“Amazing Grace” Continues Fight Against The Odds

A Tuner About the Origins of the Famous Gospel Song

amazing graceAmazing Grace began performances following the Tony Awards, thereby relinquishing its chance of competing for the biggest honors given to Broadway shows. However, it was more than the timing that has given Amazing Grace a difficult shot at succeeding on Broadway. Upon the show’s opening this month, it was reviewed negatively by all the major publications. Furthermore, its box office has been dire, with the show bringing in no more than 29% of its gross potential in any given week since the start of previews on June 25, 2015. With the July opening, the negative reviews demonstrate that word of mouth is not likely to give this show a boost in its financial figures. Amazing Grace was conceived over a long period of development by a Broadway newbie, Christopher Smith. Smith co-wrote the book along with Arthur Giron, and he also wrote the music and lyrics. A former cop, Christopher Smith came across the origin story of the famous gospel tune “Amazing Grace” and decided to craft it into a musical. As John Newton was a slave trader turned abolitionist, the story was found to be inspirational as well as connected to a familiar tune.

A String of Negative Reviews Upon Openingamazing grace

However, despite the potential for this show to make a big splash due to its name recognition and historical significance, it has flopped in terms of critical response. Charles Isherwood of The New York Times found the show to be an overstuffed history lesson combined with melodrama, although he admitted that the timing of the show was conveniently close to President Obama’s well recorded singing of “Amazing Grace” to the national public. David Cote from Time Out New York was equally dismayed by the production, as he bemoaned the fact that $16 million went to a poor imitation of Les Miserables, whereas that money should have partially gone to script doctors to fix the storyline. David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter was no more complimentary, though he admitted the show was sincere in its attempt to represent the true story of a repentant slave trader who wrote a famous hymn. Robert Kahn of NBC New York remarked that Christopher Smith was ambitious in his Broadway attempts, but did not appreciate how the song “Amazing Grace” did not appear until the end of the musical. Finally, Matt Windman of AM New York was astonished that this show made it to Broadway, deeming the entire construct of the story to be an unlikely prospect for this level of theatre production.

Poor Box Office to Match the Poor Reviews

In the last reported week of box office figures, Amazing Grace brought in $321,914, which represents 29.32% of the show’s gross potential. With a top ticket price of $197.00, the average paid admission was only $46.43, demonstrating a large amount of discounting. Still, this is the highest gross the show has brought in thus far. In its first week of previews, the weekly box office gross was $200,392, and the grosses have crept upwards each week since. Still, with such negative reviews, it is unlikely that Amazing Grace will be able to earn much higher grosses than it has been earning. Between the difficult summer season, where most theatregoers are tourists who prefer the big long-running musicals, and the negative response from theatre critics, this show is going to have a tough time sticking around even until the end of the summer season.

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Pawdesh Salawi

Pawdesh Salawi

Broadway Theatre Writer at New York Show Tickets Inc.
Pawdesh has been writing about Broadway ever since seeing her first show on the great white way in 2001. Now she sees over one hundred Broadway (and off-Broadway) shows a year. She is also a member of the Drama Desk and would love to vote on the Tony's one day. The Office Voted Her Most Likely To: Marry rich and divorce young