Final Performance July 5 at the Winter Garden Theatre
On March 20, 2015, Wolf Hall: Parts One and Two began previews at the Winter Garden Theatre. The two plays in repertory, written by Mike Poulton and based off of Hilary Mantel’s novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, respectively, officially opened on April 9, 2015 under the direction of Jeremy Herrin. The productions transferred to Broadway following a successful London run, where the plays had been named the same as the novels; the name simplification was instituted for American audiences. These very ambitious productions amounted to five and a half hours in total, and could be seen separately or together, on the same day or different days. The stories deal with the reign of King Henry VIII and his several wives, the first play dealing with the period from 1500 to 1535, and the second with the period that follows immediately after. A third novel, The Mirror and the Light, is planned to be published later this year, and that will deal with the period from 1536 to 1540, the last four years of Thomas Cromwell’s life. Playful Productions, the London-based theatre producers who staged the shows both in the United Kingdom and on Broadway, have announced their intention to develop the third novel into a play as well, and eventually to stage the trilogy all together. That will certainly happen in London, but whether the trilogy will make it to New York anytime soon remains to be seen. Wolf Hall Parts One and Two plays its final performances on Sunday, July 5, 2015, wrapping up a run that started very strong but has dwindled at the box office in recent weeks.
The double bill Wolf Hall Parts One and Two had a reported capitalization of $4.2 million. (In comparison, it had cost just under a million pounds to stage the plays in London.) Playful Productions, who also staged the very successful British play The Audience this same season, appeared to be going strong with these plays as well. Before the shows began previews, they had collected an advance of $6 million. Though this is larger than the initial capitalization, there are also weekly running costs to take into account, and so it’s a game of making enough each week to sustain those running costs in addition to making back the initial capitalization, before the shows can be operating in profits. In this case, Wolf Hall has not officially announced recoupment; The Audience, on the other hand, did so after only eight weeks. Unlike The Audience which starred Helen Mirren in a performance that won her a Tony Award as well as an Olivier and an Oscar, Wolf Hall had no major stars to speak of. Furthermore, the box office was burdened by the apprehension American audiences may have faced regarding the duration of the double bill, as well as the cost incurred to watch two productions in order to get the full story. Though Wolf Hall was nominated for eight Tony Awards including that for Best Play, it won only one: that for Best Costume Design of a Play for Christopher Oram.
A Final Push to Fill Seats
Though Wolf Hall was aided by the BBC mini-series starring Mark Rylance, as well as the novels, which helped spread the name recognition of the title, the plays had trouble keeping up in their final weeks. For this final weekend, made more difficult by the Independence Day holiday taking people out of town or to the beach, the producers even resorted to offering complimentary tickets on papering sites such as studentrush.org. This was in order to fill seats and give the illusion to paying audiences of a full house. In the last reported week of box office figures so far, the week ending June 28, 2015, the shows collectively brought in $515,472, which represents only 46.24% of its gross potential. This is in contrast to their top grossing week, the week ending March 29, 2015, wherein the shows earned $886,920, representing 64.38% of their gross potential.