Tony-Nominated Play by Florian Zeller Concludes on Broadway
On June 19, 2016, The Father played its final performance at Broadway’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. This play, which was a Manhattan Theater Club production, is written by the French playwright Florian Zeller, and originally premiered under the French title Le Père and won the Molière Award (the highest French theatrical honor) in 2014. The English language premiere took place in Bath, England at the Ustinov Studio, and then it transferred to the West End, where it played the Wyndham’s Theatre in the fall of 2015. The English language version is adapted by Christopher Hampton, who has made a name for himself as the preeminent translator of French theatrical works into English; his previous credits include Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage and Art, along with original writing such as Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Dracula, the Musical. Meanwhile, Florian Zeller made his Broadway debut with this play; the young, 30-something writer has become a fast phenomenon in his home country of France, where he is well-known not only as a playwright, but also as a novelist. His third novel, La Fascination du Pire (“Fascination of Evil”) was published in 2004, and won the prestigious Prix Interallié. The Broadway production was directed by Doug Hughes, whose previous credits include Outside Mullingar, The Big Knife, An Enemy of the People, and Born Yesterday.
One of the biggest attractions of The Father on Broadway was the lead actor, Frank Langella. Langella is well-known for his roles on both stage and screen. On Broadway, he has won four Tony Awards: two for Best Lead Actor – for Frost/Nixon and this play, The Father, and two for Best Featured Actor – for Seascape and Fortune’s Fool. While the play was also nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play, it lost to The Humans. However, Langella took home the 2016 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play. It was therefore very unfortunate that Langella was obligated to miss the final performance on June 19th due to illness. His understudy, Anthony Newfield, stepped in for the title role. The production offered full refunds to patrons who chose not to see the play without its star. Other cast members included Kathryn Erbe (A Month in the Country), Brian Avers (Rock ‘n’ Roll), Hannah Cabell (A Man for All Seasons), Charles Borland (A Man for All Seasons), and Kathleen McNenny (An Enemy of the People).
Box Office Failed to Rise to Profit Making Levels
Despite the awards recognition and name recognition of its star, The Father never performed very well at the box office. Over the course of its run, the average percentage reached of gross potential was 37.65%. With a top ticket price of $150 for most weeks, the average paid admission was $67.72 across the run. The audience was filled up to 75.55% on average. The highest weekly gross was reached in the last week of performances, when the show brought in $364,765 over 8 performances, which represents 49.29% of its gross potential. It was a difficult season for a straight play with an ambiguous title from a non-English speaking country in translation, without an A-list Hollywood star on the marquee. Fortunately the Manhattan Theatre Club could manage the loss better than a standalone commercial production could, given its subscriber base and ongoing season. The next play in the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre will be Heisenberg, written by Simon Stephens and directed by Mark Brokaw, starring Mary-Louise Parker and Denis Arndt, which will begin previews on September 20, 2016 ahead of an October 13, 2016 opening.