x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Footnotes: Enron musical fails to wow the US

Enron the Musical has closed on Broadway after only 15 performances.

Cast members of Enron on stage at the Noel Coward Theatre in London.
Cast members of Enron on stage at the Noel Coward Theatre in London.

As disasters go, it isn't a patch on that which befell the multi-billion dollar Texan energy company Enron when it collapsed in 2001 amid reports of accounting fraud; but it is nonetheless ironic that Enron the musical, which transferred to Broadway from the West End last month following rave reviews in London, has closed after only 15 performances and 22 previews with reported losses of up to $4 million (Dh 14.7 million).

Written by the 29-year-old British playwright Lucy Prebble, the production, which takes a satirical view of American capitalism, tells the story of the company's meteoric rise and spectacular fall in a flashy vaudevillian style. The Brits lapped it up in a series of sell-out performances. But the home audience was not quite so quick to fall under its spell, especially after The New York Times theatre critic Ben Brantley described it as a "flashy but laboured economics lesson". Amid the furore of Goldman Sachs, this nearly decade-old tale of financial mismanagement seemed outdated. And then of course there was the unexploded car bomb near Times Square last weekend, which can't have helped audience numbers. Michael Billington, in The Guardian's theatre blog, surmises that American audiences simply don't "get" non-realist theatre.

Either way, the death knell sounded when Enron was denied any major nominations at the Tony Awards last week. That old adage that the Americans and British have only their language in common appeared truer than ever when the final curtain came down on the show last night.