The Last Collaboration Between John Kander and Fred Ebb
On March 26, 2015, The Visit began previews at the Lyceum Theatre. This was the last collaboration by John Kander and Fred Ebb, who were also the creators of Chicago, Cabaret, and The Scottsboro Boys. Upon its official opening night on April 23, 2015, it received firmly mixed reviews, with some critics praising the musical but others being more on the fence. Like most musicals, the show began with an open-ended run, but it has now officially closed as of June 14, 2015. The musical was one of only four shows nominated for the Tony Award for Best Musical, along with the victorious Fun Home as well as An American in Paris and Something Rotten! However, nobody really expected The Visit to win that award, as the box office grosses were dire from the beginning, never reaching beyond $250,000 in a given week. The show was also nominated for the award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, honoring the 82 year-old Chita Rivera for her starring role. However, that award went to Kelli O’Hara for The King and I. Having won no Tony Awards, and performing poorly at the box office, the producers had no choice but to close this show, which had been on its last legs for a long time.
In the final week of its run, The Visit made its highest weekly gross of $274,465, which still only represented 35.99% of its gross potential. Its lowest week took place in the week ending May 31, 2015, when the show brought in only $149,032, representing 19.54% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of $225.00, the average paid admission each week fluctuated between $34.45 and $59.50. Therefore, even in its best week there was a heavy amount of discounting to fill seats so that those audience members who had paid full price, or anything at all, for their tickets would feel that they were getting a fuller experience. The highest percentage of audience capacity was reached in the show’s first partial week of five performances, when the audience was filled up to an average of 79.5%. Still, on most weeks the audience was only 50% to 60% full. All productions have an agreement with the theatre landlord called a “stop clause,” whereby the landlord has a right to evict the production if its weekly gross is below a certain specified amount for a certain number of weeks in a row. With such low numbers, it is possible that The Visit was dangerously close to, if not in violation of, its stop clause, and perhaps the Shubert Organization allowed the show to remain in reverence to Fred Ebb, John Kander, and Chita Rivera, awaiting the Tony Award results. However, when the show received no awards, there was nothing left to hope for.
A Future Beyond Broadway
Nevertheless, a Kander and Ebb musical is still a valuable property to own the rights to, even if the Broadway run was a disappointment. As memory fades, diehard theatre fans will continue to remember the piece, and the show will likely receive productions all over the country on a range of levels. Furthermore, the music will be used for theatre auditions and the scores will be sold in published form. There is still a way for the producers to continue to make some money on their investment. Still, it only made $1,963,656 throughout the entire run, which is certainly nowhere near its entire capitalization, especially when running costs are added to the mix. Therefore, the show will certainly go down in history as a financial loss, but not a complete failure due to its Tony Award nomination for Best Musical.
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