Anjanette Morton

About Anjanette Morton

Anjanette has been enamored with the look, sound and feel of words since early childhood and remembers playing with them with the same fantastical enthusiasm exhibited by peers who animated stuffed animals or crashed matchbook cars. And she never grew out of it. Her fierce love of writing is matched only by her endless fascination with live theatre. As a supplement to a successful creative copywriting career, in which she ghostwrites for self-help gurus, PR firms, trendy app designers and international hospitality companies, Anjanette works as an assistant stage manager and wardrobe supervisor in various Off-Broadway theatres. When she is not diplomatically corralling actors backstage or fixing wardrobe malfunctions on the fly in the wings, you will likely find her in the corner of a cafe, rap-a-tapping on her iPad mini while swilling coffee and spilling it in equal measure on her sporadic napkin poetry.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 4/12/2015

This week’s notable movements on Broadway are:

Two Plays Still Going Strong: “The Audience” and “Fish in the Dark”

In the week ending April 12, 2015, two straight plays are still playing in the big leagues. With weekly grosses beat out only by the top five high grossing musicals, these two plays are beating all odds against straight plays and performing very well financially many weeks into their runs. The Audience starring Helen Mirren in the role of Queen Elizabeth II brought in $1,143,548 this past week, which represents 108.18% of its gross potential. With the exception of only one week, The Audience has been in the millionaire’s club every full performance week since it began previews on February 14, 2015. This past week, with a top ticket price of $323.00, the average paid admission was $151.56, showing that fans of the film The Queen, as well as history buffs and those who love Helen Mirren, are paying more than full price to see this play. Furthermore, Larry David’s Fish in the Dark brought in $1,169,986 in the week ending April 12, 2015. That represents a remarkable 112.41% of the show’s gross potential. With a top ticket price of $497.00, the average paid admission was $134.17, and the average audience capacity was at 101.6%. This play wins out because of the event nature of the show, as Larry David is not a usual face on Broadway, but he certainly has national acclaim.

Three Plays Struggling: “Airline Highway,” “Living on Love,” and “The Visit”

This past week, three shows that played full performance weeks of eight shows brought in barely enough to stay afloat. First of all, Airline Highway, a Manhattan Theatre Club production at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, brought in only $143,150, which represents 24.29% of its gross potential. The average paid admission was only $37.42, and the audience was filled up to an average of 76.3%. As the next lowest performing show this past week, Living on Love brought in $198,392. This play stars opera singer Renee Fleming in a play based off of Peccadillo by Garson Kanin. With an average paid admission of $34.18, the show reached 20.73% of its gross potential, and had an average audience capacity of 67.6%. In addition, The Visit starring Chita Rivera brought in only $224,289, which represents 29.41% of the show’s gross potential. With an average audience capacity of 71.5%, the average paid admission was $43.19, despite a top ticket price of $225.00. These three shows will need to up their numbers if they are to compete in this cut throat Broadway season, and so far it is not looking good. Fortunately for at least Airline Highway, that is produced by a not-for-profit institution that can afford to take in low numbers due to the endowment subsiding the production.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending April 12, 2015:Broadway-Show-Ticket-Analysis-4-12-15

Show Name GrossGross TotalAttn %Capacity AvgPdAdm
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $712,576 7,149 98.53% $99.67
AIRLINE HIGHWAY $143,150 3,825 76.26% $37.42
ALADDIN $1,768,354 13,786 100.01% $128.27
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS $826,417 11,559 98.35% $71.50
BEAUTIFUL $1,057,902 7,890 96.13% $134.08
CHICAGO $612,057 7,128 82.50% $85.87
DOCTOR ZHIVAGO $535,584 8,920 75.44% $60.04
FINDING NEVERLAND $1,129,481 12,040 102.31% $93.81
FISH IN THE DARK $1,169,986 8,720 101.58% $134.17
FUN HOME $401,034 5,239 98.33% $76.55
GIGI $635,256 8,637 77.67% $73.55
HAND TO GOD $282,901 5,431 86.81% $52.09
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH $437,941 4,711 66.83% $92.96
IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU $402,840 7,683 95.65% $52.43
IT’S ONLY A PLAY $694,877 7,430 86.23% $93.52
JERSEY BOYS $808,116 8,231 83.78% $98.18
KINKY BOOTS $1,082,034 10,614 93.17% $101.94
LES MISÉRABLES $919,372 10,373 92.02% $88.63
LIVING ON LOVE $198,392 5,804 67.61% $34.18
MAMMA MIA! $766,214 8,438 90.46% $90.81
MATILDA $1,248,351 11,429 99.76% $109.23
ON THE TOWN $752,482 10,755 71.74% $69.97
ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY $517,707 5,667 98.11% $91.35
SKYLIGHT $749,843 6,403 99.80% $117.11
SOMETHING ROTTEN! $619,159 9,310 99.03% $66.50
THE AUDIENCE $1,143,548 7,545 100.83% $151.56
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,517,969 8,746 102.56% $173.56
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME $811,321 7,912 97.15% $102.54
THE HEIDI CHRONICLES $368,596 4,934 61.61% $74.71
THE KING AND I $761,311 8,376 100.00% $90.89
THE LION KING $2,293,061 13,436 98.79% $170.67
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $1,097,215 10,482 81.64% $104.68
THE VISIT $224,289 5,193 72.04% $43.19
WICKED $2,181,861 14,678 96.01% $148.65
WOLF HALL PARTS ONE & TWO $594,758 8,525 77.05% $69.77
Totals $29,465,955 296,999 89.31% $93.83

Broadway ticket sales raw data are provided courtesy of The Broadway League All other data, text, opinion, charts and commentary are copyright © 2015 nytix.com

 

Irreverent Puppet Play “Hand to God” Begins Previews

An Irreverent Comedy Makes It to the Top

hand to godOn March 14, 2015, Hand to God began previews at the Booth Theatre. It is scheduled to open on April 7, 2015, and no closing date has been announced at this time. The play was first produced in 2011 by the Ensemble Studio Theatre, and Off-Broadway bordering on Off-Off-Broadway venue situated on the west side of midtown Manhattan. It received such positive reviews and excited word of mouth that EST extended the run, and then extended the run again. Subsequently, the play was produced by an unarguably Off-Broadway theatre company, MCC Theatre, at their Lucille Lortel Theatre. Once again, the play received excellent response. Finally, after much effort on the part of the industrious lead producer Kevin McCollum (Rent, Avenue Q), the play has come to Broadway. It is very unusual for a play to travel the ladder of New York theatre hierarchy in this way, especially without swapping out its stars for Hollywood A-listers. However, this production displayed integrity from the very beginning, and it has come to Broadway with much of its original cast, starring the incredible Steven Boyer in his first Broadway leading part. Furthermore, the playwright Robert Askins, as well as the director Moritz von Stuelpnagel, are both theatre industry diehards whose work has never before been seen on Broadway. They are finally getting their shot in the spotlight.

Turning Vulnerability Into Strengthhand to god

For the show’s marketing campaign, McCollum and his fellow producers decided to take a route that others may have considered risky. However, those others would be unlikely to have decided to produce such a risky commercial bet as Hand to God. Designed by Broadway advertising company AKA, the show’s campaign was scrawled in a childish handwriting and said: “No Movie Stars. No London Transfer. No Film Adaptation,” and it concluded “…Pray For Us.” It’s true; the play has no movie stars, it has not received rave reviews from an acclaimed run in London (only Off-Broadway in New York), and it is not an adaptation from the big screen. Instead, its only merits are its irreverent brand of comedy and brilliant performances. Playing off the religious themed humor of the play, the final tagline “Pray for us” asks the audience not to buy tickets, but just to wish them well. Of course, this ad campaign will hopefully convince theatregoers to buy tickets as well. The difficulty, however, is that the price range for Broadway is often too high for those moved by such outside the box advertising. Nevertheless, the producers took the most clever route available to them, and even if the campaign doesn’t make this a sell-out hit, it will surely raise some eyebrows and help spread the word about the show.

A Dark Comedy about a Demonic Puppet

Hand to God is a dark comedy that takes place “nowish” in Texas, somewhere between the country and the city, as it is billed. Steven Boyer, who is in his 30s, plays a young boy named Jason who joins a Christian Puppet Ministry. Soon, to his astonishment, his puppet Tyrone is clearly possessed by the devil, and persuades Jason to do all kinds of naughty things. It is a while, however, before the pastor and other church members realize who is to blame. In the meantime, others get reprimanded and chaos ensues. This hilarious and off-kilter comedy will be an interesting addition to the Broadway slate this season, and hopefully the critics love it as much as they did the first two times. Though Broadway is a bigger canvas with higher pressure, the performances and comedy should be able to fill up the larger theatre with uproarious laughter.

“Fish in the Dark” Opens on Broadway

Mixed to Negative Reviews Despite Record Box Office

poster fishEven before it began previews on February 2, 2015, Fish in the Dark has been performing extraordinarily at the box office. This new play written by and starring Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm, co-creator of Seinfeld) broke the advance box office record for a straight play by bringing in $13 million prior to the first performance. Ticket buyers were therefore buying blind, as the show was not reviewed until this morning, following last night’s opening on March 5, 2015. Unfortunately for those who have already invested an average of $300 per ticket, the show was received somewhat poorly by professional critics. The most notorious and respected theatre critic, Ben Brantley of The New York Times, gave it a complete flop, and even those that responded positively to the play did so with the caveat that it was Curb Your Enthusiasm extended and for the stage, primarily interesting for pre-existing fans of David’s television accomplishments. Directed by Anna D. Shapiro (This is Our Youth, Motherf**ker with the Hat), the play stars David along with Jayne Houdyshell, Rosie Perez, Rita Wilson, Ben Shenkman, Jerry Adler, and many others in the large ensemble cast.

Rounding Up the Criticsfish in the dark

Ben Brantley of The New York Times claims to have laughed fully only one time in the entire play, faulting the show for being a glorified live witnessing of a celebrity in the flesh. Robert Kahn of NBC New York was slightly more forgiving, but still admitted the stage play felt like an overextended sitcom, mostly appropriate for diehard Larry David aficionados. Nevertheless, the charm that has earned David so many adoring fans seems to affect even high profile critics, as others gave the show positive remarks even while discussing similar opinions to Brantley. David Cote of Time Out New York grandiosely compared Fish in the Dark to an ancient Greek tragedy, praising the offensive honesty of the Seinfeld creator. David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter observed a slightly more recent ancestor to David’s stage creation, comparing him to Neil Simon and the fluffy comedy surrounding the Jewish American family. Rooney also discerned the “pure sitcom” nature of the play, but did not criticize it for this cross-genre flavor, instead proclaiming that this show is a bona fide hit no matter how the reviewers respond. As a reviewer, therefore, Rooney is basically foregoing his responsibility to remark on the quality of the show, instead kowtowing to the established record-breaking box office as indicator of “hit” status.

Well Above 100% of Gross Potential

In the four weeks that box office has been reported thus far, Fish in the Dark has performed remarkably. Furthermore, the rest of the run is reportedly almost sold out, so the reviews were truly moot, whether future committed audience members like it or not. In the most recent reported week, the week ending March 1, 2015, the show brought in $1,159,537 over the course of eight performances, which represents 115.27% of its gross potential. Over the course of previews, the show never made less than 113.39% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of $423.00, the average paid admission thus far has been around $133.00. This shows that no discounting has taken place, and instead diehard fans are paying premium and inflated prices for the chance to witness David’s Broadway debut.

“The Heidi Chronicles” Begins Previews on Broadway

Starring Elisabeth Moss of “Mad Men” Fame

elisabeth mossOn February 23, 2015, The Heidi Chronicles by Wendy Wasserstein began previews in its first Broadway revival. The show originally played on Broadway from 1988 to 1989, when it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama as well as the Tony Award for Best Play. This production is directed by Pam MacKinnon (A Delicate Balance, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), and will officially open on March 19, 2015 at the Music Box Theatre. Elisabeth Moss, who is best known for playing Peggy Olson on AMC’s Mad Men, will star as the titular character Heidi Holland. This will be Moss’ second Broadway appearance, following her 2008 debut as Karen in David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow. She also starred in the 2011 West End production of Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour opposite Keira Knightley. Starring alongside Moss in The Heidi Chronicles is Jason Biggs (The Play What I Wrote, The Graduate, the American Pie movie franchise) as Scoop Rosenbaum, as well as Bryce Pinkham (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) as Peter Patrone. The play is lead produced by Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel, and it is currently scheduled for a limited engagement to conclude on August 9, 2015.

A Feminist Manifesto, with Comedy and Heartheidi chronicles

The play is unique in the way it travels through time from Heidi’s high school years, up until her later adult years. Interestingly, the same male characters recur at different stages of her life, although she does not end up marrying any of them. Perhaps the most important to her is Scoop Rosenbaum (Jason Biggs), whom she first meets as a teenager, but any sense of budding romance is squashed as Scoop goes on to marry another woman, and then proceeds to cheat on her with many women. The other male closest to Heidi throughout her life is Peter Patrone (Bryce Pinkham), a gay pediatrician who acts as a best friend to Heidi throughout her trials and tribulations. While building a career as an art historian, Heidi tackles the issues of what it means to be a woman in the modern age, including the idea of having children. Ultimately, she realizes that she does not need to rely on a man in order to be a mother, and ends up taking the matter into her own hands through adoption. Though this play was originally written in the late 1980s, it is certainly still relevant today, and in fact it will be interesting to see how subtle aspects of the work play differently to a 21st century audience.

Paying Respect to Wasserstein Through Reviving Her Works

Throughout her lifetime, Wendy Wasserstein was considered one of the best playwrights of her generation, as well as a groundbreaking writer in terms of women being viewed on equal ground to men in the creative fields. Unfortunately, she died in 2006 at the age of 55 due to lymphoma. The night following her passing, Broadway dimmed the lights in her honor as is tradition for beloved Broadway figures. In addition to her seminal body of work, Wasserstein lived what she preached. In 1999, when Wasserstein was 48 years old, she gave birth to her first and only child, Lucy Jane Wasserstein. She raised her daughter on her own until the day she died, and she never revealed who the child’s father was. As illustrated in The Heidi Chronicles, Wasserstein’s life was testament to the fact that a woman can make her own life, even in the case of having children.

“Honeymoon in Vegas” Opens on Broadway

Based Off the 1992 Film of the Same Name

Honeymoon in vegasOn January 15, 2015, Honeymoon in Vegas had its opening night at Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre. It had been running in previews since November 18, 2014, which is an unusually long preview period of 66 performances. This fact would normally imply a lack of confidence about the quality of the material, allowing the creative team and cast an extra month to develop the show in front of live audiences prior to the critical reviews hitting the presses. However, the reviews are in, and they are largely positive. Most notably, Ben Brantley of The New York Times, who is known as the toughest and most important critic of the most important paper in this one-paper town, loved the show. This musical is based off the 1992 film of the same name, which wasn’t exactly a hit nor was it exactly a cult success. In any case, someone sometime ago decided it would make a good musical, and they got top theatrical composer Jason Robert Brown (Parade, The Last Five Years, The Bridges of Madison County) to sign on to the job. With a book by Andrew Bergman (who wrote and directed the film), the musical starred Tony Danza (who received raves for his leading performance), as well as Rob McClure (Chaplin) opposite Brynn O’Malley (Annie).

The Reviews Are In, and Critics are Impressedrob mcclure tony danza

When the musical played its pre-Broadway tryout run at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey in the fall of 2013, New York critics gave it positive reviews which encouraged the producers to make the leap over the Hudson river to the cut-throat Broadway turf. Fortunately, the most important critic – Ben Brantley of The New York Times – stood behind his praise. When the same critic voices in on a pre-Broadway run and then the Broadway run, it can go either way, but usually they are tempted to stick to their guns, and in this case that benefitted Honeymoon in Vegas wildly. Other critics followed suit – both David Cote from Time Out New York and Robert Kahn from NBC New York loved the show as well. Cote harked to the unbeatable position of Jason Robert Brown in Broadway composing royalty, and was equally a fan of the concept of seedy Las Vegas being represented with so much glitz on Broadway. Kahn was a huge fan of Tony Danza’s performance as the tough talking gangster Tommy Korman, and calls Brown’s score jackpot-winning. However, other reviewers were less laudatory. Marilyn Stasio from Variety was on the fence, enjoying the catchy songs and witty lyrics along with the savvy visuals, but ultimately could not get over the mindlessness of it. Similarly, David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter felt that the show was ultimately slight, though he granted that the musical was better than he was expecting.

Will the Box Office Turn Around?

tony danzaIt’s difficult to say whether the financial figures will respond to these positive reviews, especially as the show has already been running for two months with lackluster box office performance. In the last reported week – the week ending January 18, 2015, the show saw a slight upturn but still only brought in a weekly gross of $440,476, which represents only 43.11% of the gross potential. With an average paid ticket of $57.51, the producers are clearly heavily discounting, which may have already damaged the brand value of the show such that it cannot recover, even with such positive reviews. However, there is hope with this renewed burst of lifeblood for the show, and optimism is riding high that it might stick around for a while on Broadway, adding a burst of hot Las Vegas silliness to the cold New York winter.

MTV and MLB hope for a home run with Off the Bat from the MLB Fan Cave

As part of their 2014 spring lineup, MTV2 introduced a brand new baseball meets pop culture TV series, Off the Bat from the MLB Fan Cave, which enjoyed its season one opener on Tuesday, April 1 at 11:00 PM EST.  The premiere perfectly coincided with the start of Major League Baseball season, which got into full swing the day before.  This pitch-perfect timing is no mere coincidence.  The show is the first-born creative brainchild of the MLB and MTV, who announced their multi-year multi-platform partnership last November.

mlb-fan-cave - Off the bat TV Show

The weekly, 30-minute show is filmed in-studio from the popular MLB Fan Cave nestled on East 4th Street near NYU in New York City and on location throughout the country.  Four dynamic MTV personalities signed up to play host, and ball, including rapper and news reporter, Sway, hip-hop artist, Fat Joe, and two stars of MTV’s Guy Code, model and actress, Melanie Iglesias, and her high-energy comedic cohort, Chris Distefano.

This latest addition to the burgeoning genre of “sports culture” programming moves away from talking head over-analysis and stat streams per usual, and affords viewers a more off the cuff, off the field, sneak peek into the hearts, minds and personal lives of up-and-coming baseball greats and veteran heroes.  Players will engage in banterous in-studio interviews with the emcees, pal around with visiting celebrities, host in-house contests and musical guests, interact on social media with fans, film on location at their favorite hometown haunts and act as the instigators, participants and butts of practical jokes and locker room pranks.

mlb-fan-cave - Off the bat TV Show

Bryce Harper, the young, handsome and sometimes divisively aggressive Washington Nationals outfielder, christened the show’s debut with an in-studio appearance and trivia contest in which he had fans sit in barbers chairs and either correctly answer questions about his career or get their heads shaven.  In another segment, petite beauty, Melanie Iglesias, invited hunky Miami Marlins power hitter, Giancarlo Stanton, to an old car junkyard for an unconventional windshield-shattering batting practice.  A third bit had comedian Distefano visiting retirees in order to glean pearls of wisdom about retirement for Derek Jeter, who just began his last ever season as revered Yankees shortstop.

The MLB is optimistic that this good-natured and slightly goofy show will serve to recruit a new generation of baseball fans from MTV2’s mostly male viewing demographic, aged 12 to 34, who are devotedly loyal to the network’s smash hit, Guy Code, the very show from which two of Off the Bats hosts were procured.

Guy Code broke network records in 2013 with its season three premiere garnering an impressive .6 Nielsen rating and earning the title of “most-watched original series” in MTV2’s 18 years on air.  MLB and MTV are hoping that Off the Bat, which copies some of the Codes successful formula of uniting ordinary guys with pop culture icons and pro athletes, will enjoy the same measure of success.

MTV2, part of the MTV Networks under the care of parent company, Viacom, is currently available in more than 80 million U.S. homes.

The show, executive produced by three-time World Series champion and Red Sox designated slugger extraordinaire, David Ortiz, is on pre-order for 30 episodes, which are all scheduled to air in the same Tuesday night 11 PM Eastern standard time slot on MTV2.

Celebrity Apprentice Returns to NYC with Season 7

donald trumpAlthough the cast list is yet to be confirmed, filming of Celebrity Apprentice season 7 (also know as Apprentice 14) officially kicked off yesterday in New York City, March 25, at a popular Australian-born bakery franchise, Pie Face, in Manhattan’s Union Square.

Fans spotted outspoken drama mama-of-eight, Kate Gosselin, actress Vivica A. Fox, once upon a time Cosby Show cutie-pie, Keshia Knight Pulliam, TV and radio personality Leeza Gibbons, former Jonas Brother pop star Kevin Jonas, Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson and two Real Housewives, Brandi Glanville and Kenya Moore, of Beverly Hills and Atlanta fame, baking pies, taking orders, working the door and schmoozing on the floor and sidewalk with customers, fans and celebrity friends during the three hour charity event. This event was shot by NBC staff, but it is not planned to use any of the footage in the actual TV show. The event was a warm up for the main show.

Some other unconfirmed names still swirling around social media sites and celebrity gossip mills are Grammy Award-winning rap star Ludacris, soap opera hottie Lorenzo Lamas, volleyball great and fashion model Gabrielle Reece, maverick journalist Geraldo Rivera and the funny man with a funny voice, Gilbert Gottfried. Megan Hauserman, from the ill-fated Megan Wants A Millionaire, was also slated to be on the show. Ms Hauserman’s show was cancelled mid-run through its season in 2009 due to the murder-suicide perpetrated by Ryan Jenkins, one of the contestants on the show. Mr Jenkins reportedly came in third position in that show.

Despite occasional chirpings of a take-over by his daughter, Ivanka, the imposing figurehead of this charity-driven reality based game show will remain none other than real-estate mogul, Donald Trump himself.  But even The Donald cannot do it alone and seeks trusted advisement from his heavy-hitting board members including sons Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric F. Trump, daughter Ivanka Trump, and long-time business and legal counsel, George Ross.  Past advisors have also featured previous show winners such as soon- to-be former CNN host, Piers Morgan, who made an appearance at yesterday’s event.

Celebrity Apprentice is a successful 2008 series offshoot of The Apprentice, created to re-energize the original show concept and spark new viewer interest.  Celebrity Apprentice features proven business-savvy celebrity contestants — many, but not all of whom have been out of the limelight for some years — as they engage in a cutthroat fight to the finish, gunning hard to be the last person standing in the boardroom, and procuring the grand prize of a bonus $250,000 to be awarded to their cherished charity.Piers Morgan has been quoted that contestants are paid around $16,000 for three weeks of shooting on the show.

America’s Got Talent Returns to Film in the NYC Area

America’s Got Talent, NBC’s #1 summertime smash hit, broke big news and new ground yesterday, announcing that the show’s exciting second round of competition will film in front of a live TV audience at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden from April 3 through April 6, 2014.

America's Got Talent with Howard Stern, Nick Cannon, Heidi Klum, Mel B. ,Howie Mandell

Complimentary VIP and regular tickets are still available in limited quantities to the general public via NBC’s website.  These tickets are expected to go pretty quickly, however, as metro area AGT fans are eager to bear historical witness as the remaining contestants audition live, right before their very eyes and those of the make-or-break ‘em celebrity judges, in order to secure the highly-coveted final spots in the upcoming season.

The ninth summer incarnation of this blockbuster variety show is expected to be even more riveting than ever before.  From October last through February, our great country was crisscrossed and fine-tooth combed for dynamic personalities and wholly unique skill sets.  Contestants were talent-scouted during open call auditions in 11 U.S. cities as big, small and diverse as Atlanta, Baltimore, Denver, Greensboro, Houston, Indianapolis, L.A. Miami, Nashville, New York and Providence, which only strengthens the stance that AGT truly is an equal-opportunity opportunity-provider, open to anyone of “any age” with “any talent” and “any dream” from anywhere.

This democratic philosophy prophetically proved true in 2012, when AGT co-creator, the nefarious Simon Cowell of American Idol notoriety, in conjunction with top NBC execs, made the big, bold decision to relocate his six-year-old show from its left coast locale in Burbank, CA to the greater NY metropolitan area.  The big wigs believed that in addition to doing season seven’s newly acquired judge and shock jock extraordinaire, Howard Stern, a large logistical favor, the move would favor the show, as well, infusing it with an inevitably edgy New York feel and attitude, and rewarding its long-standing East Coast fans with their rightful piece of the live action.

And they were correct on all accounts.  Last summer’s broadcast from New York’s Radio City Music Hall proved a rousing ratings success.  And Howard Stern, who has since vocalized his appreciation for the geographical accommodations, decided in an on-air radio announcement last November, to return to the show for “one more season” and keep the fab five, which includes handsome host Nick Cannon, ever-affable Howie Mandell of Deal or No Deal fame, supermodel Heidi Klum of Victoria’s Secret reverence, and newest cool kid in the clubhouse, former Spice Girl, Mel B., alive for another round of spectacular theatricality.

The two-hour season premiere of NBC’s America’s Got Talent is scheduled for Tuesday, May 27, 2014 at 8/7c and will feature scenes from the shows shot at the show dates listed above.

Superheroes Land in New York as TV Pilots Break Records

TV Show Production

Since taking the helm as New York State Governor in 2011, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has applied aggressive out-of-the-box creative thinking to the reformation and revitalization of the state’s beleaguered economic infrastructure.  In a heroic effort to sever sole financial reliance on the vilified Wall Street alliance, Cuomo has turned starry eyes to the entertainment industry for fiscal rescue, instead.  In order to attract and entice out of-state TV and Film production companies to make magic in the metropolis of NY, Governor Cuomo set the bait with virtually impossible-to-refuse tax breaks and incentives.

And he may have just pulled off a heroic coup.  Only a few short weeks ago, the governor proudly announced that mega entertainment moguls Walt Disney and Marvel Entertainment have agreed to film four exciting new live-action TV series this coming summer, right here on the nitty, gritty streets of New York City.   A projected 60 episodes will feature the four most popular superheroes from Marvel Comic’s beloved Defender series and will air on Netflix starting in 2015.

This $200 million dollar venture, which the governor’s office deems “the largest film or television production project commitment in New York State history,” is expected to infuse millions of dollars into the local and state economy, generate thousands of full and part-time industry and non-industry related jobs and provide a substantial boost to New York’s hospitality and tourism industries.  To put it this way, even the pizza delivery guy wins out.

And as if this wasn’t reason enough to celebrate, New York had already surpassed L.A. this year in the number of new TV pilots filmed on location, with a grand total of 15 (including 10 dramas and 5 comedies) compared to L.A.’s current handful.

As some Californians quake in the revelation that L.A. is no longer the end all, be all bedrock of TV and film, fingers and tongues have wagged at both coasts of the country.  Some folks have accusingly called Governor Cuomo’s tax breaks pathetic lures and Hollywood handouts, while yet others have bemoaned and criticized California Governor Jerry Brown’s resistance to taking the same innovative initiative and incentivize.

New York may be becoming Hollywood East instead of an entertainment epicenter in its own right, but Cuomo doesn’t seem to mind.

And what of The Tonight Show’s recent relocation from Burbank, CA to its swanky new studio at the infamous 30 Rock in NYC?  Well, while the new contract did include a hefty $20+ million tax break for NBC, which could not have hurt in the final decision making process, it might also pay to remember that the show actually originated in the heart of the city in the 1950’s, pre-Johnny Carson.  The move also makes sense for its new host, Jimmy Fallon, a devoted NY-native who has said he would feel “out of place” in L.A.  Hey, if he’s happy, we are likely to be happy, too.

And I bet if you asked Marvel Comics hero Daredevil how he feels about filming in New York, he’d remind you that he is Hell’s Kitchen born and raised.

The Foxwoods Theatre Changes Its Name Again, Back To The Lyric Theatre

Having survived three previous corporate re-brandings since the modernized version of this historic playhouse first re-opened in 1998, the theatre most recently known as Foxwoods is transitioning to its original turn-of-the-century name, the Lyric.

Foxwoods Theatre on Broadway

The Lyric Theatre first opened in 1903 on the hot-to-trot thoroughfare of 42nd Street, and while it enjoyed some initial fanfare with such productions as Oscar Straus’ The Chocolate Solider, which ran a then unheard of 296 performances, the theatre really soared during the roaring twenties, with razzle-dazzle comedies that were scored by such musical greats as the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, and Cole Porter and which starred the likes of Fred Astaire and the Marx Brothers.

Sadly, like many businesses of the 1930’s, the Lyric Theatre could not weather the Great Depression and its final show sputtered to a close in 1934. Out of financial necessity, it was converted into a movie house that remained inconsistently operational until 1990 when the City and State of New York essentially repossessed it.

In 1992, the Lyric was placed under the protective auspices of the non-for-profit New 42nd Street Organization, who took over the lease of this landmark location, along with several other classic neighborhood beauties like the Victory Theatre and the Selwyn, in a dignified effort to preserve and honor the neighborhood’s historical integrity and significance.

Fast-forward to 1998, when Livent Inc. (a Canadian production company) partially demolished the grounds of the old Apollo and Lyric Theatres, and spent the better part of two years re-inventing the joint space, restoring the front and rear façades of the Lyric to their opulent glory.  Additional work was made to incorporate some of the most impressive interior architectural elements, namely the proscenium arch from the Apollo theatre and the dome from the Lyric, into their new design vision: a technologically-advanced performing arts center with roomy, comfortable, crowd-sustaining modern amenities.

ford theatre for the performing arts on Broadway

Once renovated and unveiled, the theatre became one of the first mascots of big business sponsorship, re-branding itself as the Ford Center for the Arts, named after none other than the Ford Motor Company.  Ironically enough, the theatre’s inaugural show, Ragtime, which had initially piqued and secured the vested interest of Ford, did not do well.  The theatre, however, did experience one considerable success with its rousing rendition of 42nd Street, which won the 2001 Tony Award for Best Musical Revival.

In 2005, Livent Inc. found itself embroiled in financial and legal troubles and Clear Channel Entertainment joined collaborative forces with Hilton Hotels, to whom it sold the naming rights, and who un-coincidentally re-named the space the Hilton Theatre.  Under Hilton’s five-year masthead, the theatre played host to a series of rather unremarkable productions including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Hot Feet, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Young Frankenstein.

In the summer of 2010, after a year of dormancy, the theatre was resurrected yet again, this time by the union of Live Nation Entertainment and Foxwoods Casino, who, not all too surprisingly, re-named it the Foxwoods Theatre.  Foxwoods placed all its bets on Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark, The show, however, proved one of the most-talked about theatrical fiascos in Broadway history, inspiring an unwelcome media blitzkrieg of negative press.  This budget-buster of a show (with weekly operating expenditures reported between $1.2 and $1.4 million) was plagued from the get-go with a myriad  of technical difficulties and frightening mishaps, injuries and subsequent lawsuits, from which it never really recovered.

Even a marvel superhero like Spiderman with his minions of millions and rock star roster of brand name backers, producers, directors and choreographers including the seemingly unstoppable, unflappable and impervious Julie Taymor and Bono, could not help Spidey live up to his spectacular promise and prowess, which only goes to show that big money and big names do not guarantee a hit.

In the end, this over-the-top production was an epic loss and co-sponsor Foxwoods Casino has since folded its cards, cashed out and left the building, leaving the revolving door open to the Ambassador Theatre Group, a UK-based firm that bought out the lease last May and announced, just last week, that along with a restorative summer spruce-up, the theatre would reclaim its baptismal name, the ‘Lyric.”

Set to premiere at the old-is-new again Lyric Theatre is the beloved classic “On the Town,” a charming rollick of a musical which showcases three sailors searching for love while on NYC shore leave.  “On the Town” is quite a departure in choice from the long-rumored Australian blockbuster, “King-Kong,” which had been the expected shoo-in for the enormous 1,900 seat performance space.  But King Kong producers, who recently admitted needing more time to get it right, are probably sheepish, and understandably so, about following too closely on the heels of the Spiderman debacle and running the risk of comparison.  And it may just be that the theatre, too, wants to put all the unpleasantness behind it and begin anew with a pretty name and a safe and beloved classic.

In the case of the Ford turned Hilton turned Foxwoods, constant re-branding did not afford this gem of a theatre any real favors.  Corporate sponsorship may have become the norm for sports teams and their stadiums, but what works for baseball doesn’t necessarily work for Broadway. The Mets can play in Shea or they can play in Citi Field, it doesn’t much matter.  They come with a built-in fan base who knows that no matter the emblem on the home stadium, the product they are getting is a good old game of baseball.

So has corporate sponsorship worked anywhere on the Great White Way?  Well, the American Airlines Theatre, main homestead of the beloved Roundabout Theatre Company, is still flying high on the radar.  But the crucial difference between the Selwyn turned American Airlines Theatre and the ever-morphing Lyric, lies in the partnership.  Since 1965, the Roundabout Theatre Company has painstakingly created a consistent brand of high caliber theatre.  The RTC is trusted amongst theatregoers as a quality evening out.  As a result, they have remained loyal to the company, no matter the name emblazoned on the venue in which it presents its works, and in fact so much so, that the American Airlines Theatre is often called the Roundabout Theatre Company by its many devotees.  That is a pretty impressive feat, and as close to a home team as we’ve got here on Broadway.