Long-Running Broadway Shows and Blockbuster Mega Musicals Changed Expectations, The Makeup And Operation Of Broadway Shows And How Long They Can Last On The Great White Way
The Truth About Mega Musicals on Broadway
In the glory days of Broadway shows opened and closed on the Great White Way with great regularity. If a Broadway show closed after a year on the boards, that was considered just fine, because it didn't take that long for the production to earn back its investment and become profitable.
Back then, large-cast plays were normal, and a composer like Richard Rodgers could actually have three of his musicals open in just one year. Such things are practically unheard of today because producing a Broadway show has become so time consuming and very expensive.
A talented young composer would be extremely fortunate to see just one of his shows produced on Broadway within the space of three years, let alone three in one year (and if his first Broadway show flopped, he would have a hard time getting another show on Broadway again at all).
With the actors' and musicians' unions having become stronger over the years and expecting better pay, producers seldom want to do Broadway shows with large casts or big orchestras because of the expense.
Movies Changed Expectations on Broadway
Audiences have changed as well - conditioned by movies, they have come to expect lavish and realistic-looking sets that cost way more than those Broadway musicals of the Golden Age. Nowadays, it can take years for a Broadway show to earn back its investment. In short, the stakes on Broadway have become much, much higher than they ever were before.
Rather than spreading the money around, producing lots of shows and hoping most of them enjoy a modest profitable run, Broadway producers now sink more money into fewer properties and hope that one of them will be the Broadway Mega Musical of the future.
What Is A Broadway Mega-Musical?
What is a Broadway Mega Musical? The Broadway Mega Musical is a phenomenon that essentially began in the early 1980s with the Broadway musical Cats. The Broadway Mega Musical mirrored the Hollywood phenomenon of the Blockbuster - a large production, usually with an element of flash or special effects, that sold an extraordinary number of tickets and basically blew all the competition out of the water.
Long-running shows had existed on Broadway prior to then, of course, but even classic Broadway musicals like Oklahoma!, My Fair Lady, and Fiddler on the Roof ran "only" five, six, and eight years, respectively. In their time, those were impressive runs, but seem paltry today. After all, Cats ran on Broadway for 18 years.