Enron on Broadway: Maybe Lay, Skilling, and The Gang Will Have More Success on Stage…

A scene from the hit play "Enron" at the Noel Coward Theater in London.

Apparently not much has changed since Enron’s bankruptcy and fraud ridden collapse in 2002.  It’s eight years later and Enron is still spending loads of money on new ventures of uncertain profitability.  However, this time the organization will actually have to earn its revenues by pleasing consumers on Broadway.

The play titled Enron has been critically acclaimed in London for months and Jeffrey Richards, the lead producer, has decided to bring it to famed Broadway.  The play, which of course has no affiliation with the former energy corporate giant, will feature 22 actors and several musical numbers that tell the tale of the biggest corporate scandal in history.  The play should be far less dramatic than the actual scandal though, featuring many comical portrayals like the Lehman Brothers as Siamese-twins and three velociraptors as the lurking financial debt.

But will Americans be interested in this stage performance?  Enron may have recently gotten the publicity it needs to gain popularity on Broadway.  A new report was released in March that uncovered accounting tricks at Lehman Brothers that many news sources compared to Enron, bringing the far from forgotten organization back into the forefront of people’s minds.  Also, Richards believes that the play could “strike a contemporary chord with audiences” that have felt the financial hardships of the economic recession.  Furthermore, business focused plays have historically drawn bigger crowds than others.  Performances like Other People’s Money of the mid 1980s tend to bring in more male audience members and potentially more business groups.

So with Enron’s reputation in London and these possible strokes of luck, will Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, and the rest of the collapsed organization finally make some honest earnings on stage?  The popular producer Manny Azenburg says NO: “They are spending a lot of money on a serious work and doing it during tough economic times, so it’s a crapshoot”.   Producers have already spent $4 million on the play that will likely cost $300,000 a week to perform, making it one of Broadway’s most expensive plays ever.  With a budget like that, Enron would need about two months of sold out shows to turn a profit.

We will see if Ken Lay would’ve been better off trying his luck on Broadway on April 8th when the curtain raises and preview shows begin.  Whether the play becomes popular and profitable or not, the producers of Enron don’t plan to use any creative accounting to make their production profitable.

“Like all plays, we have an accountant, and it is not Arthur Andersen,” says Richards.

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One Response

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