Summer is drawing to a close and that means a rush of announcements for the fall Broadway season. But with the incoming tide of new shows, there is also a group of outgoing productions unable to survive the tidal pull of audience indifference. Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 will shutter at the Imperial on Sept. 3 and Groundhog Day will burrow into the ground forever on Sept. 15. The case could be made that both shows did not get a fair shake. After three successful runs Off-Broadway, Comet soared onto the Main Stem with pop superstar Josh Groban in the lead and received 12 Tony nominations--the most for any show during the 2016-17 season. But once Groban left tickets sales plummeted. A casting controversy erupted when the producers clumsily
announced Mandy Patinkin would take over the lead role from Okieriete Onaodowan (Groban had already vacated the show at that point.) Several actors of color protested on social media stating the African-American Onaodowan was being let go in favor of the white Patinkin who quickly withdrew. The producers could have handled the situation better. Not long after the controversy erupted, the closing notice was posted. Comet probably would have closed not long after Patinkin's limited engagement anyway and the producers should have realized that Onaodowan was not a strong enough name to bring in new customers. The fact that he was in the original company of Hamilton was not a big drawing card. Was Patinkin suddenly available and only for a short time? Could he have played certain performances and alternated with Onaodowan? Who knows. But it's a pity this innovative, exciting show will close.
|Mandy Patinkin; Okieriete Onaodowan