Heathen!: A musical with book by Robert Helpmann and Eaton Magoon Jr and music and lyrics by Eaton Magoon Jr. The beliefs and needs of two eras in Hawaii — 1819 and 1972 — are compared, with strong similarities emerging. It ran for 6 Previews and 1 Performance on May 21, 1972 at the Billy Rose Theatre.
Cleavage: A musical with book, music, and lyrics by Buddy Sheffield. It centers around a variety of couples of different ages pursuing love. It ran for 6 Previews and 1 Performance at the Playhouse Theatre. It had a successful run in New Orleans, and the day after the lone Broadway performance, it received favorable reviews from the New York Times.
Ring Around the Bathtub: A play written by Jane Trahey about an Irish American family’s struggles during the Depression era in Chicago. It ran for 3 Previews and 1 Performance on April 29, 1972 at the Martin Beck Theatre. The original cast included Elizabeth Ashley and Carole Kane.
Rainbow Jones: A musical with book, music, and lyrics by Jill Williams about a lonely young woman creates an imaginary world of animal friends while waiting for the right human male to appear. It also ran for 3 Previews and 1 Performance on February 13, 1974 at the Music Box Theatre.
There are a number of shows that played to 7 Previews and 1 Performance. One of those being I Won’t Dance which was performed at the Helen Hayes Theatre on May 10, 1981. This is a play written by Oliver Hailey about a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair who celebrates the recent mysterious murder of his brother and sister-in-law in a diabolic manner. I point out this play because this is one of three plays written by Oliver Hailey that were cancelled on opening night.
To put these into context, there have been 36 Broadway shows cancelled after one performance. I picked the ones above because they had the fewest previews so therefore the fewest performances overall. A few of the one and done shows were revivals of successful original productions such as Take Me Along and The Ritz. And just because a show has a short run doesn’t mean they were not successful. Take the 1986 show Rags. It ran for 18 Previews and 4 Performances but was nominated for a Tony for Best Musical. The Lieutenant ran for 7 Previews and 9 Performances in 1975 and was also nominated for a Tony for Best Musical. And lastly, in 1953, Carnival in Flanders took home the award for Best Actress in a Musical (Dolores Gray) even though it ran for only 6 Performances. It still remains the shortest lived Tony honored performance ever.