If not the cold, then the coronavirus has managed to bother Elsa, anyway. With Broadway shut down to at least Labor Day due to precautions around the coronavirus pandemic, Disney has announced that it is shuttering its Broadway production of Frozen. The show opened on March 22, 2018, and ran up until March 11, 2020, the day before Broadway shut down, for 825 performances and 26 previews. Frozen is the first musical to close during the pandemic, after the plays Hangmen, written by Martin McDonagh, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, starring Laurie Metcalf, posted closing notices this March. According to a Disney release, the musical will have grossed over $150 million over the course of its run and played audiences of more than 1.3 million people total. The company said it still plans to reopen the show’s current North American tour and to open productions of Frozen in Australia, the U.K., Japan, and Germany by next year. According to Disney’s statement, closing the Broadway show now will allow those other productions to repurpose its costumes and scenic elements, “reducing cost and waste.”
With Frozen closed, Disney will still have two other musicals open on Broadway: Aladdin and the juggernaut that is The Lion King. According to the New York Times, Disney Theatricals president Thomas Schumacher told employees that the company believed three productions would be too many to compete against each other once Broadway reopened. Frozen, which had a troubled development process, eventually opened to lukewarm reviews, and faced sagging weekly grosses, was the weakest of the bunch. Still, Disney’s decision to close the musical is a grim assessment of whatever the shrunken post-pandemic theater landscape might look like. This is the highest-profile show to close to date, and splashy musical productions like it may be especially at risk, considering the extent to which they rely on the tourist trade.
Aside from Frozen, several other Broadway productions have postponed their runs further into the future. Several non-profit theaters have rescheduled their shows to their 2020-2021 seasons, while the Broadway productions of Plaza Suite and the Michael Jackson musical MJ have said they’ll premiere next summer. Per the Times, Schumacher, who is currently the chairman of the Broadway League, said Disney is still committed to theatrical productions down the line, however, and has begun work on stage versions of The Jungle Book and Hercules, and is also developing musicals from The Princess Bride and Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
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