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BWW Blog: The Best 'Flop' Musicals

What makes a Broadway musical a flop? How much money it made? How long it ran? Who decides?

The official definition of a "flop" is any show that did not recoup its original investment, but others consider it to be any show that ran for less than 100 performances. 100 performances would average about a 3 or 4-month run, so these shows closed as quickly as they opened. In this article, I am going to look at some shows that might have had a short run on Broadway but were influential in other ways. Both of the shows I am going to be talking about started out as flops, with horrible reviews but then were revamped and became a part of pop culture today.

The first musical I want to talk about is Carrie (1988). This show first opened in 1988 in the United Kingdom and moved to Broadway that same year. It played for 16 previews and five regular performances before being closed down. I decided to put this show on the list because it became the standard for "flop" musicals, but once it was revamped, it became successful and even was featured on an episode of Riverdale. It is said that on the first night of Broadway previews, people booed during the finale and the curtain call. The financial backers pulled out of the show and it closed quickly after. In 2012, the show was totally redone, with new songs, music, and cast members. The show played a limited engagement Off-Broadway and was considered successful. Since then, certain songs have been re-recorded by different actresses and Carrie has made a name for itself outside of being a "flop."

Next, I am going to be talking about Merrily We Roll Along. Merrily is a well-known Sondheim musical based on a play by Kaufman and Hart. The musical ran for 44 previews and 16 performances on Broadway in 1981 and it was one of the last Hal Prince-Sondheim collaborations. The musical takes place between 1957 and 1976 and works backwards through the main character's, Franklin, life. During the original Broadway production, the actors ended up having to wear sweatshirts with the character's names on them because the audience was confused about who was who. This confusion added with the negative reviews before the show opened, closed it quickly. The show has been revamped and revived multiple times but has yet to be back on Broadway. Even though the musical flopped, it has become a household name and there is a movie currently in production starring Ben Platt and Beanie Feldstein.

Even though these musicals did not exceed expectations during their original years, should we still consider them flops? I do not think so because they did turn out to be influential and well-known shows, and they were known for more than just being bad. I believe flops are not as common as people think they are on Broadway. There are a lot of shows that go through different life stages and some of them are in a stage where they need to be revamped before anything else.


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From This Author Student Blogger: Paige Rosko