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Our Picks for the Worst Broadway Shows of 2016

Hughie, The Cherry Orchard and DISASTER were some of the worst shows this year. Check out the rest!

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Worst Broadway Shows of 2016

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2016 was a rough year for the arts. We lost a lot of great artists including David Bowie, Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher, Robert Vaughn and Gene Wilder. We also lost broadway performers including George Irving, Margaret Whitton, Dick Latessa, Billy Chapin and Alice Drummond.

Broadway shows no longer pay us to send promotional eblasts, so now we are free to publish stories that matter to you, which includes the best and worst Broadway shows of 2016. Last year we lost some great shows, but other shows were exceptionally bad. Here is our list of the stand out tops and flops.


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China Doll on Broadway
AL PACINO TOOK THE STAGE FOR DAVID MAMET'S CHINA DOLL BUT NOT EVEN THE DON HIMSELF COULD SAVE THIS PLAY. ONE REVIEW FROM THE OBSERVER SAID "CHINA DOLL” IS THE WORST THING I'VE SEEN ON A PROFESSIONAL NEW YORK STAGE SINCE THE ILL-FATED, 1983’S MOOSE MURDERS." THE PLAY WAS RIPPED BY CRITICS AND AUDIENCES ALIKE. HOWEVER, AT THE END OF THE BROADWAY RUN, THE SHOW MANAGED TO RECOUP THEIR ENTIRE $3.7 MILLION INVESTMENT. IT APPEARS THAT BROADWAY AUDIENCES WILL PAY DEARLY FOR THE CHANCE TO SEE THE TALENT OF PACINO IN ANYTHING ON BROADWAY, EVEN IF IT IS IN ONE OF MAMET’S WORST PLAYS.
Hughie on Broadway
FOREST WHITAKER DISAPPOINTED AUDIENCES AND CRITICS ALIKE WITH HIS RECENT PERFORMANCE IN HUGHIE. WHITAKER, WHO IS KNOWN FOR HIS AMAZING MOVIE PERFORMANCES IN THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND AND THE CRYING GAME, REPORTEDLY FAILED TO EMBODY HIS CHARACTER, ERIE SMITH, IN MICHAEL GRANDAGE’S VERSION OF HUGHIE ON BROADWAY. HUGHIE ORIGINALLY PREMIERED ON BROADWAY IN 1964 AND A LAUDED VERSION WITH AL PACINO APPEARED IN 1996. ITS LATEST INCARNATION RECEIVED DEVASTATING REVIEWS FROM CRITICS. THEY COMPLAINED THAT IN THE ONE HOUR SHOW THERE ISN’T MUCH OF AN ARC TO WHITAKER'S PERFORMANCE. IT ALSO DIDN’T HELP THAT HE FORGOT SOME OF HIS LINES, ALTHOUGH THIS IS HIS FIRST STINT ON BROADWAY, SO CRITICS COULD HAVE CUT HIM A BREAK. BEN BRANTLEY MUST HAVE GONE ON A GOOD NIGHT, AS ALL THE OTHER POPULAR CRITICS HATED THE PRODUCTION. AT THE TIME OF ITS CLOSING, THE SHOW ONLY PLAYED 55 OF THE SCHEDULED 135 PERFORMANCES AT THE BOOTH THEATRE. WHITAKER MAY NOT BE BACK TO BROADWAY ANYTIME SOON, GIVEN THE FROSTY RECEPTION.
The Cherry Orchard
BROADWAY HAS BEEN IN LOVE WITH CHEKHOV FOR OVER FIFTY YEARS AND UNDER THE DIRECTION OF MICHAEL CACOYANNIS (ZORBA, THE BACCHAE), THIS VERSION OF CHEKHOV’S THE CHERRY ORCHARD WAS EXPECTED TO THRIVE. HOWEVER, ALL WAS NOT WELL IN THIS LATEST PRODUCTION. A REVIEW FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES CALLS IT “THE MOST CLUELESS INTERPRETATION OF CHEKHOV IT HAS EVER SEEN.” SET IN RUSSIA, THE PLAY RECOUNTS THE STORY OF A NOBLEWOMAN’S RETURN TO SAVE HER FAMILY ESTATE AFTER FIVE YEARS OF BEING AWAY. ALL OF THE USUAL ELEMENTS FROM CHEKHOV’S CLASSIC WERE PRESENT, BUT CRITICS CLAIMED PLAYWRIGHT STEPHEN KARAM FAILED TO DELIVER A FAIR INTERPRETATION OF THE ORIGINAL PIECE. AUDIENCES NOTED THAT THE PERFORMERS SEEMED TO BE IN RADICALLY DIFFERENT SHOWS WITH DIFFERENT AGENDAS.
Disaster on Broadway
THE BROADWAY MUSICAL BY SETH RUDETSKY, HAD THE RECIPE TO LIVE UP TO ITS NAME. DISASTER! IS A JUKEBOX MUSICAL COMPOSED OF AN ASSORTMENT OF ‘70S HITS, BUT THE SHOW DID NOT PLEASE CRITICS. IT'S A FUN, DITSY PLOT CONSISTING OF EARTHQUAKES, TSUNAMIS AND LOTS OF OTHER MAYHEM. THE UNAPOLOGETICALLY SILLY PRODUCTION DELIVERED HUMOR THAT MISSED THE MARK AND THE SHOWS’ JUMPINESS WAS SOMETIMES TOO FRANTIC FOR SHOWGOERS TO ENJOY. UNFORTUNATELY, THE COMPLEX STORY LINE QUICKLY GREW TIRESOME, IT COULD HAVE BEEN CUT IN HALF AND NOT MUCH WOULD HAVE BEEN LOST. THE SHOW WAS FORCED TO CLOSE TWO MONTHS BEFORE ITS POSTED END DATE AND THE BACKERS WERE NOT PLEASED. THE NEDERLANDER THEATRE IS FAST BECOMING THE GRAVEYARD OF MANY A GREAT SHOW INCLUDING THE RECENT REVIVAL OF MOTOWN, AMAZING GRACE AND HONEYMOON IN VEGAS.
Tuck Everlasting on Broadway
TUCK EVERLASTING, THE SHOW ABOUT A MAGICAL IMMORTALITY SPRING PROVED TO HAVE THE VERY MORTALITY THAT PEOPLE WANT TO AVOID. THE PLAY STRUGGLED TO DRAW CROWDS AND ONLY RECEIVED 1 NOMINATION FOR THE 2016 TONY AWARDS (BEST COSTUME DESIGN). ITS STORYLINE IS BASED ON THE BEST SELLING NOVEL BY CLAUDIA SHEAR AND TIM FEDERLE. TUCK STAGED ONLY 39 PERFORMANCES OF THE SCHEDULED 280 SHOWS AT THE BROADHURST THEATRE AFTER IT DEBUTED IN MARCH 2016. THE SHOW STRUGGLED WITH BOX OFFICE TICKET SALES AND WEEKLY GROSSES FOR TUCK NEVER TOPPED $350,000, WHICH WAS WELL BELOW ITS WEEKLY COSTS. THE EARLY CLOSING IMPLIES THAT PRODUCERS FACED A TOTAL LOSS OF $11 MILLION IN CAPITALIZATION COSTS.

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The Best and Worst Broadway Shows of 2016

The list below includes our picks for the worst Broadway Shows of this year

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CHINA DOLL

Al Pacino took the stage for David Mamet's China Doll but not even the Don himself could save this play. One review from The Observer said CHINA DOLL is the worst thing I've seen on a professional New York stage since the ill-fated, 1983’s Moose Murders." The play was ripped by critics and audiences alike. However, at the end of the Broadway run, the show managed to recoup their entire $3.7 million investment. It appears that Broadway audiences will pay dearly for the chance to see the talent of Pacino in anything on Broadway, even if it is in one of Mamet's worst plays.

HUGHIE

Forest Whitaker disappointed audiences and critics alike with his recent performance in Hughie. Whitaker, who is known for his amazing movie performances in the last king of scotland and the crying game, reportedly failed to embody his character, Erie Smith, in Michael Grandage's version of Hughie on Broadway. Hughie originally premiered on Broadway in 1964 and a lauded version with Al Pacino appeared in 1996. Its latest incarnation received devastating reviews from critics. They complained that in the one hour show there isn't much of an arc to Whitaker's performance. It also didn't help that he forgot some of his lines, although this is his first stint on Broadway, so critics could have cut him a break. Ben Brantley must have gone on a good night, as all the other popular critics hated the production. At the time of its closing, the show only played 55 of the scheduled 135 performances at the Booth theatre. Whitaker may not be back to Broadway anytime soon, given the frosty reception.

THE CHERRY ORCHARD

Broadway has been in love with Chekhov for over fifty years and under the direction of Michael Cacoyannis (Zorba, The Bacchae), this version of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard was expected to thrive. However, all was not well in this latest production. A review from the New York Times calls it "the most clueless interpretation of Chekhov it has ever seen." Set in Russia, the play recounts the story of a noblewoman's return to save her family estate after five years of being away. All of the usual elements from Chekhov's classic were present, but critics claimed playwright Stephen Karam failed to deliver a fair interpretation of the original piece. Audiences noted that the performers seemed to be in radically different shows with different agendas.

DISASTER!

The Broadway musical by Seth Rudetsky, had the recipe to live up to its name. Disaster! Is a jukebox musical composed of an assortment of '70's hits, but the show did not please critics. It's a fun, ditsy plot consisting of earthquakes, tsunamis and lots of other mayhem. The unapologetically silly production delivered humor that missed the mark and the shows’ jumpiness was sometimes too frantic for showgoers to enjoy. Unfortunately, the complex story line quickly grew tiresome, it could have been cut in half and not much would have been lost. The show was forced to close two months before its posted end date and the backers were not pleased. The Nederlander Theatre is fast becoming the graveyard of many a great show including the recent revival of Motown, Amazing Grace and Honeymoon in Vegas.

TUCK EVERLASTING

Tuck Everlasting, the show about a magical immortality spring proved to have the very mortality that people want to avoid. The play struggled to draw crowds only received 1 nomination for the 2016 Tony Awards (Best Costume Design). Its storyline is based on the best selling novel by Claudia Shear and Tim Federle. Tuck staged only 39 performances of the scheduled 280 shows at the Broadhurst Theatre after it debuted in March 2016. The show struggled with box office ticket sales and weekly grosses for Tuck never topped $350,000, which was well below its weekly costs. The early closing implies that producers faced a total loss of $11 million in capitalization costs.
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