Jennifer Chen

About Jennifer Chen

Originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico, Jennifer studied Law and moved to New York City at age 24, where she still practices law and writes for abovethelaw.com. Jennifer's profession may be in the land-of-legal, but her passion is for Broadway where she can write about subjects as diverse as Broadway union contracts to show reviews.

“Doctor Zhivago” Concludes Run Early

Shuttered After Only 26 Previews and 23 Regular Performances

doctor zhivagoOn May 10, 2015, Doctor Zhivago played its last performance in a very short Broadway run, which began with the first preview on March 27, 2015. After the opening night on April 21, 2015, it became clear that Doctor Zhivago would not be surviving based on the commendation of the critics, as there was almost unanimous agreement that the show was not very good. Based on Boris Pasternak’s novel from 1957 of the same name, and immortalized on screen in the 1965 film directed by David Lean and starring Julie Christie and Omar Sharif, this epic musical set during the Russian Revolution just couldn’t cut it in this competitive Broadway season. Playing at the Broadway Theatre, the show was directed by Des McAnuff (700 Sundays, Jersey Boys, Jesus Christ Superstar), and choreographed by Kelly Devine (Rocky, Rock of Ages). In addition, the book is written by Michael Weller (Spoils of War, Loose Ends), with music by Lucy Simon (The Secret Garden), and lyrics by Michael Korie (Grey Gardens) and Amy Powers (Sunset Boulevard). Still, the pedigree of its creative team could not save this musical, which failed to receive any Tony nominations or pull any significant weight at the box office.

Unanimous Discontent Among Critics and Tony Votersdoctor zhivago

This show was the third to announce its closing following disappointing results from the Tony nominations. The first was Living on Love, which also received zero, and the second was The Heidi Chronicles, which only received one nomination for Elisabeth Moss, in the category of Best Actress in a Lead Role in a Play. Even with poor critical response, Tony recognition can sometimes save a show just enough by boosting its renown among theatregoers. In this case, Doctor Zhivago had no luck in either account. When the reviews came out, all major critics gave it a thumbs down. Charles Isherwood at The New York Times asked in his review, “Is it over yet?”, proclaiming the show to be turgid, baggy, and expositional. Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter compared it to a poor man’s Les Miserables. David Cote of Time Out New York did the same, referring to Doctor Zhivago as a pale juggernaut in comparison. Jesse Green from Vulture wanted to affirm once and for all that sprawling European novels do not make good musicals, as evidenced by this failure. Furthermore, Joe Dziemianowicz from the New York Daily News called it an “epic miss.”

Struggles at the Box Office

In the show’s last week of performances, the week ending May 10, 2015, Doctor Zhivago reached its peak at the box office, which amounted to $537,474. That represented only 44.79% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of $247.00, the average paid admission that week was $62.66. Even with such discounting, the average audience capacity was only 72.5%. Though these numbers are not as dire as some other shows that continue to run, the producers made the decision to close the show upon the announcement of the Tony nominations, as they could not imagine the musical gaining any more traction. With a capitalization of $12 million, the show was reported to have brought in a total gross of less than $2.7 million, not to mention running costs. However, there is still hope for the 50 odd producers, many of them first-time Broadway producers convinced to invest in this production, as the show may be able to make back some of its money on further productions and tours, both nationally and internationally. At least, the brand name should hold some weight on tours around the world.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 5/17/2015

This week’s notable movements on Broadway are:

An Overall Excellent Week on Broadway

In the week ending May 17, 2015, the entire Broadway box office saw an increase of $2,179,880 from the week before. With 33 shows running, that is an average increase of $66,056.97 across the entire industry. Of these 33 shows, 30 of them saw an increase in sales this week, and only three saw a decrease in sales in comparison to the previous week. The largest increase was seen by the musical On the Town, which increased by $412,136 from the week before; this is due partly to the fact that the show had four performances the week prior, but also this is an increase in comparison to two weeks before, when the show had brought in $501,640. After On the Town, the next biggest increase was seen by The Lion King, which went up by $264,769 to reach its weekly gross of $1,966,567. The third biggest increase was seen by a show that has newly begun previews, An Act of God, which went up by $260,979 to reach its weekly gross of $738,682. In addition, Wicked went up by $132,403, and Wolf Hall Parts One and Two went up by $103,691 to reach its weekly gross of $734,344.

Greater than 100% of Gross Potential

This past week, three shows demonstrated such high demand that their weekly box office grosses reached over 100% of the gross potential. This is due to the fact that on top of selling out of full price tickets, the show managed to sell enough premium price tickets to push the shows over 100% of their potential. Interestingly, only one of these is a musical – The Book of Mormon – but two are plays: The Audience and Fish in the Dark. All three of these shows have been major hits since they began their runs. The Book of Mormon has been running for several years, generally with remarkable financial success. This past week, it brought in $1,534,408, which represents 110.31% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of $477.00, the show’s average paid admission was $175.50, which is greater than the top ticket price for some shows. The Audience and Fish in the Dark are both new shows this season with limited runs. Whereas The Audience received good reviews and several Tony nominations, Fish in the Dark received mixed reviews and zero Tony nominations, instead relying on the star power of its writer and lead actor Larry David to account for the financial prowess. This past week, The Audience brought in $1,194,528, which represents 113.00% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of $323.00, the average paid admission was $157.67. As for Fish in the Dark, it brought in $1,208,230, which represents 116.09% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of $497.00, the average paid admission was $138.57.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending May 17, 2015:Broadway-Show-Ticket-Analysis-05-17-15-1

Show Name GrossGross TotalAttn %Capacity AvgPdAdm
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $577,859 6,143 84.66% $94.07
AIRLINE HIGHWAY $180,476 3,591 71.59% $50.26
ALADDIN $1,467,090 13,788 100.03% $106.40
AN ACT OF GOD $738,682 6,489 80.63% $113.84
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS $1,280,111 13,417 99.89% $95.41
BEAUTIFUL $1,124,463 7,979 97.21% $140.93
CHICAGO $667,974 8,184 94.72% $81.62
FINDING NEVERLAND $1,067,924 10,846 90.14% $98.46
FISH IN THE DARK $1,208,230 8,719 101.57% $138.57
FUN HOME $587,716 5,985 102.48% $98.20
GIGI $493,858 7,301 65.94% $67.64
HAND TO GOD $427,117 5,533 88.44% $77.19
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH $448,280 5,207 73.87% $86.09
IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU $418,416 6,231 76.96% $67.15
IT’S ONLY A PLAY $639,751 6,545 75.96% $97.75
JERSEY BOYS $686,201 6,998 71.23% $98.06
KINKY BOOTS $1,017,917 9,947 87.32% $102.33
LES MISÉRABLES $675,325 8,800 78.07% $76.74
MAMMA MIA! $730,105 8,317 89.16% $87.78
MATILDA $846,868 10,693 93.34% $79.20
ON THE TOWN $614,881 9,756 65.07% $63.03
ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY $582,568 5,794 100.31% $100.55
SKYLIGHT $775,421 6,392 99.63% $121.31
SOMETHING ROTTEN! $950,418 12,436 93.25% $76.42
THE AUDIENCE $1,194,528 7,576 101.24% $157.67
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,534,408 8,743 102.52% $175.50
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME $766,673 7,641 93.82% $100.34
THE KING AND I $1,001,947 8,376 100.00% $119.62
THE LION KING $1,966,567 13,508 99.32% $145.59
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $883,247 10,859 84.57% $81.34
THE VISIT $211,430 3,981 55.23% $53.11
WICKED $1,601,725 13,959 96.56% $114.74
WOLF HALL PARTS ONE & TWO $734,344 6,711 60.66% $109.42
Total $28,102,518 276,445 87.13% $99.28

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

“Wolf Hall” Steady at the Box Office after Eight Tony Nominations

A Double Bill of English Historical Drama

wolf hallOn April 9, 2015, Wolf Hall: Parts One and Two opened at the Winter Garden Theater. This double bill of plays went by the names Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies during its London run, as those are the names of the novels on which the plays are based. Those productions opened at the Royal Shakespeare Company and then transferred to the West End’s Aldwych Theatre, where the run wrapped up on October 4, 2014. The shows then transferred to Broadway with previews beginning March 20, 2015. The novels were also adapted into a BBC mini-series starring Mark Rylance (Jerusalem, Boeing Boeing) as Thomas Cromwell. After airing in the United Kingdom on March 8, 2013, that five part mini-series aired in the United States on PBS starting April 5, 2015, coinciding with the Broadway run of the show. The stage adaptations were written by Mike Poulton based on Hilary Mantel’s novels, with music by Stephen Warbeck. The shows are directed by Jeremy Herrin, an accomplished British director who is making his Broadway debut with these shows in repertory. On Broadway, the role of Thomas Cromwell is played by Ben Miles, who was previously seen on Broadway in the triple bill productions of The Norman Conquests, which were also transfers from London.

Generally Rave Reviews from U.S. Criticswolf hall

When the reviews came out for Wolf Hall, it was clear that most critics loved the show, though a few were on the fence. Ben Brantley of The New York Times was in the supporting camp, deeming the subject matter of British history to be extraordinarily good gossip. Though admitting it is a high brow work, he proclaims these stage plays, unlike the novels and mini-series, to be a whole lot of fun. David Cote in Time Out New York likewise enjoyed the productions, calling Ben Miles’ performance as Thomas Cromwell “cunning,” and delighting in the almost six hours of arguing between pope and crown. David Rooney in The Hollywood Reporter remarked on the low odds that this 1,000 page pair of novels would amount to popular success, but deemed the productions and acting ensemble to be first rate. Furthermore, Robert Kahn of NBC New York found the ensemble to be finely tuned, praising the productions while admitting that they demand intense focus from the audience to keep up. Linda Winer from Newsday was less in complete favor of the shows, calling Jeremy Herrin’s direction handsome but unsurprising, seemingly bored with the overabundance of material on this historical period.

Tony Nominations and Box Office Response

Wolf Hall: Parts One and Two received an incredible eight Tony Award nominations. The double bill received nominations for Best Play, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play for Ben Miles, Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play for Nathaniel Parker, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play for Lydia Leonard, Best Scenic Design of a Play, Best Costume Design of a Play, Best Lighting Design of Play, and Best Direction of a Play for Jeremy Herrin. Therefore, although critics and awards nominees alike loved the show, that response does not seem greatly to have affected the interest of audience members in buying tickets to the productions. In the last reported week of box office figures, the week ending May 10, 2015, the show brought in $630,653, which is only 51.56% of its gross potential. The highest week thus far in the run was its first full week of performances, when it reached 64.38% of its gross potential, and the lowest thus far was 42.81% of its gross potential in the week ending April 12, 2015, just after opening. Therefore, it seems that the British history diehards will buy tickets to this show independent of recognition by the Tony committee and critics, perhaps assuming the positive reviews that it inevitably received. More casual theatregoers, however, will not be persuaded to attend this show even with such praise, perhaps intimidated by the heaviness of the material or the length of the two productions.

“Living on Love” Closes After One Month

Failing to Receive a Tony Nod, Producers Cut Losses

living on loveOn April 1, 2015, Living on Love began previews at the Longacre Theatre. The official opening night took place on April 20, 2015. Less than a week later, the Tony nominations were announced, and Living on Love received a grand total of zero. This play is a new adaptation of an older work by Garson Kanin called Peccadillo, which Joe DiPietro (Nice Work if You Can Get It, I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change) reworked and dubbed Living on Love. The play is directed by Kathleen Marshall, who has shepherded many large scale musicals to great success such as Anything Goes, The Pajama Game, and Nice Work If You Can Get It. This was a foray into directing a straight play, but not one without a musical bent. The lead actress of the play is the opera star Renée Fleming making her Broadway debut, who plays an opera diva named Raquel De Angelis. Therefore, though the play is not a musical, there are bouts of opera singing throughout. However, this mix of elements was not enough to make the play a hit at the box office. With low weekly grosses, and no acknowledgement from the Tony committee, the producers decided that the show’s last performance would be May 3, 2015. It closed having played only 21 preview performances and just two weeks (16 performances) of regular shows.

Unable to Gain Traction at the Box Officeliving on love

In this highly competitive season, some straight plays were standing out, some even performing neck and neck with big budget musicals such as Larry David’s Fish in the Dark, Terrence McNally’s It’s Only a Play, and the Helen Mirren starrer The Audience. Living on Love, however, had only one big name among the cast, Renée Fleming, and even she is only well known among opera lovers, which is a distinct audience from the general ticket buyers of Broadway shows. With a tight budget it was difficult to get the word out that this play was on, and even then it was a puzzlement for theatergoers, as it was unclear what exactly they were to expect with an opera star leading a straight play adapted from a classic farce. When the reviews came out and many were less than positive, this did not help boost sales. Of the five weeks the show was running, the first of which was a partial week, the highest weekly gross Living on Love earned was in the week ending April 12, 2015, with a weekly gross of $198,392, which represents just 20.73% of its gross potential. That week also marked the highest average paid ticket, which was only $34.18. This is abysmally low for a Broadway show that sold its top ticket ambitiously for $275.00. Even with papering and discounting, the audience capacity never averaged more than 78.6% in a week, which took place the week ending April 19, 2015.

A Labor of Love, via the Williamstown Theatre Festival

The development of Living on Love was a long process, involving the adaption of the play Peccadillo, followed by a trial run at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in July 2014. That run received positive enough reviews to encourage the producers to transfer it to Broadway, with The New York Times calling Renée Fleming an eight-lane highway broad, with a voice to graze the heavens. However, in the context of the more competitive Broadway atmosphere, critics were less laudatory. Without the Tony nominations to keep the play afloat, it was just not worth it to continue paying the weekly running costs to keep the show open. Though the play was relatively low budget, it will close at a serious loss.

“Fun Home” Begins Broadway Previews

A Tour de Force Transfer from the Public Theater

fun homeOn March 27, 2015, Fun Home began previews at the Circle in the Square Theatre. This new musical transferred to Broadway following a wildly successful run at the downtown Public Theater, the not-for-profit venue that is responsible for Shakespeare in the Park, among other successful Broadway transfers such as the recently announced Hamilton. The musical has a book by Lisa Kron, whose play Well played on Broadway in 2006, in which she also starred as a character based off of herself. Therefore, Fun Home is a departure for Kron, at least in terms of the fare we have seen on the Broadway stage, as it is a full scale musical and not intended to be autobiographical. Lisa Kron also wrote the lyrics for a score by Jeanine Tesori, who composed the music for Violet, A Free Man of Color, Shrek the Musical, Caroline, or Change, and Thoroughly Modern Millie. The show is directed by Sam Gold, the up and coming young director who made a huge splash Off-Broadway before directing a string of Broadway shows in recent years including Seminar, Picnic, The Realistic Joneses, and The Real Thing. This, however, is his first Broadway musical directing position.

Based Off The Graphic Novel by Alison Bechdelfun home

Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori collaborated on this musical adaptation, which is based off of a graphic novel by Alison Bechdel. The musical takes place in three time periods, which overlap non-linearly in the show. Over the course of the musical, the protagonist, Alison, is 43 years old (as the narrator), 19 years old (as an Oberlin student), and 8 years old (as a child in her father’s restored Victorian home). In her first year of college, Alison came out of the closet, identifying as a lesbian. Over the course of this fascinating interwoven tale, Alison explores connections between her family’s history and her coming out. For instance, her father was overbearing when she was a child, she witnessed her father having a sexual affair with a man, and when he ordered her to put on a dress, she disobeyed and wore jeans instead. Her father’s death also becomes a seminal moment in her life, as she reexamines the impact this has had on her own life. The way that the three stories are told out of order is artfully done, reinventing her own story through personal connections.

Excellent Buzz but So Far Mediocre Box Office

Following its slam dunk run at the Public Theater, Fun Home came to Broadway in a storm of buzz. However, this buzz may not have extended to the entire theatergoing public, and instead may be reserved for New York locals and diehard theatre aficionados. Therefore, the show has been holding on just barely at the box office. In the last reported week of box office figures, the week ending April 26, 2015, the show brought in $436,173, which represents just 59.33% of its gross potential. This is also the highest gross the show has seen thus far. The Circle in the Square Theatre is a very small Broadway venue, so it is difficult to make a large weekly gross, but still the show is having a difficult time even reaching the potential of that small venue. However, the Tony nominations may change that, as Fun Home has just been announced to have received an incredible 10, including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Orchestration, three acting nominations, and two design nominations.

Harvey Weinstein’s “Finding Neverland” Begins Previews

Inspired by the 2004 Film of the Same Name

finding neverlandOn March 15, 2015, Finding Neverland began previews at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. The musical is the first venture for Weinstein Live Entertainment, which is the stage producing entity of Harvey Weinstein, the film producing powerhouse whose many credits include Shakespeare in Love, August: Osage County, The Artist, Inglourious Basterds, and The King’s Speech. Whereas Weinstein has served as a limited partner in assisting the production of stage plays in the past, such as The Producers, Billy Elliot the Musical, and August: Osage County, this is the first his company has developed a show from scratch and served as lead producer. Always taking precautions for perfection, Weinstein hired a seasoned executive producer to make sure the show was running smoothly: Barry and Fran Weissler, whose many credits include Chicago, Pippin, La Cage aux Folles, and The Scottsboro Boys. The musical Finding Neverland is based on the 2004 film, which starred Johnny Depp as J.M. Barrie, the writer of Peter Pan; the film also won the 2004 Academy Award for Best Musical Score. That film was also a major commercial hit, bringing in over $118 million at the box office, with a budget of $25 million. The film was distributed by Miramax, a Weinstein Company, which evolved into Weinstein’s interest in the stage adaptation.

A Superb Creative Team

The show is directed by Diane Paulus, who is renowned for her original interpretation of musicals including Hair, Pippin, and The Gershwins’ Porgy & Bess. She is also the artistic director of American Repertory Theatre in Boston. Finding Neverland is choreographed by Mia Michaels who is best known for being a judge and choreographer on the TV Show So You Think You Can Dance; this is her first venture into Broadway choreography. Weinstein, ever the perfectionist, did not find this creative team on his first attempt. Finding Neverland premiered in Leicester, England in an out of the way run to work out its kinks. Whereas it is not unusual for producers to try their shows out of town before bringing them to Broadway, they usually don’t go as far as rural England, and furthermore they usually stick with their team in working on the issues. However, in this case, Weinstein got such mixed feedback from the Leicester run that he decided to scrap his creative team and start from the beginning, and this is when he brought in Diane Paulus, and decided to have a pre-Broadway run in Cambridge at American Repertory Theatre. In this revised version, the book is by James Graham, and the music and lyrics are by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy.

Original Broadway Castkelsey grammer matthew morrison

For the Broadway production, many new cast members were brought in from previous incarnations. At the Lunt-Fontanne, the role of J. M. Barrie is played by Matthew Morrison (Hairspray, The Light in the Piazza, “Glee”). The role of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies remains the same as from ART; she is played by Laura Michelle Kelly (Mary Poppins). The part of Charles Frohman and Captain Hook is played by Kelsey Grammer (“Frasier”, “Cheers”, La Cage aux Folles), and Mary Barrie is played by Teal Wicks (Wicked, Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical). Additional roles are played by Carolee Carmello, Courtney Balan, Dana Costello, Melanie Moore, and Rory Donovan. This is in addition to the roles played by children, which have rotating casts. The show will have its official opening on April 15, 2015, and it presently scheduled for an open-ended run.

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.

Neil Patrick Harris to Host New NBC Variety Show

Eyeing a Fall 2015 Premiere on NBC

Hedwig Neil Patrick Harris Black TieOn October 27, 2014, it was announced that Neil Patrick Harris would be hosting a new variety TV show to premiere on NBC, in the style of the British show Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, which is produced by ITV. ITV has agreed to make a ten episode season to air on NBC, with Harris as host. Harris was reportedly drawn to this format in particular, believing that it best suits his strengths. The previous May, Harris had turned down an offer from CBS to replace David Letterman as host of The Late Show upon his departure, a position that has been given to Stephen Colbert. At the time, he told Rolling Stone Magazine that he would get bored in the traditional late night format, and that he would rather take on a variety show project. The fact that he was offered the position must have given him confidence that he had the star power to find a way to live that dream. This opportunity came in the form of a partnership with ITV, after finding their Saturday Night Takeaway show to be hilarious and perfect for him as a performer. The show will be filmed in front of a live studio audience by ITV Studios America.

Upsetting the Writers Guild

Though Harris and ITV vehemently deny the accusations, the Writers Guild of America East has called out ITV for not employing union writers for their shows, a trend they may expect to continue with this extremely high profile variety show project with Neil Patrick Harris. The WGA has been in a long standing battle with ITV over efforts to unionize the company, and now over 175 unionized writers in the comedy and variety genre have signed a petition urging the organization to enter into a collective bargaining agreement. Nevertheless, Neil Patrick Harris told the press that a WGA contract was planned for his show, and an ITV spokesperson also explained that the accusations were in error, as a separate and binding agreement was underway regarding that series in particular. Regarding the claims that the company is generally at fault for their hiring activities, the spokesperson also said that they are working on resolving the majority of issues. Still, this is a big money game – Ant and Dec, the creators of ITV’s Saturday Night Takeaway, reportedly pocketed 15 million pounds for the rights to their concept, given that it has become an international hot commodity with Harris in the host position.

Neil Patrick Harris: A Versatile Performerneil patrick harris

The variety show format appeals to Harris as it will allow him to flex his muscles. It will include a combination of comedy sketches, musical performances, celebrity pranks, game activities, and A-list guests. Guests are said to include Lady Gaga, One Direction, and Katie Perry, and many more yet to be announced. Harris was most recently in the public spotlight as host of the 87th Annual Academy Awards on February 22, 2015. He has twice hosted the Primetime Emmy Awards (2009 and 2013), in addition to being nominated for 9 Primetime Emmys, winning 5. Of these 5 Emmy wins, 4 were for hosting the Tony Awards. Therefore, he has proven his chops as an awards show host, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. He recently debuted the role of Hedwig in the Broadway premiere of Hedwig and the Angry Inch by John Cameron Mitchell, winning the Tony Award for Best Lead Actor in a Musical. He is also very well known for his role as Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother, as well as his teenage role as Doogie Howser, M.D.

Jon Stewart to Leave “The Daily Show”

Growing Restless, and Ready to Move On

Jon-StewartOn the Tuesday, February 10, 2015 episode of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, Jon Stewart announced that he would be retiring from the position of host that he has held for the past 17 years. His contract with the network is up in September, but he explained that he may leave before that, as early as July, or after that, as late as December. In any case, he will not stick around for the notorious Daily Show election coverage in the 2016 election, entitled Indecision 2016. Not long after he took the mantle on January 11, 1999, Stewart made a huge name for himself through covering the 2000 election, when the concept of Indecision election coverage began. Since that time, he has defined himself as the go-to liberal correspondent, even if he is often considered a mock host, rather than a real host. In any event, he undeniably blurred the line between “real” news and “comedy” news in this era of increasing political cynicism and declining idealism. His decision to depart stemmed from a sense of growing “restless”; he said that America deserves better than even a somewhat restless host of The Daily Show. The only plans he specified was to spend more time with his family – specifically, to eat dinner with them on a school night, which is something he has not been able to do throughout his career.

What the Future Holds – for Stewart, and for the Daily Showjon stewart

Stewart did not make clear what his specific future plans are, although they could range from Hollywood directing to entering the realm of actual politics in Washington. He made his foray into film writing and directing last year with the only semi-successful Rosewater, for which he took a hiatus from hosting The Daily Show for three months. The film is not his usual comedic style; it is based on a memoir written by Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari involving his imprisonment in 2009. Whether or not this indicates that Stewart intends to pursue more directing opportunities, it does hark to a new effort to express his interest in current affairs through a lens other than his particular brand of comedy. All along, he has clearly cared about the issues he covered. His popularity stemmed from the fact that he was not mocking for the sake of mocking, but rather because he was not afraid to take a stance on issues of clearly marked importance for him and his staff. Certain online outlets have even been tossing around the idea of Stewart running alongside Hillary Clinton as Vice Presidential candidate in 2016, although he has not mentioned anything himself to this end. As for The Daily Show, it will continue on with a new host. Stewart has managed not only to position himself as a force to be reckoned with among the late-night competition, on a basic cable station no less, but he has also been able to build a legacy that will continue on without him, however difficult that is to imagine at the present moment.

Who Might Succeed the Legendary Jon Stewart?

It is too early to know for sure what direction Comedy Central intends to take The Daily Show in the absence of Jon Stewart, but a few likely contenders stand out from the rest. The main question is whether the producers will hope to keep The Daily Show in a similar tone and style to the past 17 years, or whether they will try to reinvent it with a completely different personality. In any event, one obvious choice would be John Oliver, who presently hosts his own HBO show Last Week Tonight that is very similar in tone to The Daily Show. However, he may be lured back to Comedy Central, as indicated by the fact that Oliver took over from Stewart for two months while he filmed Rosewater. Another idea is Aasif Mandvi, a Daily Show insider who would continue the show in a similar vein. Another in-house idea is Jessica Williams, who the film Hot Tub Time Machine 2 predicts will host in the year 2025, and who would set a precedent for a female, African American host. Another female candidate is Amy Poehler, who recently completed her run on Parks and Recreation, or perhaps Amy Schumer or Sarah Silverman. An outside-the-box individual would be Joel McHale, who might not be as inherently political. Two other comedians who might be considered are Patton Oswalt and Ricky Gervais.

 

“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.