British Import Enjoys Manhattan Theatre Club Presentation
On February 4, 2018, The Children will conclude its run at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, where it has been running in a Manhattan Theatre Club production since its first preview on November 28, 2017, followed by its opening night on December 12, 2017. At the time of closing, the show will have played a total of 78 performances, including previews. This play by English writer Lucy Kirkwood transferred to New York following a successful run at London’s Royal Court Theatre, in its original production with the British cast intact. This cast included just three actors: Francesca Annis as Rose, Ron Cook as Robin, and Deborah Findlay as Hazel. These three actors are not newbies to Broadway, but their careers have generally blossomed in the U.K. Specifically, Annis was previously on Broadway as Gertrude in the 1995 production of Hamlet, directed by Jonathan Kent as a transfer from the Almeida in London, and also as Ophelia in the 1969 production of Hamlet, directed by Tony Richardson. Beyond her Broadway credits, she has been nominated for six BAFTA TV Awards, winning in 1979 for Lillie. Her other screen credits including Dune, The Debt Collector, and Krull. Second, Cook’s has been on Broadway only one before, in another production of Hamlet, the 2009 Donmar Warehouse production directed by Michael Grandage, playing Polonius and the First Gravedigger. Cook’s film credits include The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, Quills, 102 Dalmatians, and Secrets & Lies. Third, Findlay has been on Broadway Stanley (1997), and her screen credits include the TV series The Last Train, The Armstrong and Miller Show, Children of Earth, and State of Play. The production was directed by James MacDonald, who previously directed the Broadway production of Top Girls, also a British import.
Upon the show’s opening, it garnered very positive reviews from some critics, with a few mixed and negative reviews as well. The New York Times deemed it a Critics’ Pick, calling it “completely successful as an eco-thriller,” and complimenting the play’s “clever construction.” Entertainment Weekly also loved the show as “appropriately post-apocalyptic,” and the New York Daily News complimented it as a “slow-moving but ultimately thought-provoking and haunting drama.” However, the Huffington Post was bored of it as “another doomsday play,” the Hollywood Reporter didn’t like it at all, deeming “something seriously off” about the play, and remarking that the “evening takes too long” to get to its main points. A winter production at a not-for-profit theatre venue is already going to be a difficult sell, but when the reviews are less than stellar, and there is no very recognizable actor in the cast, at least from the American point of view, the challenge is even steeper. As for The Children, over the course of all the reported box office figures thus far, which include all but the final week in progress, the average percentage reached of gross potential was just 36.30%, and the average paid admission was $57.09, with a top ticket price of $199. The audience was filled up to an average capacity of 81.39%, and the cumulative gross just surpassed $2 million, which, with running costs, is unlikely to have recouped the show’s capitalization. Nevertheless, the show probably performed not much worse than it was expected to, given the cast, timing, and non-branded nature of the title. Ultimately, it is to the credit of such not-for-profit theatre institutions such as the Manhattan Theatre Club, that thought-provoking, but not necessarily commercial, plays are still being produced on Broadway.
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