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Broadway shows closing in anticipation of Republican convention

| Monday, Aug. 9, 2004

NEW YORK -- Curtain up• Just barely.

Broadway is anticipating a glum couple of weeks at the box office, primarily because of the Republican National Convention followed by the Labor Day weekend, a traditionally slow time for shows.

And several productions won't even be around at the end of the month to greet the GOP.

"Caroline, or Change," the Tony Kushner-Jeanine Tesori musical, and "Frozen," Bryony Lavery's drama about a serial killer, announced Thursday they are closing before the convention starts. They join "Little Shop of Horrors," which said last week it would fold Aug. 22, the same day as "Frozen." "Caroline," which received six 2004 Tony nominations including one for best musical, ends its four-month run Aug. 29 without recouping its $6 million investment.

Chris Boneau, a spokesman for "The Lion King," whose touring company opened a lengthy run in Boston just before the start of the Democratic convention in late July, said: "Boston was a ghost town."

Yet the Disney musical did well there during convention week, Boneau says, primarily because the show was presold before the Boston convention dates were set.

Until now, summer business on Broadway has been good, particularly for such shows as "Avenue Q," "Wicked" and "The Boy From Oz," starring Hugh Jackman. "Oz" is grossing more than $1 million a week as the show heads toward a Sept. 12 closing, which is when Jackman's contract expires.

"The problem isn't so much filling the seats," says David Stone, a producer of "Wicked," another show which regularly grosses $1 million-plus each week. "We are concerned about performers and audiences getting to the theater on time in case midtown is jammed up."

The area around the site of the Republican convention -- near the theater district -- could be locked down for blocks, with major avenues closed and nearby residents and workers required to show identification,

"I think the only industry that is going to benefit will be hotels," says Pete Sanders, a spokesman for "Chicago" and "Wonderful Town." "Restaurants and bars will be down as well."

Yet Republican delegates will be going to see some shows, courtesy of the New York City Host Committee. On Aug. 29, the day before the convention opens, some 13,000 free tickets will be available for special performances to eight different shows including "The Phantom of the Opera," "The Lion King" and "42nd Street."

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