“On Your Feet!” Musical Begins Previews on Broadway

The Story of Gloria Estefan and Emilio Estefan

on your feetThis past week, On Your Feet! began previews at the Marquis Theatre. It will officially open on November 5, 2015. The entire title of this musical is actually On Your Feet! – The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan. The musical first premiered at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago this past summer, from June to July 2015. The pre-Broadway tryout was a success, and the musical transferred to Broadway just a few months later. The book is written by Alexander Dinelaris, who is making his Broadway debut with this piece, but whose other credits include the screenplay for the film Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), which won the Academy Award this past year for Best Screenplay. His theatre credits include the plays Zanna, Don’t!, Red Dog Howls, Still Life, and The Chaos Theories. If the book writer is a newbie, the musical’s director is the exact opposite. On Your Feet! is directed by Jerry Mitchell, who directed and choreographed the musicals Kinky Boots and Legally Blonde the Musical, and who also served as choreographer on Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, La Cage aux Folles, Never Gonna Dance, Imaginary Friends, Hairspray, and The Rocky Horror Show, among others. Despite Mitchell’s choreography experience, On Your Feet! is choreographed by Sergio Trujillo, who also choreographed Hands on a Hardbody, Leap of Faith, The Addams Family, Memphis, and Jersey Boys.

Ana Villafañe Makes Her Broadway Debut as Gloria Estefanon your feet

Many of the actors in On Your Feet! are making their Broadway debuts, but most notably is the star Ana Villafañe, who plays the lead role of Gloria Estefan. Looking very similar to her, Villafañe is a Cuban American actress who even attended the same high school as Gloria Estefan in Miami, Florida. She was found through an open casting call, and by the third audition she was performing in front of Jerry Mitchell. The story as penned by Alex Dinelaris centers on the point at which Gloria suffered a spinal injury during a tour bus accident in 1990. The musical begins at this moment and then flashes back, taking us through her career. In addition, her husband Emilio Estefan is equally represented, from being her first boyfriend to her husband to her champion and music producer. (Emilio is played by Josh Segarra, whose one other Broadway credit is Lysistrata Jones). In that this story includes both that of Emilio and Gloria, the plot touches on the business side as well as what you see on stage. In that way, it can be compared both to the musicals Motown and Beautiful.

Sappy Sweet, Familiar Bio Musical

Following the Chicago trial run, the press was quite enthusiastic. They remarked that the show was a bit on the sappy side, as it was difficult to compelling dramatize the existence of a woman who, apart from the injury she suffered in 1990, has lived a very charmed life. However, the show is reportedly exactly what the built in fanbase will be expecting: a delightful bio musical structured like a TV-movie but with a heavy dose of live performance and enchanting songs that do what the title of the musical says it will: make you get up “on your feet.”

A.R. Gurney’s “Sylvia” Begins Broadway Previews

Starring Matthew Broderick and Annaleigh Ashford

sylvia On October 2, 2015, Sylvia began previews at the Cort Theatre. It will officially open on October 27, 2015. This is the first Broadway production of the play, which originally premiered Off Broadway in 1995 at the Manhattan Theatre Club Stage I. At that time, the role of Sylvia, who by the way is a dog, was played by Sarah Jessica Parker, and the role of the man and his wife who adopt her were played by Blythe Danner and Charles Kimbrough. This Broadway premiere stars Sarah Jessica Parker’s husband, two-time Tony Award winner Matthew Broderick, as Greg, the man whose life is forever changed by a talking canine. Broderick was last seen on annaleigh ashfordBroadway in last season’s It’s Only a Play, and previously in the 2012 to 2013 production of the musical Nice Work If You Can Get It. The canine, Sylvia, is played by Annaleigh Ashford, who took home a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play last season for her role in You Can’t Take It With You, and who was also nominated for the 2013 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for that year’s Best Musical Kinky Boots. All in all, she is well known for her comedic excellence and contagious smile, and she is sure to provide great wonder in the role of the dog, Sylvia. The role of Kate, Greg’s wife, is played by Julie White, who was most recently nominated for a Tony Award in 2015 for her role in Airline Highway. Additional roles are played by Robert Sella.

A.R. Gurney and Daniel Sullivan

matthew broderickA.R. Gurney had another one of his plays on Broadway only last season, when his Love Letters starred a rotating cast of huge names including Alan Alda, Candice Bergen, Anjelica Huston, Stacy Keach, Diana Rigg, Martin Sheen, Mia Farrow, Brian Dennehy, and Carol Burnett. However, that production was a financial failure despite the talent involved, closing early after just 101 performances and cancelling the final planned cast pairing. Love Letters also played Broadway in 1989 to 1990 with a similar strategy of rotating big names reading the letters, rather than reciting the lines memorized, for short stints across the run. However, that production was a greater success. In addition, Gurney has had two other productions on Broadway: a production of Sweet Sue in 1987, and one of The Golden Age in 1984. Nevertheless, he is a very prolific writer who has written over 45 plays, with productions all over the world. The director, Daniel Sullivan, is also a veteran on Broadway. His first Broadway directing credit was in 1972 with the play Narrow Road to the Deep North. While also a performer in his early days, he focused primarily on directing by 1985, when he directing other plays including I’m Not Rappaport, The Heidi Chronicles, Conversations with my Father, An American Daughter, and more recently, The Country House, The Snow Geese, Orphans, and Glengarry Glen Ross. He also served as the Executive Producer of Manhattan Theatre Club for a time.

A New York Story

Sylvia is set in Manhattan in the 1990s. When Greg finds a dog, Sylvia, in Central Park, he takes her back home to his apartment shared with his wife, Kate. Kate is immediately opposed to the dog’s presence, but Greg and Sylvia have formed a quick bond. As the rivalry between the dog and the wife intensifies, it becomes clear that Greg will need to choose between them. In the end, the dog helps bring Greg and Kate closer together in a heart warming story that sheds light on modern relationships.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 10/04/2015

This week’s notable movements on Broadway are:

Two New Shows: “Thérèse Raquin” and “Sylvia”

In the week ending October 4, 2015, two new shows began previews on Broadway. Thérèse Raquin, starring Keira Knightley in her Broadway debut at Studio 54, brought in $227,826 across the five performances in its first partial week of previews. This represents 43.13% of the show’s gross potential, which was $528,826 over the five performances. The average paid admission was $68.52, and the average audience capacity was 65.3%. This demonstrates that audiences will need to get warmed up to the concept of this stage adaptation of an Émile Zola novel, set in 1868 France. With a name that is difficult to pronounce for American audiences, the A-list Hollywood name of Keira Knightley may not be enough to persuade ticket buyers to show up in hoards. Instead, the show’s success may be dependent on the reviews it receives after opening on October 29, 2015. Furthermore, another show began previews this past week: the A.R. Gurney play Sylvia, which stars Matthew Broderick, Annaleigh Ashford, Robert Sella, and Julie White. In its first two performances, the show brought in $124,200, which represents 52.03% of the show’s gross potential. This is the first Broadway production of this play, though A.R. Gurney had a production of his show Love Letters last season, which did not fare very well financially despite a slew of Hollywood names involved. Nevertheless, it is too early to determine the fate of Sylvia. In its first two previews, the average paid admission was $81.12, and the average audience capacity was 71.5%.

Broadway Fall Season Underway and Grosses on the Upswing

As more and more new shows are beginning previews, the entire Broadway industry is starting to settle into its fall gear. As the weather turns a bit cooler, audiences are less eager to spend those last few sunny hours of the summer, and Broadway becomes a more attractive option. In the week ending October 4, 2015, the entire industry saw an increase of $846,108 across the 28 shows currently running. Of these, only 9 saw a decrease in ticket sales while the remaining 19 saw an increase in ticket sales from the week before. The biggest decrease was only five digits: Hamilton with a negligible decrease of $86,279, bringing it to a weekly gross of $1,481,172, which still represents 110.95% of the musical’s gross potential. Other than the two new shows, the biggest increase was seen by The Lion King, which went up by $133,837 to reach the weekly gross of $1,892,393, representing 101.55% of the show’s gross potential. Other decreases were seen by Jersey Boys which went down by $49,956, Kinky Boots which went down by $28,035, The King and I which went down by $14,029, and Finding Neverland which went down by $10,348. All the other shows either decreased by four digits or less, or increased by five digits or less. Therefore, the overall industry stayed fairly constant this week, with a slight bend towards an improvement in ticket sales. As more shows hit the stages, this trend will hopefully continue upwards to stabilize at a healthy Broadway fall season.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending October 4, 2015:broadway show ticket analysis 10-4-15

Show Name GrossGross TotalAttn  %Capacity  AvgPdAdm
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $488,848 5,745 79.18% $85.09
ALADDIN $1,365,965 13,494 97.67% $101.23
AMAZING GRACE $286,205 4,643 49.95% $61.64
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS $1,351,218 12,597 93.78% $107.27
BEAUTIFUL $1,047,532 8,052 98.10% $130.10
CHICAGO $647,941 7,848 90.83% $82.56
DAMES AT SEA $229,783 4,245 91.02% $54.13
FINDING NEVERLAND $724,795 8,530 70.89% $84.97
FOOL FOR LOVE $236,855 4,725 92.43% $50.13
FUN HOME $747,651 5,880 99.32% $127.15
HAMILTON $1,481,172 10,705 101.30% $138.36
HAND TO GOD $238,075 3,371 54.58% $70.62
JERSEY BOYS $600,079 6,289 64.02% $95.42
KINKY BOOTS $873,788 9,009 79.08% $96.99
LES MISÉRABLES $671,289 8,080 71.68% $83.08
MATILDA $662,128 8,175 71.36% $80.99
OLD TIMES $344,384 5,358 90.51% $64.27
SOMETHING ROTTEN! $915,993 9,769 79.05% $93.77
SPRING AWAKENING $402,258 5,425 66.09% $74.15
SYLVIA $124,200 1,531 71.48% $81.12
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,489,412 8,752 102.63% $170.18
THE GIN GAME $351,748 5,026 89.53% $69.99
THE KING AND I $868,414 6,814 81.35% $127.45
THE LION KING $1,892,393 13,569 100.01% $139.46
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $857,083 10,209 79.51% $83.95
THÉRÈSE RAQUIN $227,826 3,325 65.26% $68.52
WICKED $1,454,570 12,969 89.71% $112.16
Totals $21,226,520 210,902 82.26% $93.93

Broadway ticket sales raw data are provided courtesy of The Broadway League All other data, text, opinion, charts and commentary are copyright © 2015 nytix.com

Saturday Night Live Season Opens with Guest Hillary Clinton

Miley Cyrus Hosts Hilarious Season Premiere Episode

miley cyrus snlOn Saturday night, October 3, 2015, the forty-first season of Saturday Night Live debuted on NBC. This comedy sketch series has been running since its premiere in October 1975, originally created by Lorne Michaels and Dick Ebersol. Lorne Michaels still runs the show today, having only taken a brief hiatus from 1980 to 1985. The season is directed by Don Roy King, as it has been since 2006. In the debut episode, the host and musical guest was Miley Cyrus, the 22 year-old Disney teen idol turned avant garde, irreverent pop star. Miley was hilarious in her comedic performances, introducing the show with her husky confident voice. She also performed three musical numbers, all slow paced and accentuated by extravagant costumes. For instance, for one number she wore a gigantic blond wig of dread locks, and her mic stand was also dressed in the same hair. In another number, she played the grand piano which was dressed in as outrageous an outfit as she was. She opened the show making a self-congratulatory remark about her short-term memory problems due to drug use, fulfilling her own reputation as a wild child. However, overall she came off as ebullient and exceedingly happy, fitting right in among the comedic experts in the scenes, and performing her songs with gusto.

A Political Emphasis with Guest Appearance by Hillary Clintonhillary clinton snl

The show opened with an SNL performer playing Donald Trump, and another playing his wife Melania. They poked fun at many of Trump’s ridiculous behaviors, including his attitude towards women, his stance on immigration, and his success in the polls due to extreme statements. However, the main political guest of the evening was certainly Hillary Clinton. SNL took no pains to hide the fact that they support the candidate and believe she has an exceedingly good chance of winning the presidency. On the other hand, they made fun of all the Republican candidates through a spoof commercial on a pharmaceutical drug that gives the Republicans a dose of reality, allowing them to realize they were crazy to think they could ever be president. In Hillary’s cameo, the camera begins solely on her doppleganger, SNL regular Kate McKinnon who has been playing Hillary for a long time. Previously, Amy Poehler portrayed Hillary in a more sympathetic way. Nevertheless, the interaction between McKinnon and Clinton was more than congenial; it rang of true friendship and mutual appreciation. In the scene, McKinnon plays Clinton at a bar ready for a stiff drink. When the bartender turns around, she is none other than Hillary Clinton herself. The material barely entered controversial territory, as Clinton’s media team must have had approval over the script. Rather, the scene succeeded in portraying Clinton as very human and with a great sense of humor, at a time when her public image needs it.

Ratings at a High; Future Episodes Hosted by Amy Schumer and Tracy Morgan

For the first episode of the forty-first season, ratings were up by 13% from the premiere episode of the fortieth season one year ago, which featured Chris Pratt and Ariana Grande. This is the highest rating for an episode of SNL since last January. As for the show’s key demographic, adults aged 18 to 49, the ratings were just slightly down from last year’s premiere. Next week’s episode will be hosted by Amy Schumer, who is having an amazing year between her feature film Trainwreck and her successful Comedy Central show Inside Amy Schumer. The week after that will be hosted by Tracy Morgan, formerly of the television show 30 Rock. These comedians are sure to draw further ratings boosts, as the show makes efforts to maintain their audience through a more attractive timeslot, a more racially diverse cast, and a continually hilarious way of keeping their finger on the pulse of current and political events.

“Thérèse Raquin” Begins Previews on Broadway

Roundabout Theatre Company Production Starring Keira Knightley

therese raquinOn October 1, 2015, Thérèse Raquin began previews at Studio 54, one of the Roundabout Theatre Company’s two Broadway venues. This is a new adaptation of the play written by Helen Edmundson, based off of Émile Zola’s 1867 novel and subsequent play of the same name. Many stage and screen adaptations have been written of this work since that time, but this new production is of an adaptation commissioned directly by Roundabout Theatre Company. Helen Edmundson has previously had one production on Broadway of a play she adapted from a book; that was the 2007 production of Coram Boy. The show is directed by Evan Cabnet, who has directed many Off Broadway shows to great acclaim and previously directed The Performers on Broadway in 2012. Thérèse Raquin deals with a young woman named Thérèse, played by Keira Knightley, who is stuck in a loveless marriage to a man named Camille Raquin, played by Gabriel Ebert who won a Tony Award for his performance in Matilda the Musical. Her mother-in-law, Madame Raquin, is played by Tony Award winner Judith Light. When she meets her husband’s childhood friend Laurent, played by Matt Ryan, a craze of passion overwhelms her.

Keira Knightley’s Broadway Debuttherese raquin

There is much anticipation for the Broadway debut of Keira Knightley, who is very well known for her screen performances in such works as the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, for which she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, the highly acclaimed 2007 film Atonement, and more recently the 2015 film The Imitation Game for which she also received an Academy Award nomination, but this time for Best Supporting Actress. Her recognizable screen credits are in fact too many to list, and yet she has also had her stage outings, though not on Broadway until now. In 2009, she played Jennifer in the West End production of The Misanthrope, for which she was nominated for the Olivier Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role. In 2011, she returned to the West End to star in The Children’s Hour by Lillian Hellman, where she played opposite Elisabeth Moss as school mistresses falsely accused of being in a lesbian relationship in the 1930s. Thérèse Raquin is therefore her third professional stage performance on this major scale. Nevertheless, this production demonstrates Knightley’s genuine interest in classical works, not just in glitzy Hollywood roles, as she plays alongside tried and true theatre names such as Gabriel Ebert and Judith Light.

The Exploration of a Group of Caged Animals

Keira Knightley has said that this play is about a bunch of caged animals. In fact, the story of Thérèse Raquin has historically been understood in this way. In his novel, Zola refers to both Thérèse and Laurent as “human brutes,” and there are also references to the “mechanical man,” who acts in an unthinking way, even lesser than an animal but closer to a machine. Thérèse owns a shop that is compared to a tomb, and she watches corpses walk by her each day. All in all, this is a study of the temperaments of those forced to remain in captivity, and it is fascinating to see how passion springs forth so strongly after a period of repression.

“Spring Awakening” Opens at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre

Profoundly Reconceived Revival of Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater Musical

spring awakeningFollowing 23 preview performances, the Deaf West Theatre production of Spring Awakening officially opened this past week at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. The musical, which has a book and lyrics by Steven Sater and a score by Duncan Sheik, and is based on a play by Frank Wedekind, premiered on Broadway not too long ago, in 2006, and closed in 2009. Though this may seem very soon for the revival of a recently new musical, this radically reconceived production, with its excellent reception from critics, has proven completely justified and not at all whiplash inducing. In a co-production with Deaf West Theatre, which premiered this production in Los Angeles in September 2014, the Broadway revival incorporates a delightful blend of techniques used by this theatre company in the past, most notably in the 2003 production of Big River which came to Broadway and was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Musical. Like that show, this production of Spring Awakening utilizes both hearing and non-hearing actors, some of them doubling up for the same roles with one performer speaking in American sign language, and one performer shadowing them, singing and speaking out loud the lines and songs. In the case of the female lead role of Wendla Bergmann, the hearing actor (Katie Boeck) also shadows the non-hearing actor (Sandra Mae Frank) with a guitar.

Excellent Reception from Critics Far and Widespring awakening

Charles Isherwood of The New York Times found this revival to be thrillingly inventive, beautifully performed like a symphony with the various sensory stimulations including American sign language, singing, dancing, speaking, and English translations being scribbled on the wall for the lines that are only signed. He says this sensory overload is what musicals do best, and in this case it just requires you to direct your attention in a different way. Jeremy Gerard of Deadline also loved the show, calling it transfixing and intoxicating, and deeming that it heightens the adolescent extremes of loneliness and kinship through this clever incorporation of deaf actors. Mark Kennedy from the Associated Press found the show to be electrifying and elegant, adding new depth to a show that already deals with the themes of the difficulty to communicate. Matt Windman of AM New York admits that it may seem a bit soon to bring back Spring Awakening to Broadway, as it only closed seven years ago, but he agrees with his colleagues that the inspired nature of this production warranted a Broadway run. Robert Kahn of NBC New York also relished in the production, recalling that Lea Michelle and Jonathan Groff got the start to their careers in the original version of the show.

Box Office Hasn’t Yet Caught Up With Critical Reception

In its three full weeks of previews that have been reported thus far, Spring Awakening has not made a large percentage of its gross potential at the box office. In the first week of previews, the week ending September 13, 2015, the show brought in $448,879, which represents 44.73% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of $247.00, the average paid admission was $65.99, bringing it to an average audience capacity of 82.9%. In the second week, the show demonstrated a slight increase, bringing in $473,074, which represents 47.14% of its gross potential. That week, the average paid admission went up slightly to $70.52, but the average audience capacity when down even more slightly to 81.7%. In the last reported week of performances, the week ending September 27, 2015, the show brought in even less, $375,985, which represents just 37.46% of its gross potential. However, that could be attributed to the complimentary tickets given to press outlets in the final week of previews leading up to opening, and hopefully with such positive reception, interest with catch on and these numbers may be going up in coming weeks. If not, that is proof that even if it’s not too soon for a revival in terms of creative inspiration, that audiences may not be hungry enough yet for another run of Spring Awakening so soon.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 9/27/2015

This week’s notable movements on Broadway are:

Two New Shows: “The Gin Game” and “Dames at Sea”

In the week ending September 27, 2015, two new shows began previews on Broadway. The first, The Gin Game, started previews on September 23, 2015 and played 6 performances in its first week. Starring Cicely Tyson and James Earl Jones, this two hander by D.L. Coburn was directed by Leonard Foglia. In its first partial week, the show brought in $321,538, which represents 53.98% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of $223.00, the average paid admission was $68.40, and the average audience capacity was 97.7%. This demonstrates a fair amount of discounting, and also the first preview performance is often fully or mostly given away as complimentary tickets to friends of the production. Therefore, the first week of previews is often skewed, and this may account for the lower average gross across the preview performances. As for Dames at Sea, this show began previews on September 24, 2015, and played five shows in the first week. A lesser known show and starring lesser name actors, Dames at Sea brought in only $144,944, which represents 39.44% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of an ambitious $277.00, the average paid admission was $56.11. The average audience capacity was 88.6%, showing less overall interest even with significant discounting. Of a potential 2,915 seats to sell over the partial week, the production sold 2,583.

An Overall Slump Week for Broadway

In comparison to the previous week, the week ending September 27, 2015 saw an overall decrease of $1,349,637 across the 26 shows currently running. Other than the two shows that began previews this week, as well as Old Times and Fool for Love which played their first full weeks of eight performances this week, there were only three shows that demonstrated an increase in ticket sales this week. Those were Hamilton with an increase of $22,105, Beautiful with an increase of $20,859, and The Book of Mormon with an increase of $11,419. All of these were modest increases. Otherwise, all the presently running shows saw a decrease in sales. The biggest decrease was seen by Les Miserables, which went down by $161,507, bringing in a weekly gross of $675,925. Finding Neverland also had a significant decrease of $145,952, bringing in a weekly gross of $735,143. Wicked went down by $144,379 to reach a weekly gross of $1,426,156, and Something Rotten! went down by $142,840 to reach a weekly gross of $837,128. Two British shows also saw six figure decreases, with Matilda going down by $141,565, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time going down by $138,402. Further six figure decreases were seen by Jersey Boys with a decrease of $128,332, Chicago with a decrease of $122,946, The King and I with a decrease of $121,833, The Phantom of the Opera with a decrease of $109,682, and Aladdin with a decrease of $102,846. The reason for this slump is not exactly clear, but may be attributed to the fact that the fall season is still just gearing up, and many of the new shows have not begun previews yet. On the other hand, many New Yorkers are preoccupied with the start of the school year and other fall activities.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending September 27, 2015:Broadway-Show-Ticket-Analysis-09-27-15

Show Name GrossGross TotalAttn  %Capacity  AvgPdAdm
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $485,184 6,330 87.24% $76.65
ALADDIN $1,347,833 13,491 97.65% $99.91
AMAZING GRACE $256,284 4,240 45.61% $60.44
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS $1,301,184 12,055 89.75% $107.94
BEAUTIFUL $1,042,972 8,208 100.00% $127.07
CHICAGO $601,777 7,267 84.11% $82.81
DAMES AT SEA $144,944 2,583 88.61% $56.11
FINDING NEVERLAND $735,143 9,201 76.47% $79.90
FOOL FOR LOVE $239,768 4,022 78.68% $59.61
FUN HOME $703,265 5,980 101.01% $117.60
HAMILTON $1,567,451 10,712 101.36% $146.33
HAND TO GOD $205,062 2,821 45.68% $72.69
JERSEY BOYS $650,035 6,802 69.24% $95.57
KINKY BOOTS $901,823 9,336 81.95% $96.60
LES MISÉRABLES $675,925 7,913 70.20% $85.42
MATILDA $624,478 8,046 70.23% $77.61
OLD TIMES $358,413 4,976 84.05% $72.03
SOMETHING ROTTEN! $837,128 9,542 79.31% $87.73
SPRING AWAKENING $375,985 7,204 87.77% $52.19
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,489,769 8,733 102.40% $170.59
THE GIN GAME $321,528 4,701 97.69% $68.40
THE KING AND I $886,004 7,643 91.25% $115.92
THE LION KING $1,758,556 13,570 100.01% $129.59
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $850,070 10,001 77.89% $85.00
WICKED $1,426,156 13,083 90.50% $109.01
Totals $20,380,414 204,904 83.76% $93.26

Broadway ticket sales raw data are provided courtesy of The Broadway League All other data, text, opinion, charts and commentary are copyright © 2015 nytix.com

Trevor Noah Debuts As New Host of “The Daily Show”

South African Comedian Fairly Successful in Continuing Jon Stewart’s Legacy

trevor noahOn Monday night, September 28, 2015, Trevor Noah premiered his first episode as host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central. Taking over from universally beloved Jon Stewart, who had held the position for over 15 years, Trevor Noah had gigantic shoes to fill. There has been much anticipation over whether Noah would succeed as Stewart’s successor, and this cannot be completely discerned from the first episode. Still, his debut was largely positive, and most reviewers have high hopes for what is to come. Since Stewart’s last show on August 6, 2015, the month and a half hiatus has allowed fans far and wide to speculate on the merits of the network’s choice of Noah as the following host. Stewart established a very specific tone for The Daily Show, which Trevor Noah is adept at continuing. Still, credit is not completely due to Noah alone, as the machine of The Daily Show writers has remained largely intact, which is very skilled at digesting the daily news from around the world and coming up with comedic commentary to distill into the show’s segments. As an example of the machine’s ability to function independent of the host in the seat, when Jon Stewart took off time to direct a feature film, Rosewater, John Oliver took over and was able to continue unscathed. It was only when Oliver debuted his own HBO show Last Week Tonight that his own voice became distinct and separate from The Daily Show tone.

Reverence, No Fear of Racial Comedy, and Bafflement with Americatrevor noah

Though Trevor Noah largely continued Jon Stewart’s format and political material, there were some distinct differences. First of all, Noah was reverent towards Stewart as his predecessor. In the opening, he paid tribute to his mentor with almost too much sincerity for a comedy show, but then lightened the move with a very funny joke: he said that it’s like Jon Stewart was the father of late night television, and now there’s a new stepfather. “And he’s black, which is not ideal.” This joke went over very well, and also shows that Trevor Noah, as a South African born man and one of only two non-white late night hosts (the other being Larry Wilmore, formerly of The Daily Show staff), he is not afraid to address the topic of race in a comedic way. This was often a criticism of Stewart’s tenure, that he shied away from addressing racial topics head-on. However, as a black man, Noah can do so with less controversy. Another unique aspect of Noah’s demographic is his international background; he was born in South Africa. This makes him one of only two late night hosts who was not born in the United States, the other being the previously mentioned John Oliver, now with his own show Last Week Tonight, who is also formerly of The Daily Show staff. This will allow Noah to bring a global awareness to the American television watching public that is not often seen. One joke he made was that when he was a little boy in South Africa, there were two things he never expected: one was to have an indoor toilet, and the other was to be a host of The Daily Show, and that he is now very comfortable with one of them. This also received a giant laugh.

His Legacy Remains to be Seen

With just one show under his belt, it remains to be seen exactly what type of Daily Show host Trevor Noah will turn out to be. In his interview with the actor Kevin Hart, Hart did most of the talking and Noah mostly laughed good naturedly. Still, he has plenty of time to come out of his shell. He made some jokes that might have caused Jon Stewart to cringe, such as a pun about AIDS and aides, and also a not very sensitive reference to Whitney Houston and drug use. Still, to be a successful host, he must not just give America what it wants, but also give us what we don’t know we need.

“Dames at Sea” Begins Previews on Broadway

The Musical That Launched Bernadette Peters’ Career

dames at seaDames at Sea played its first performance on Broadway on September 24, 2015 at the Helen Hayes Theatre. This musical had its world premiere in 1966 in an Off Off Broadway production starring Bernadette Peters, who would go on to receive seven Tony Award nominations and win two (for Song and Dance and Annie Get Your Gun). In 1968, the show transferred Off Broadway to Bouwerie Lane Theatre, followed by the Theater de Lys in 1969. For this production, Bernadette Peters took home the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical. In August of 1969, the musical then played in London’s Duchess Theatre, and Peters also starred in a regional production at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey in 1973. Still, despite all this success and notable beginnings as launching Bernadette Peters’ career, the show had not played on Broadway until this production. After beginning previews on September 24th, the show will officially open on October 22, 2015. The musical has book and lyrics by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller, with music by Jim Wise. This production is directed and choreographed by Randy Skinner.

A Meta Musical About a 1930s Broadway Showdames at sea

Though Dames at Sea had not played on Broadway until this year, it is actually a parody of a Broadway musical. Though originally premiering in the 1960s, the musical within the musical is set in the 1930s, parodying the style of movie musical made famous by Busby Berkeley, wherein a newly arrived chorus girl steps off the bus into New York City and becomes a Broadway star. The temperamental diva star is named Mona Kent, a wise-cracking chorus girl is named Joan, and the producer and director is named Hennesy. In this midst of the usual day to day, a new girl named Ruby arrives from Utah with nothing except for tap shoes in her luggage and a prayer in her heart. The moment she shows up, she faints in the arms of a young man named Dick, a sailor who aspires to be a song writer. Following that fiasco, Ruby is given a job in the chorus. Shortly thereafter, however, they are told that the theatre will be torn down and they will need to find another venue for the show. However, things go awry when they decide to rehearse the show on an actual ship. When the star Mona gets sea sick, Ruby is able to step into the lead part and finds the fame she was looking for all along.

An Excellent Cast and Creative Team

The lead part of Ruby the chorus girl turned star is played by Eloise Kropp, who has been on Broadway only once before, in the chorus of the recent revival of On the Town. The part of the original star Mona Kent is played by Lesli Margherita, a British star who has been on Broadway only once before as well, in Matilda the Musical as Mrs. Wormwood. The part of Dick is played by Cary Tedder, who has previously been seen in Honeymoon in Vegas, Big Fish, Memphis, and The Times They Are A-Changin’. The part of Hennesy and the Captain is played by John Bolton, whose previously shows include A Christmas Story the Musical, Curtains, Spamalot, Contact, Titanic, and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Other cast members include Mara Davi and Danny Gardner. The show has set design by Anna Louizos, costume design by David Woolard, lighting design by Ken Billington and Jason Kantrowitz, and sound design by Scott Lehrer.

“The Gin Game” Begins Previews on Broadway

A Great Two-Hander Revived at the John Golden Theatre

the gin gameOn September 23, 2015, The Gin Game began previews at the John Golden Theatre on Broadway. The official opening night will take place on October 14, 2015. Presently, the show is scheduled to run for a limited engagement that will close on January 10, 2016. This two-hander by D.L. Coburn had its world premiere in Los Angeles in September 1976, before transferring to Broadway in 1978. That year, it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play. In 1997, the play was revived on Broadway, and it was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play. The play has been adapted twice for television, once in 1981 starring Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy (who starred in the original Broadway production directed by Mike Nichols), and once in 2003 starring Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore. This 2015 Broadway revival is directed by Leonard Foglia, whose previous Broadway directorial credits include the 2011 Roundabout Theatre Company production of The People in the Picture, the 2008 play Thurgood, the 2005 production of On Golden Pond, the 1998 production of Wait Until Dark, the 1995 production of Master Class, and the 1989 production of The Heidi Chronicles.

James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson Star As Nursing Home Companionsthe gin game

The play has only two charcters: Weller Martin (played by James Earl Jones), and Fonsia Dorsey (played by Cicely Tyson). These individuals are elderly residents of a nursing home who do not have any friends, until they meet each other. They friendship takes the form of regular games of gin rummy, with Weller teaching Fonsia how to play. However, Fonsia always wins, and at a certain point it can no longer be chalked up to beginner’s luck. While Weller becoming more and more frustrated, Fonsia becomes more and more confident. The friendly games quickly become competitive, and the competition extends beyond the games of gin rummy, as they attempt to expose each other’s weaknesses and thoroughly humiliate one another – to the delight of the audience. James Earl Jones is one of America’s most versatile and distinguished actors. In addition to a well known career on screen in such films as Dr. Strangelove, The Great White Hope, Claudine, Coming to America, and the voice of Darth Vader in Star Wars, Jones has also appeared on Broadway on many occasions. His stage performances include such shows as You Can’t Take It With You, Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, Driving Miss Daisy, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, On Golden Pond, and Master Harold and the Boys. Cicely Tyson has had as distinguished of a career. Her Broadway roles include such shows as The Trip to Bountiful, for which she won the Tony Award for Best Actress, as well as The Corn is Green, Trumpets of the Lord, Carry Me Back to Morningside Heights, and A Hand Is on the Gate.

Reuniting Director and Actor from “On Golden Pond”

Leonard Foglia last directed James Earl Jones in the 2005 production of On Golden Pond, written by Ernest Thompson. At that time, Jones played opposite Leslie Uggams in an African American revival of the 1979 play. The play has some similarities to The Gin Game, as it also deals with an aging couple. In On Golden Pond, however, the couple is married and the drama arises when their daughter comes to visit them. In The Gin Game, the drama lies in the tension that arises between former strangers who live together by happenstance in a nursing home. Still, Leonard Foglia and James Earl Jones must have established a good rapport in their 2005 rendez-vous, and this production of The Gin Game will be all the tighter for the experience within the creative team.