcome here in Chicago.

The true embarrassment of riches is reading Chris Jones reported from audience members “weekday attendance has been as low as 900 or so people.” As the Chair of the League of Chicago theatres, I am blushing. I can’t imagine anyone in the City of Chicago, NY or across the country that would be crying over, or pitying Broadway In Chicago, by the fact that we were reported to only had 900 people in a weeknight evening house, during a depression, the later weeks of a 37 week engagement. Life should only be so great for every show and every theatre.

More important than any of this is to tell you – don’t wait you only have 6 weeks left to see BILLY ELLIOT!