‘Paradise Square’ To End Broadway Run; Producer Garth Drabinsky Says Show Didn’t Catch On With “Ticket Buying Public”

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Paradise Square, the musical that marked producer Garth H. Drabinsky’s Broadway return and won its lead actress a Tony but failed to catch on at the box office, will conclude its run at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre with the July 17 Sunday matinee.

The closing notice was announced today, with the caveat “barring a dramatic upturn in business.”

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Such an upturn is unlikely: Even after star Joaquina Kalukango’s Tony win and her show-stealing performance of the song “Let It Burn” at the June 12 awards ceremony, the musical failed to ignite at the box office. For the week ending July 3, the Barrymore was filling little more than half of its seats, even at a modest average ticket price of $70.

“We wanted to give Paradise Square every chance to succeed,” Drabinsky said in a lengthy statement (read the entire message below) “but various challenges proved insurmountable. We endured two Covid shutdowns, including 13 days right after our opening night, which resulted in a crucial loss of marketing momentum. The show, produced after the start of the pandemic, was not eligible for SVOG funds and was without the benefit of indemnity as insurers would no longer cover new productions for losses due to Covid. Even with significant award recognition and the sensational performance delivered by Joaquina Kalukango and our cast on the Tony Awards broadcast, we only saw a modest bump at the box office.”

With a book by Christina Anderson, Craig Lucas and Larry Kirwan, Paradise Square featured music by Jason Howland, lyrics by Nathan Tysen and Masi Asare, with additional music by Larry Kirwan, inspired in part by the songs of Stephen Foster. The musical was set during New York City’s Civil War-era draft riots, chronicling the conflict between Irish Americans and Black Americans in the city.

Directed by Moisés Kaufman and choreographed by Bill T. Jones, the production was nominated for 10 Tony Awards including Best Musical, with star Kalukango receiving the Tony for Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical.

Here is Drabinsky’s statement in whole:

I am enormously proud of the work of our prodigiously talented cast who are committed to the story they tell at every performance, and our extraordinary creative team who collaborated brilliantly to bring the world of Paradise Square to life. I am also thankful for the show’s devoted fans, and the numerous influential voices who have enthusiastically supported us at the theatre and on social media, including Oprah Winfrey, Ben Vereen, Gloria Steinem, Cynthia Erivo, Phylicia Rashad and Danielle Brooks, among many others.

We wanted to give Paradise Square every chance to succeed, but various challenges proved insurmountable. We endured two COVID shutdowns, including 13 days right after our opening night, which resulted in a crucial loss of marketing momentum. The show, produced after the start of the pandemic, was not eligible for SVOG funds and was without the benefit of indemnity as insurers would no longer cover new productions for losses due to COVID. Even with significant award recognition and the sensational performance delivered by Joaquina Kalukango and our cast on the Tony Awards broadcast, we only saw a modest bump at the box office.

For these many months, we have watched audience reaction and have read on social media how much Paradise Square has touched them, but we just have not caught on with the general ticket buying public as we had hoped and expected. I thank our investors and co-producers who stood by the show during one of the most difficult times for Broadway in decades. I fervently hope audiences will take the opportunity to see and support Paradise Square in its final performances on Broadway.

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