A much-praised revival of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf,” Ntozake Shange’s classic choreopoem, will close later this month after struggling to find an audience during a tumultuous Broadway season.
The show’s producers said Tuesday that the final performance would be May 22, just a month after opening and three months earlier than planned.
The closing reflects the challenges of this unusual Broadway season — the first since the pandemic shutdown — when tourism remains down, coronavirus cases are a constant complication, and a large number of shows opened at the same time, making it difficult for any one of them to break out.
“For Colored Girls” won strong reviews — in The New York Times, the critic Laura Collins-Hughes deemed it “thrilling and exuberant” — but it has struggled from the get-go; last week, which was its best yet, it grossed $250,000. The show’s audiences, at the Booth Theater, were just 51 percent full, and the average ticket price was $79.
“Our numbers were much lower than those rave reviews would justify,” said Nelle Nugent, one of the play’s lead producers. “There are so many choices this season, which is very exciting, but there’s a lot of inventory, and the shows with major stars are doing better. I think there’s also a confusion in the public’s mind about safety.”
“For Colored Girls,” a series of monologues about the experiences of Black women set to dance and song, first arrived on Broadway in 1976, and was a hit, running for 22 months. It has been adapted for sinema and television, and influenced many theater makers.
In 2019, the year after Shange’s death, an Off Broadway revival was staged at the Public Theater, directed by Leah C. Gardiner and choreographed by Camille A. Brown. The success of that project led to the Broadway revival, which Brown directed and choreographed.
This production, like many others, has been challenged by the coronavirus pandemic — three of the cast members have been out in recent days. And the pandemic took a toll in other ways, as well. “It affected us an extraordinary amount, including the delay of almost two years coming out of the Public, so the momentum we had had dissipated,” Nugent said.
In a joint interview, Nugent and Ron Simons, also a lead producer, attributed the closing to a number of factors, including not only the high volume of shows opening on Broadway this spring and the lingering effects of the pandemic, but also a delay in the announcement of Tony nominations, the presence of scaffolding around their theater, and misunderstandings about what their show is.
“There is a slight dampening effect for us because of the title — when you read ‘suicide,’ people think it’s going to be a somber play, and not enjoyable,” Simons said. “But it’s not just a play that deals with dark subjects. The show ends on a high note of celebration.”
Nugent and Simons said they were hopeful that, by announcing a closing date, audiences would now flock to the show, and said they were open to extending it if there were a sudden surge of interest. Absent that, they said, it would remain necessary to close the show, which was capitalized for $4.85 million. “The decision ultimately is based on economics,” Simons said.
“For Colored Girls” is the second Broadway show to announce an unplanned closing this spring because of weak sales. A stage adaptation of “The Little Prince,” which began previews March 29 and opened April 11, announced last week that it would close May 8.