There’s no telling how an audience will react to a musical. That’s why Broadway producers test their shows in out of town tryouts and previews before opening night. In the case of these productions, it was pretty clear early on that something was wrong causing them all to close before they even premiered. Here are five musicals that closed before opening night.
1. Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Mary Tyler Moore, a popular Truman Capote novella as source material, and Abe Burrows directing, what could go wrong? Apparently, just about everything. Despite the powerful cast of performers and producers behind this failed musical, Breakfast at Tiffany’s struggled during its previews so badly that the producer, David Merrick, decided to close it before opening night because he didn’t want to subject the critics and public to, “an excruciatingly boring evening.”
What went wrong? To begin with, there never was a solid script. It’s not unusual for a script to undergo rewrites during rehearsals and even previews, but with Breakfast at Tiffany’s the rewrites never stopped nor got smaller. Despite having strong source material, the producers gave up on the original book before the show got to New York, and when the show did finally play at the Majestic Theater in December of 1966, it was on its last legs. Despite high anticipation for the show, this performance that was then called Holly Golightly only lasted for four performances before closing.
2. Senator Joe
Joseph McCarthy’s political witch hunt during the cold war wasn’t America’s brightest moment, but that doesn’t mean it can’t make for a great musical. Where Senator Joe went wrong was confusing the few people who saw it by having a scene inside the Senator’s body where the main characters are blood cells and enzymes without clearly establishing the show as a satire. That was just one of the many detours this show took to closing its doors after only three previews.
It also didn’t help that this musical never had the money it needed to operate either. The first sign of trouble should have been when during the shows few previews the marquee still listed Kenny Loggins. Then, of course, there was the fact that one of the producers went to jail for pretending to be David Rockefeller’s wife to raise funds. Senator Joe lived up to its historic source material and left plenty of people angry and frustrated.
Telling a story about a journey on the open road can be difficult, after all, there are only so many things that can happen in such a limited setting. If there was anyone with the talent to pull of such a story, it was Patricia Birch in 1975. She was fresh off choreographing Grease, and she was surrounded by several other talented producers in this directorial effort.
Soon into the previews of Truckload though, it was clear that this musical was going nowhere. Thanks to an unprepared production, a poor script, and music that had no chance to make up for the shows other faults, Truckload didn’t last long. Although the producers felt confident enough to skip the out of town tryout stage and open straight to Broadway, after only six previews the door was closed on this failed musical .
4. The Little Prince and the Aviator
All too often directors and producers believe that since a story is well known or beloved all over the world that it deserves to be adapted into another medium. Unfortunately, stories like Count Antoine Saint-Exupéry’s classic The Little Prince are so popular because they work perfectly in the original format they were created for making any adaptation extremely dangerous. The Little Prince and the Aviator is a perfect example of a musical that never took off.
The few people who saw this production would probably tell you that the biggest problem with The Little Prince and the Aviator was the story. You would think that with such strong source material it would be a no brainer to stick to the original story, but the producers of this show decided to give their take on a classic, and the results were abysmal. Unfortunately for Hellen Greene, who was the leading lady in the role of Suzanne, this wasn’t the first show she had been in that closed before opening night. In 1973 she played Rachel Lily Rosenbloom in the failed musical s Rachel Lily Rosenbloom and Don’t You Ever Forget It which closed after only seven previews. After 16 previews, The Little Prince and the Aviator closed its doors.
5. One Night Stand
This aptly named musical had the right people pulling its strings and even had a unique concept. With a score by Jule Styne, One Night Stand begins with the audience being invited to a concert with the main performer and character, Charlie, set to end the finale with his suicide.
Even though Charlie’s life is saved by a beautiful actress, this production couldn’t be saved and closed after eight previews. The cast was able to record a soundtrack before disbanding, meaning this failed musical made it farther than most on this list, but One Night Stand will always be remembered as just that.