With the exception of The Producers' rascally Max Bialystock, no one sets out to put on a bad show. And so for that reason alone it was sad when the news came yesterday that The Pirate Queen, the Les Miz duo Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's step-dancing musical about a 16th century female pirate, has posted the notice that it will play its final performance on June 17. It's different when a movie disappears from the local cineplex because you know you can catch it later on DVD or pay-per-view. But once a Broadway show is gone, it's gone. Not even a revival can recreate the ephemeral pleasures, or agonies, of the original, although this season's slavishly copycat revivals of A Chorus Line and Les Miserables have certainly tried. That's why I wish more Broadway shows were recorded on DVD.
I know that archival copies are made but unless you’re an academic or have some connection to the business, it’s hard to get access to them. I suppose producers would argue that people might be less likely to shell out $100 bucks for a seat if they thought they could rent the same show from Blockbuster or Netflix and watch it at home just a few months later. So here's my compromise: there ought to be a special exemption for flops. The moment the closing notice goes up for a show that has played fewer than, say, 100 performances, the production should be taped and then sold to the public. It might be a way for the investors to recoup some cash and it would delight people like me. Because if you love Broadway musicals, then there's a special place in your heart for the ones that failed, especially the big, ambitious duds. That’s why every serious musical lover has read—and maybe reread—Ken Mandelbaum’s “Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops” and Steven Suskin’s “Second Act Trouble: Behind the Scenes at Broadway's Big Musical Bombs.” And who amongst us wouldn't now jump at the chance to see the original Carrie? Or Big Deal? Or Breakfast at Tiffany's? Or maybe a few years from now, The Pirate Queen?