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Shows you won't see on Broadway come January

December 1, 2010 |  3:30 pm

Jackson Broadway has looked like a killing field in recent weeks as some high-profile shows have shut down prematurely or announced early closings. The unforgiving economics of the New York theater world -- a combination of exorbitant rents, ruthless competition and a public conditioned to expect big, celebrity-driven spectacles -- has made it increasingly difficult for smaller and edgier productions to find their audiences.

Recent closings include "Elling," starring Brendan Fraser, and "A Life in the Theatre," starring Patrick Stewart and T.R. Knight.

Producers can look forward to more carnage in January, which has traditionally been a month in which struggling shows throw in the towel. Here's a list of plays and musicals that you'll have to hurry to catch before they shut their doors on or before Jan. 31.

"Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" (closing Jan. 2): The experimental emo-rock musical began life in L.A. in 2008 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre before transferring to the Public Theater in New York. The Broadway version of the show is being produced by L.A.'s Center Theatre Group, the Public, and "Hair" producers Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel.

"The Scottsboro Boys" (closing Dec. 12): This edgy musical from John Kander and Fred Ebb sends up minstrelsy in offbeat and unconventional ways. It was produced at the off-Broadway Vineyard Theatre (as well as at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis) before moving uptown in October. The sensitive subject matter sparked some minor protests though they aren't believed to have hurt ticket sales. In his review, Times theater critic Charles McNulty questioned producers' decision to move the show to Broadway. "Theatergoers expecting Broadway sentimentality or documentary solemnity are in for some expensive cognitive dissonance," he wrote.

"La Bête" (closing Jan. 9): Not even the combined theatrical talent of Mark Rylance, David Hyde Pierce and Joanna Lumley could save this revival production from a relatively swift closing. David Hirson's 17th-century set farce was produced in London before jumping the pond to open in New York in October. The original 1991 Broadway production of the play also experienced a hasty demise, closing after just 25 regular performances.

"A Free Man of Color" (closing Jan. 9): John Guare's comedy about a free black man living in early 19th century New Orleans stars Jeffrey Wright and Mos Def. The play, which opened Nov. 18, has been struggling to find an audience and saw its attendance drop below the 50% capacity level in its most recent week. The production is a rare example of a play having its world premiere on Broadway without the benefit of an out-of-town tryout.

"Time Stands Still" (closing unknown): Laura Linney and the current cast will be leaving the production Jan. 30, but the show itself has not posted an official closing notice. Given the drama's rather lackluster attendance in recent weeks, an imminent closing date appears likely, unless producers find another high-profile star to fill Linney's shoes. Linney returned to her role in Donald Margulies' drama in October after starring in the original Broadway run from January to March. (The actress spent the intervening months working on screen projects.) The play, about a war photographer who was injured in Iraq and her journalist boyfriend, was produced at the Geffen Playhouse in 2009.

Other shows that are scheduled to close in January as part of their limited runs include "Elf," "Colin Quinn: Long Story Short," "The Pee-Wee Herman Show" and "The Merchant of Venice," starring Al Pacino.

Also closing in January are a number of longer-running musicals: "West Side Story," "Fela!," "Promises, Promises," "Next to Normal," "In the Heights" and "A Little Night Music."

-- David Ng

Photos: Benjamin Walker, in a scene from "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in New York. Credit: Joan Marcus / Associated Press

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