Over a dozen Broadway musicals and plays will close this month, and Charles Isherwood at the Times is getting a little verklempt about it. The number of productions bowing out amounts to almost half the total number of shows currently on Broadway! According to Crain's, box office grosses increased during the holiday season, but were still 10.6% less than the same time period in 2007.

The glut of closures is not entirely due to the lousy economy; productions like Spring Awakening and 13 surely would have continued if they were raking in the money, but other shows such as All My Sons were always scheduled for limited runs. Nine shows will close today alone, and Isherwood makes a strong (if somewhat sentimental) case for being in the audience when a production breathes its last: "Being present at the moment when a work of achieved art passes into history can be inordinately moving, a reminder that beauty itself is mostly an evanescent thing in life."

But don't despair! As Broadway's corpse grows ever cold and stiff, Off Broadway is pulsing with life this month. Returning to the Public Theater is the annual Under the Radar festival, arguably the most rewarding (not to mention affordable) gathering of avant-garde theater in New York. Equally exciting is P.S. 122's annual eight day COIL festival of daring new performance. Meanwhile, the month-long shopping spree of multidisciplinary performance that is Culturmart begins next week at HERE. And in DUMBO, lasting five days only, the delightful Labapalooza! mini-festival of new puppet theater kicks off Wednesday at St. Ann's Warehouse. Oh, and as the farcical Boeing Boeing flys away from Broadway, another airline-themed extravaganza called Wickets has turned 3LD Art and Technology Center into the interior of an airplane for a radical reinterpretation of Maria Irene Fornes’s Fefu and Her Friends.

Photo of Harvey Fierstein in the soon-to-close Broadway production of Hairspray courtesy Paul Kolnik.