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Catching a show on Broadway is one of those bucket list experiences which sees travelers flock to New York City.

With 41 large theatres concentrated near the iconic Times Square, millions of tourists descend upon Manhattan each year to see the best Broadway shows, from long-running phenomenons such as The Lion King to more recent hits like Aladdin and Hamilton.

But between plays, musicals, and revivals, there’s a lot of variety out there, and sometimes, even shows which make it to Broadway end up being a flop.

The Biggest Broadway Flops in History

Why Does a Broadway Show Flop?

You know how a movie will sometimes only appear for a limited run, then disappear from cinemas? Do you recall those films that receive hype for months, then wind up tanking and getting removed from the marquee?

Shows fail on Broadway in the same manner. Although there are vast differences between the theater world and the production of movies or TV shows, some elements are the same. For example, just because a series is green-lighted for a pilot and first season, it might not get through more than four episodes before the network takes it off the roster.

The Great White Way is the same. Occasionally, a show never makes it past the preview stage. The musical version of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” only got through four preview cities before audiences voiced their opinions of the new and unimproved Holly Golightly.

Fun Fact: Broadway is called The Great White Way for being one of the first streets with electric lights in the USA.Click To Tweet

“Kelly,” a show about a busboy who attempts to survive a jump from the Brooklyn Bridge, got through seven previews, but only managed a single performance. At least “Kelly” did better than Holly. “Carrie: The Musical,” based on Stephen King’s iconic novel, put on five performances… but a pig slaughter turned out to be a poor subject for a song and dance number.

You can never tell if a Broadway show will fail or succeed. The actors, directors, and producers behind performances that impress preview audiences never expect to flop once they hit the stage in NYC, but it happens. Continue reading to learn more about Broadway’s biggest failures — and how much money they lost their investors.

Infographic

BroadwayFlops

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.

    

    12 Comments

  1. I’m so sad that Breakfast at Tiffany’s was a giant flop!

  2. I’ve been dying to get to Broadway at some stage – my dream is to see the Lion King on stage.

    • The Lion King is incredible beyond words. I hope you have the chance to make it happen too 🙂

  3. I’ve seen shows on the West End, but not yet made it to New York for Broadway. Love the West End though, they have fabulous discounts on tickets if you have a student ID.

    • Great tip on presenting student ID’s for the West End – I’m not certain if they have the same in New York, I believe England has a lot more of a country wide culture of student discounts 🙂

  4. Surprisingly, the Rocky Horror Show was also a massive Broadway flop – way back in the 70’s. It died after 45 performances, yet the film grew into a worldwide cult phenomenon. Go figure!

    • Interesting! Yes, the film was such a success, and I often hear of the stage version touring these days, so that’s definitely a surprise.

  5. Anything more recent than the 80’s? It seems like everything which hits the stage these days promotes itself as a smash hit.

    • I’ll do some more research and let you know 🙂

  6. Here are some more flops for you: Bonnie and Clyde, Anyone Can Whistle, Side Show, Chess, and You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.

    • Thanks Janeen! Interesting to hear that Chess was a flop – it pops up now and then in ammeter theater here in Australia 🙂

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