The coronavirus pandemic has claimed yet another public performance, this time Disney’s Broadway production of “Frozen the Musical” at the St. James Theater. Disney Theatricals president Thomas Schumacher gave the Frozen cast the grim news last Thursday, making the $30 million musical the third and biggest theatrical demise caused by COVID-19 so far, and the first musical.
The two previous shows to shutter early were the plays Hangman and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, starring Laurie Metcalf and Rupert Everett. Those shows, however, were much smaller and had limited runs to start with.
Several other productions due to open this spring, such as the comedy Plaza Suite, starring Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, and the musical revival Caroline, or Change, have delayed their openings until 2021.
The closure comes in the wake of the Broadway League making the unfortunate, if inevitable, announcement that all Broadway shows would remain dark through at least Sept. 6 — depriving productions of summer tourist business and, vitally for Frozen, kids on summer break. Most insiders don’t expect that seats in Broadway theaters will be filled until winter at the earliest.
Frozen is a billion-dollar franchise for Disney, and while it was doing respectable business on Broadway, it wasn’t doing as well as the theatrical productions of The Lion King and Aladdin, and attendance often dipped dramatically during off-peak seasons. Having opened in March 2018, its run lasted just over two years. Disney is cagey about its finances, but Frozen most likely did not recoup its investment.
Plans are on for West End and European productions, however. Frozen is slated to reopen the newly renovated Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London in the fall, but insiders aren’t sanguine about opening the shows on time.