Bailouts Over Broadway

Broadway shows are failing as Wall Street financing dries up, posing systemic risks to the economy of New York and cities across America. Maybe we need to bailout Broadway too.

John Crudele interviews a big shot Broadway producer about how the financial meltdown is hurting theatre.

Stewart Lane is one of the most successful theatre producers of our time – the winner of four Tonys, the industry’s highest honour.

His shows include “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” which is currently enjoying a long run at the Palace theatre, “The 39 Steps,” as well as recent revivals of “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Gypsy.”

He was scheduled to bring a new production of the rock musical “Godspell” back to Broadway this fall, but a little thing called money delayed those plans.

I sat down with Lane the other day to find out another way in which the financial crisis is affecting New York.

Stewart, what happened to “Godspell”?

Lane: A couple of the major investors in “Godspell” dropped out because they couldn’t get their pledges together. And they were Wall Street guys.

Lane goes on to predict that the spring theatre season will be thin, and that Broadway shows might have trouble getting funding for years. Now it might seem a stretch to think that the government should step in here and bailout the theatre, uhm, industry. But is it?

New York’s tourist economy is heavily dependent on Broadway. Shows bring in tourists from across America and from abroad. Hotels, restaurants, spas and taxis will all suffer if there are fewer shows on Broadway. The ripple effects of a theatre downturn, once unleashed, are hard to anticipate and could be even harder to control.

And the damage isn’t limited to New York. The travelling versions of Broadway shows add economic vitality to theatres, restaurants, saloons and other sectors of the economy in towns and cities all across America.

The theatre system is in danger. If only it had better lobbyists, maybe it too would get a bailout.

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