The Scottsboro Boys Closing and The Lyceum Curse

The Scottsboro Boys Closing and The Lyceum Curse“The Scottsboro Boys,” the last musical by Kander and Ebb, will be closing December 12, after only 49 performances at the Lyceum Theater, at a loss of $5 million.
Immediately after the announcement yesterday, theatergoers took to Twitter to grieve…and to blame the Lyceum Curse.
Tanya Elder (@Elderta , Green Day fan and blogger): Scottsboro is closing?? I just saw it, I can’t believe it’s closing already
Billy Flood(@Bflood28, acting student) : Yikes
The Scottsboro Boys Closing and The Lyceum CurseAmanda Rosenberg (@theatergeek , “Broadway baby”): I wish I were more surprised that The Scottsboro boys received a closing notice. The Lyceum curse strikes again. Sigh…
Alex Linardos (@Awl864, “working, school and drinking”): Looks like the Lyceum curse is back..
Ryan Bloomquist (@ryanbloomquist ): The Lyceum curse continues. How devastating that even the most innovative and beautiful musical in years couldn’t break it.
Jonathan Mandell (@NewYorkTheater, me): Is there really a Lyceum curse?
Sarah-Jane Stratford (@stratfordsj, novelist, playwright): YES! Either the shows that play there are crap or the good ones die young.
Robert Berliner (@robertberliner , actor): Title of Show, Reasons to Be Pretty…
Robert Carreon (@ahrmi, theater producer): I’ve never heard “curse” but there’s always been a cloud over the Lyceum. It’s usually not a first choice.

Is this just another weird Broadway superstition? I decided to investigate.

Here are the grosses for every show that played at the Lyceum since 1996
There are some clear hits, like “I Am My Own Wife” and “Inherit The Wind”
Top grossers at The Lyceum since 1996:
The Scottsboro Boys Closing and The Lyceum Curse (The second column is the average weekly gross.)

HOWEVER, when we compare it to the grosses of the shows at the Helen Hayes, we see there is some factual basis for a Lyceum curse. Although the Helen Hayes is more than 300 seats smaller than the Lyceum, there are five shows that grossed more at the Helen Hayes since 1996 than the top-grossing show at the Lyceum.

Top grossers at the Helen Hayes:
The Scottsboro Boys Closing and The Lyceum Curse

Looking at the the longevity of the last five shows at the two theaters, we find:
[title of show] — 102 performances
Reasons To Be Pretty – 85 performances
In The Next Room – 60 performances
Looped – 33 performances
The Scottsboro Boys – 49 performances by its closing on December 12

Compare this to:
Helen Hayes
Xanadu – 512 performances
Slava’s Snowshow – 35 performances
The 39 Steps – 771 performanes
Next Fall – 132 performances
Colin Quin’s Long Story Short – scheduled limited run of 88 performances

If there is a Lyceum curse, it is a recent development. The theater, built in 1903, was a home for hits starring such stars as Billie Burke (later the good witch in “The Wizard of Oz”) and Ethel Barrymore (who would later get a different theater named after her). It was the theater that Noel Coward visited on his very first trip to New York City, where he met Alexander Woolcott and became lifelong friends with him, the theater that housed the Broadway debut of Burt Lancaster and the American debut of Charles Laughton and his wife Elsa Lanchester. Its longest-running show, “Born Yesterday,” lasted 1,641 performances and was an instant hit, making a star out of Judy Holiday. In the 1990′s, it was the home of Tony Randall’s National Actors Theater.

On the other hand, it was threatened with demolition as early as 1939.

For up-to-the-minute theater news, views and reviews, follow Jonathan Mandell on his Twitter feed at New York Theater

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Jonathan Mandell, who tweets as New York Theater, is a native New Yorker and third-generation journalist with diverse experience on newspapers, magazines and websites.He has written for a wide varie more


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