Michael Riedel backs up my earlier assertion that Brighton Beach Memoirs premature closing might have more to do with poor producing choices than anything else:
I often wonder if Riedel's stories are true, and having talked to people who claim he's made up things they've said or done in his columns, I try to take him with a grain of salt. That being said, I'm on pretty much every theater mailing list there is and I didn't receive a single piece of direct mail in the lead up to the show. And this would gel with the producer's quote that they were counting on a rave review, because a rave review could then lead an after-opening-night advertising strategy as they expanded beyond the Times.
The Times offered the producers of "Brighton Beach" several weeks worth of splashy ads in the paper and on its Web site at steep discounts, production sources say.
In exchange for what one source calls the "fire sale" price, the Times demanded exclusivity.
"Brighton Beach" couldn't advertise anywhere else until after opening night. No radio spots, no e-mail blasts, no direct-mail campaign -- none of the things most shows do to generate advance sales.
But the Times ads didn't work, and the show opened with an advance of less than $500,000, sources say. Some nights, the cast played to 500 people.
The issue here for me has less to do with the show, which I don't really care about either way or another. What upsets me more is the groupthink on Brighton's closing, from Patrick Healy to Howard Kissel to Ken Davenport to Playgoer that somehow the show was failed by its audience because we're all starfuckers or we aren't Jewish enough or we watch too much television. It's bullshit.
The producers tried to do a big Broadway show on the cheap. They decided to do two parts of a trilogy and not open them at the same time, thus robbing the show of any sense of it being special. Then they tried to skimp on advertising. Then they only had three weeks of previews, which cut out a lot of chance to build advance word. Then they didn't have enough cash reserves to keep it open after the reviews to build an audience. And they clearly had no advance press strategy whatsoever.
That's called bad producing, folks. Neil Simon was failed by Manny Isenberg, not the "Broadway audience" or lack thereof. Last year a three hour long solidly (and excellently, and gloriously) middle brow play starring nobodies opened on Broadway, ran for two years, made money and won the Pulitzer Prize. I'm sick of this condescending bullshit. It's lazy thinking. I can understand why Ken Davenport and Patrick Healy might not want to second guess one of Broadway's most respected (and best connected) producers, but come on.
If you want to view it as a great tragedy that you can no longer do a mediocre job of producing a Neil Simon play and have it be a hit simply because it's a Neil Simon play, I suppose that's your right, but it just seems like crying over spilled milk.