Jennifer Chen - Broadway Show Maven

About Jennifer Chen - Broadway Show Maven

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 the law, but her passion is for Broadway where she can write about subjects as diverse as Broadway union contracts to a show review. Contact Jennifer At: Click To Email - See Jennifer on LinkedIn

Hugh Jackman to Host the 2014 Tony Awards, Sunday June 8, 2014

Hugh Jackman at the Tony AwardsOn June 8, 2014, Hugh Jackman will host the 68th Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall.  This is the fourth time the Tony Award winning actor will host the event, previously having emceed the Tony’s in 2003, 2004, and 2005.

Jackman is a favorite among Broadway audiences, as proven by the stupendous box office success of his limited engagement one-man show Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway in 2011, as well as A Steady Rain in 2009 where he played opposite Daniel Craig.  He earned the 2003 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his role in The Boy from Oz, in which he performed for a year.  He was also recognized with a special Tony Award in 2012 for his work to raise money and awareness for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.  He will appear on Broadway next season in Jez Butterworth’s play The River, with performances set to begin early 2015.

Jackman’s film credits include the role of Wolverine in the first installment of the X-Men Series, which he reprised in subsequent films X2, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class, The Wolverine, and the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past.  In addition, he recently starred in Warner Bros’ 2013 film Prisoners, and he will also play Blackbeard in Warner Bros’ upcoming Pan.  In a more relevant role, he starred as Jean Valjean in the 2012 musical film adaptation of Les Misérables, for which he received an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe Award.

2014 tony awardsIn 2005, Jackman received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program for his role in hosting the 2004 Tony Awards, and he was nominated for the same honor in 2006 for his efforts in 2005.  In 2009, that specific Emmy Award was retired, and thus Jackman cannot expect to win it this year.  However, this past year, the 2012 Tony Awards broadcast did quite well, receiving five nominations at the 2013 Primetime Emmy Awards: Outstanding Special Class Program, Outstanding Music Direction, Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics, Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special, and Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special.

Hugh Jackman at the Tonys in 2012.

In taking the mic for the fourth time, Jackman will be tied for having hosted the Tony Awards for the most number of times.  Neil Patrick Harris also hosted four times: in 2009, 2011, 2012, and 2013.  This year, however, Harris is starring in the title role of John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and will most likely join Jackman on stage as a nominee.

This is also the second year since the return of the Tony Awards to their long-time home at Radio City Music Hall.  For the two years prior, the Awards were relegated to the Beacon Theatre as Cirque du Soleil was occupying Radio City.  Award attendees were not pleased with the change in venue, as the Beacon was much smaller and required producers to limit their number of guests.  Thankfully, the event has now returned to its more spacious home, where it appears to stay.

The Tony Award nominations will be announced on April 29, 2014.  April 24, 2014 is the last day for Broadway shows to have their official opening and still be eligible for a nomination.  On June 8, 2014, the broadcast will air on CBS from 8:00 – 11:00 pm (live ET / delayed PT).

Broadway Stars at the 2014 Oscars

Last night, the 86th Annual Academy Awards crossed paths with Broadway in a number of ways.

neil_meron_craig_zadan_osca

For the second year in a row, the event was produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron – who, in addition to having produced the recent Broadway revivals of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Promises, Promises, have perfected the Broadway musical to film adaptation concept with such movie hits as Annie (1999), Chicago (2002), The Music Man (2003), and Hairspray (2007).  They also executive produced NBC’s Broadway-themed TV show Smash.  It does make sense that these producers, with their expertise in the cross-section between theatre and film, would be chosen to run the film industry’s most significant stage show.

Last year, they may have taken the concept a little too far, as they made the unprecedented choice to give the 2013 Oscars a theme: music in film.   Though it was arguably appropriate because one of the nominees was Les Misérables, some critics thought they took the idea too far.  This year, they opted for a traditionally theme-less ceremony, and received far less criticism.  Still, purely on their own merits, some of Broadway’s favorite stars made appearances at the 86th Annual Academy Awards.

bobby-lopez2

Robert “Bobby” Lopez, who made his big break by co-writing the raunchy puppet musical Avenue Q, and furthered his renown by co-writing The Book of Mormon along with South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, made history last night.  At age 39, he became the youngest person ever to receive the honor known as EGOT – which refers to someone who has earned all four of “Emmy,” “Grammy,” “Oscar,” and “Tony” Awards.  Only twelve people have earned this honor throughout all of history, and he is the only person to have won all four within a decade.  At last night’s event, Bobby won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for having co-written Let It Go from Disney’s film Frozen, which in turn won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.  He wrote the song along with his wife, Kristin Anderson Lopez.

The couple’s two young daughters, Kate and Annie, both had voice parts in Frozen.

Idina-Menzel-oscars-2014-2As is tradition at the Oscars, all the nominees for Best Original Song are performed at the ceremony by the artist who did so in the film.  Idina Menzel, who played Queen Elsa in Frozen, therefore had the privilege to sing the song at last night’s event – and she did so beautifully.  However John Travolta, who was chosen to introduce her, clearly was not familiar with one of Broadway’s biggest stars.  In reading off the teleprompter, he accidentally – and yet with a straight face – called her “Adele Dazim.”  Social media went into an uproar at the ridiculous mispronunciation.  Immediately, a twitter account in that name was created. Adele Dazim’s Twitter account gained thousands of followers within a short period of time. The account is now currently suspended.

Idina Menzel, as all Broadway aficionados know, rose to prominence when she premiered the role of “Maureen” in Rent, which she also reprised in the 2005 film adaptation, and she won the 2004 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance of “Elphaba” in Wicked.  This spring season, she has returned to Broadway to star in a new musical called If/Then, written by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt, and directed by Michael Greif, who first cast her in RentIf/Then will begin previews March 3, 2014, and will open at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on March 30, 2014.  Therefore, Idina made the trip to Los Angeles just days before her big Broadway opening.

Musicals were not the only type of Broadway show to feature in last night’s Academy Awards.  In addition, two nominations were granted to August: Osage County, written by Tracy Letts based off of his Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play of the same name.  Those nominations were for Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, who were nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.  Jean Doumanian, the producer of such Broadway shows as August: Osage County, The Mountaintop starring Samuel L. Jackson, Death of a Salesman starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Nice Work If You Can Get It starring Matthew Broderick, and The Book of Mormon, produced the movie adaptation of August: Osage County along with George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Steve Traxler, and Bob and Harvey Weinstein.  Though the film did not win any Academy Awards, it has had a profitable theatrical run, and succeeded in proving that a play can be great source material for a successful motion picture.

 

Heterosexual Males Prove To Be An Elusive Audience For Broadway Producers

For many years, a Broadway show producers lament has been “What’s more difficult than making a straight play on Broadway financially successful?  Making a straight man buy tickets to a Broadway show.”

Traditionally, heterosexual adult males have been an elusive demographic for Broadway. In the Broadway League’s newly released survey of the 2012-2013 season, it was found that 68 percent of audience members were female, which reflects a trend that has existed for decades.  Though little research has been done into the sexual orientation of Broadway audiences, it is clear from phenomenological observation that gay male theatre-goers are not hard to come by.

Mad Men In The Movie Theatre

Mad Men Photo Courtesy AMC Inc.

Straight men, however, are a rarer sight – according to a recent survey, 82 percent of heterosexual males who saw Broadway shows ended up going either because their partner made them or because someone else had bought the tickets.

Nevertheless, producers Fran Kirmser and Tony Ponturo have taken up this challenge three times in the past four years.  In mounting three plays by Eric Simonson that deal directly with sports-related content, they have aimed to woo straight men to the theatre.  Lombardi, a story about the eponymous football player, played at the Circle in the Square Theatre from 2010-2011; this show completed a successful run of 244 performances and is now being adapted into a film by Legendary Pictures.  However, their last two attempts with Simonson sports plays (Magic/Bird in 2012 and Bronx Bombers in 2014) both incurred major financial losses.  Bronx Bombers, which just announced its premature closing last week, recouped only 24 percent of its $3 million capitalization and averaged only 63 percent capacity throughout its short run.

Bronx Bombers

Sports is not the only subject that producers have undertaken in order to attract straight men to the audience.  Politics is another male-dominated topic.  This upcoming Broadway season includes one promising political play – Robert Schenkkan’s All The Way, which tells the behind-the-scenes story of Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency during the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  In addition to its manly themes of power and justice, the Broadway production stars Bryan Cranston, who is well-known for his role in AMC’s Breaking Bad – a record-breaking hit television show and a favorite with men in particular.  Box office wraps for this play were strong enough to land it in the top 10 last week, though it is still in previews.  Other recent Broadway favorites on political themes include Frost/Nixon in 2007 and Gore Vidal’s The Best Man in 2012, both of which succeeded in recouping their investments.

Still, the playing field is open for wildcard topics to draw in the straight male audience.  For instance, Rock of Ages, with its head-banging 80′s rock score, has proved successful with this demographic.  Furthermore, both Monty Python’s Spamalot, which grossed more than $175 million over 1,500 performances between 2005 and 2009, and The Book of Mormon, running at full capacity with top box office grosses since 2011, provide an irreverent brand of comedy that appeals to the heterosexual male population.  Despite these successes, however, it still remains a challenge for producers to attract straight men to their theatres.

Dodger Theatricals’ Matilda Offers Discount Tickets At The TKTS Booth, But Nowhere Else

Matilda  on BroadwayMatilda the Musical, which has been playing on Broadway since spring 2013, is well on its way to establishing itself as a long-running hit musical.  After being nominated for thirteen Tony Awards and winning five, Matilda’s sales remained at full audience capacity for the majority of the summer, and the production has grossed well over a million dollars every single week since last April – until two weeks ago, when Matilda fell below the million-dollar mark.  Still, between the inclement weather and traditionally slower sales season of January to February, this is not necessarily a warning sign.  For instance, this past week it was the third highest show in terms of increase in gross from the previous week (up $220,225).

Matilda is one of the Broadway shows that is least frequently represented at TDF’s discount booth in Times Square. Dodger Theatricals, who partnered with the Royal Shakespeare Company to bring the musical over from London to Broadway, initially chose to discount at the booth for only a handful of performances in these past two weeks. The discount was only in the range of 30 to 40 percent (other shows often discount 50 percent). But recently they have started discounting the maximum allowed at the booth, which is the full 50 percent. Oddly, they opted to offer discounts only at the Times Square booth, not online or at the other TDF stations at South Street Seaport and Brooklyn.  This bespeaks a hit show, with an odd twist – only a hit show has the luxury of declining the opportunity to discount, as ticket-buyers will be more willing to purchase at full price.  It makes sense that producers tend to minimize their discounts in order to maximize their gross potential and recoup their investments as quickly as possible, but show some desperation in going to the maximum discount allowed.

matilda broadway discount

Still, this raises the question of when and why producers should choose to discount.

Matilda has been hovering around 90 percent capacity for the past few weeks, and yet it did not always choose to discount – instead preferring to leave tickets unsold to create a manipulated ticket market by having less inventory.  It is a tricky balance – and one of the greatest challenges of shepherding a show as producer throughout its run – to choose when to discount, and when to hold out for full-price sales and risk leaving seats empty.  Broadway general managers devote countless man-hours to calculating the precise percentages and platforms on which to offer discounts in order to maximize gross potential.  But this decision-making isn’t all quantitative, there is also the qualitative concern of a show’s brand image.

Producers generally believe that when a show appears at the booth, ticket buyers will consider it to be less of a hit.  For instance The Book of Mormon, widely known to be a tough ticket, never appears at the booth.  Though Matilda sold over $12 million in tickets while it was still in previews, it hasn’t yet announced recoupment on its $16 million capitalization.  Once a show is in profits, producers can breathe a little more easily, but at this stage Dodger Theatricals may still be treading carefully.  Brand image is especially important in light of the fact that Matilda announced its US National Tour two weeks ago; the tour will kick off at Los Angeles’ Ahmanson Theatre in May 2015.  It is important for out-of-town visitors to feel that Matilda is such a hot show that even if they don’t manage to snag a ticket during their trip to the city, they will be very excited to attend when the musical visits their hometown.  Therefore, even if selling the remaining 10 percent of seats at a discount may lead to a higher gross in the short term, such a choice could harm the show’s brand image over time.

Matilda The Musical

If producers do not discount anywhere else, they may choose to offer the show at the TDF booth because it is an easy last-minute option.  Unlike discounts offered through NYTix or telecharge e-blasts, which require the advertising agency to design a flyer and the general managers to advise on timing well in advance, producers can turn to the booth in a pinch if they notice one particular performance is particularly low in ticket sales.  Furthermore, booth discounts are not widely advertised; unlike direct mail discounts that arrive at homes around the country or ticket blasts that are sent to a slew of inboxes, the booth is a fairly private way to advertise discounts to tourists or New Yorkers who happen to show up that day and are rewarded with a whopping 50% discount on tickets to Matilda, something you cannot find anywhere else.  TDF’s website only shows discounts from the past weel, and then they disappear from record, which also protects the brand from dilution.

Still, in offering discounts only at the Times Square TKTS booth and not on the internet or in-the-mail offers, are the Matilda producers favoring tourists and isolating locals from the lower priced tickets? Even Dodger Theatricals choice of the Times Square TKTS over the South Street Seaport and Brooklyn TKTS booths seems to yell at New Yorkers to stay away. Its true that locals can access the Times Square booth if they so choose, although it  tends to be considered by most as a dire tourist destination, avoided by locals in almost all circumstances. Also, If it wasn’t bad enough already, the huge pedestrian construction in Times Square right now is a further impediment to locals venturing there in search of those discount tickets. Therefore, Dodgers Matilda discount ticket strategy effectively prevents locals who cannot, or choose not to, pay full price from seeing the show.  In contrast, local New Yorkers actually keep the Broadway industry alive during the soft months, but Dodger Theatricals tendency to prefer the booth over online discounts or other forms of direct response,  may very well be ostracizing the regular ticket buying market, the very life blood of Broadway ticket sales.  Every Broadway show, however, eventually wears out its unattainability, and it can be expected that in the next year or two, New Yorkers will have easier access to affordable Matilda tickets as Matilda ticket sales are not showing anywhere the same steep sales yield curve as The Book Of Mormon did at the very beginning of their run. A show cannot survive on discounting at the TKTS booth alone, unless Dodgers are in fact out to prove that it can. It wouldn’t be the first time that the Dodgers have flown in the face of conventional wisdom.

Next month sees Disney’s Aladdin open and Matilda will soon face some stiff competition from Disney, who are the masters in this genre. The Dodgers do have a success on their hands in Matilda, just not the runaway success they had hoped for.

Broadway Understudy Documentary Coming Soon to Theaters

The StandbysThe life of an understudy is unknown to most people, but soon that will change with the new documentary, The Standbys. The film about Broadway understudies will be released in movie theaters starting February 21.

The Standbys follows three Broadway actors: Ben Crawford (standby in Shrek the Musical and Big Fish); Merwin Foard (standby for Gomez in The Addams Family); and Alena Watters (standby for Anita in the West Side Story revival).

In addition to following those three understudies “through their ups and downs, struggles and triumphs, onstage performances and private lives,” The Standbys also includes interviews with a number of Broadway luminaries, such as David Hyde Pierce, Zachary Quinto, Bebe Neuwirth, Sutton Foster, Brian d’Arcy James, Katie Finneran, and Cheyenne Jackson.

To learn more, visit www.TheStandbys.com.

King Kong to Take the Foxwoods Following Spider-Man’s Closure

King KongIt seems that the Foxwoods Theatre on 42nd Street can’t get enough of multi-millionaire-dollar mega-musicals. After it was announced that the infamous spectacle Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark would be closing (the superhero musical shuttered on January 4), it became known that another well-known figure — King Kong — wanted to move in.

The new musical King Kong, which had its premiere in Melbourne, Australia, will come to Broadway late this year, with an opening scheduled for December 12, 2014. Written by Craig Lucas and Marius de Vries, King Kong brings the story of a gigantic silverback who gets loose in the city to the Broadway stage.

And if Spider-man, with its high-flying theatrics, seemed like a stage spectacle, King Kong is perhaps even more epic. The show features a cast of 49, a 76-person crew, and one enormous animatronic gorilla. The Foxwoods Theatre is one of the few Broadway theaters that is actually large enough to take on this colossal production.

A Night with Janis Joplin Closes on Broadway

A Night with Janis JoplinThe bluesy, rockin’ musical revue A Night with Janis Joplin, starring Mary Bridget Davies in the title role, concludes its run at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway today. However, don’t expect the bio-musical to be gone for long — there are already plans to move it to another theater.

“We are tremendously proud of this show, and excited about the many people who want to see A Night with Janis Joplin in New York. We are finalizing a wonderful option to move to another venue in New York City,” stated producers Michael Cohl, Todd Gershwin, and Daniel Chilewich. “A Night with Janis Joplin receives four standing ovations nightly and continues to play to captivated crowds on Broadway. We know that the music and the story of Janis Joplin deserve to live on.”

Both directed and written by Randy Johnson, A Night with Janis Joplin opened on Broadway on October 10.

Spring Training Comes Early for the Yankees on Broadway

Bronx BombersIt’s early yet for baseball season, but fans of America’s great past time can get a little taste of the game on the Broadway stage over at the Circle in the Square Theatre, where the new play Bronx Bombers opens tonight. Written and directed by Eric Simonson, the play focuses on one of the sport’s most famed franchises, the New York Yankees.

Bronx Bombers, which was first seen Off-Broadway at Primary Stages last year, takes audiences on a trip through Yankees history by looking at the team through the eyes of one of its icons, Yogi Berra.  Actor Peter Scolari plays Yogi opposite his real-life wife Tracy Shayne as Yogi’s wife Carmen.  Christopher Jackson, Keith Nobbs, Bill Dawes, Henry Coffey, Francois Battiste, John Wernke, and C.J. Wilson co-star.

Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, and Derek Jeter are among the New York Yankees legends who are represented onstage in Bronx Bombers as the show examines both the triumphs and the troubles that the team encounters over the years.  For fans who can’t wait for baseball season to start, this may be the ideal Broadway show to tide them over until spring training.

Film Star Bradley Cooper Will Be Elephant Man on Broadway

Bradley CooperSince last appearing on Broadway in the 2006 production of the Richard Greenberg play Three Days of Rain, Bradley Cooper has become a major movie star, gaining notoriety in The Hangover franchise and most recently starring in Oscar bait films Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle.

Soon Cooper will come back to Broadway, playing John Merrick in the 1979 drama The Elephant Man, penned by Bernard Pomerance. (The play was most recently revived on Broadway in a 2002 production featuring Billy Crudup.) He will be joined by co-stars Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson.

Bradley Cooper previously starred in The Elephant Man in 2012 at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. The same director, Scott Ellis, will also helm this Broadway production.

It is customary for the stage production of The Elephant Man to be performed without the aid of prosthetic makeup, instead the production will rely on the actors ability to simulate the characters severe disabilities. This show has Best Play Tony written all over it.

“The Elephant Man” story was inspired by the life of John Merrick, a man that suffered from a type of neurofibromatosis, a deforming nerve tissue disorder that produces skin and bone abnormalities. Much interest in the character has been seen following the David Lynch movie from 1980 that starred Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud and Wendy Hiller in which a Victorian surgeon rescues a heavily disfigured man who is mistreated while scraping a living as a side-show freak.

Daniel Radcliffe Coming Back to Broadway

The Cripple of InishmaanHarry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe will return to Broadway later this season when the recent West End production of The Cripple of Inishmaan comes to the Cort Theatre on Broadway in April. The production will start previews on April 12 with an expected April 20 opening.

Written by Martin McDonagh (who has been represented on Broadway with plays such as The Beauty Queen of Leenane and The Pillowman), The Cripple of Inishmaan has been performed Off-Broadway twice. This will be the play’s first time on Broadway.

Though he continues to be best known for the title role in the Harry Potter movies, Daniel Radcliffe is already a Broadway veteran, having starred in revivals of the drama Equus and the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.