Jason Robert Brown ~ Beloved But Bankable?

Chris Peterson / Editor in Chief I love Jason Robert Brown's work. Ever since I heard the opening bars of Songs for a New World, I've been hooked. In the 21st Century thus far, no one has done more consistently meaningful work than Mr. Brown. He's won multiple, well deserved Tony and Drama Desk awards. He's also responsible for the best movie musical adaptation since Cabaret (Yeah it's that good). Alongside Jeanine Tesori, no one Broadway does a better job of setting the human soul to music. With all of this, there is no doubt that Jason Robert Brown is one of the best artists in musical theatre today.

But if I was ever asked to invest in one of his shows?

I might pass.

For all the amazing work that Jason Robert Brown has done, you could say that every single one of his Broadway productions have flopped.

In fact, not a single one of Mr. Brown's work on Broadway has made it past 150 performances. Let's break it down:

Parade - 84 performances

Urban Cowboy (orchestrations)60 performances 

13 - 105 performances

The Bridges of Madison County - 137 performances

Even his latest, Honeymoon in Vegas, is hanging on by a thread. The show has been in the red for six of its nine weeks so far, with the weekly average attendance never exceeding 85%. As much as I would love to see this one continue on, I don't expect it to beyond the end of the month. Especially considering the competition that includes Finding Neverland, An American in Paris, Doctor Zhivago and Fun Home, opening soon.

So why is the work of this incredible talent, work lauded by countless critics, so hard to sell on Broadway? Well I've written on here before about how hard it is to sell adramatic musical, so it's no surprise that Parade and Bridges..closed so soonYou could also argue that 13 was written for high school and community theatres, so a Broadway run (even with a young Ariana Grande) was never going to be a long running show.

I've always thought that Mr. Brown's work isn't for the tourists ear, which is problematic if you want to recoup your investment on Broadway. His work does the one thing that big splashy musicals aren't supposed to do to their audience, make them think.

While a long run on Broadway isn't an indictment on whether or not a work is a success, it's certainly a huge indicator. I'm certainly glad that his works have been widely performed in regional and educational theatres, it would be a shame is an early Broadway closing meant that we would never get to see this man's work.

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