New York City is known to have an unusually high concentration of the world’s billionaires, and Broadway mainstay The Lion King can now count itself among them. Over the course of 16 years on Broadway, the Disney juggernaut has brought in over one billion dollars in cumulative gross – a first for any Broadway show.
The Lion King very recently became the fourth longest running show on Broadway, and its popularity has seldom waned during that time. Rarely offering any kind of discount, the musical (based on the Disney animated film) routinely packs the theater and tops the Broadway ticket sales charts.
With stunning direction and design from Julie Taymor, The Lion King was an instant sensation when it opened on Broadway, earning six Tony Awards, including including Best Musical (the other contenders for the Best Musical award that year were Ragtime, Side Show and The Scarlet Pimpernel). The show opened in 1997 at the New Amsterdam Theater and moved to the Minskoff Theatre in 2006, where its still runs to this day with close to 100% of its seats sold every day. Lion King is now Broadway’s fourth longest running show on in history. The show has also enjoyed great success with many touring and sit-down productions all over the world.
It was only recently that the smash hit Broadway musical Mamma Mia! moved into its new home at the Broadhurst Theatre (following a long run at the Winter Garden Theatre), but soon the internationally known musical will take to the high seas on the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.
Mamma Mia! will make its sea-faring debut on Quantum of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean ship equipped to carry more than 4,000 passengers. Currently under construction, the ship is expected to begin presenting Mamma Mia! on its stage in November of 2014.
Mamma Mia! is not the first Broadway musical to be produced on a Royal Caribbean ship. Hairspray, Saturday Night Fever, and Chicago have all previously played on the cruise line’s ships, providing passengers with Broadway-style entertainment on the open seas.
Now is the annual culling of the Broadway herd, when a number of struggling shows inevitably close following the Christmas and New Year’s holiday spike. Spider-man ended its run yesterday, and today four more shows are playing their final performances and then closing their doors.
The Broadway revival of Annie enjoyed success after opening last season, but sales have gradually dwindled, making it no longer profitable to keep the show running. The charming new musical First Date (featuring Zachary Levi from TV’s Chuck) was one of the first Broadway shows to open this season, but it wasn’t able to hold on any longer with lackluster ticket sales.
The other two shows closing today, the Harold Pinter drama Betrayal (starring Daniel Craig) and Billy Crystal’s one-man play 700 Sundays, both did spectacularly well but are closing because they were only ever scheduled to play limited engagements.
Laura Osnes, who originated the role of Cinderella on Broadway in the current production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, will be passing her glass slippers along to another young woman next month, when pop singer/songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen takes on the iconic role.
Jepsen became an instant success when her song “Call Me Maybe” became a massive hit, and now the music sensation is making her Broadway debut. She will begin a 12-week run in the musical starting February 4. Actress Fran Drescher will also be making her first bow in Cinderella that day, in the role of Cinderella’s stepmother.
Cinderella, which has lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and music by Richard Rodgers, is playing at the Broadway Theatre. The show’s tuneful score features such songs as “In My Own Little Corner” and “Ten Minutes Ago”.
Billy Crystal’s return production of 700 Sundays, which is playing for a limited time at the Imperial Theatre through January 5, has proved to be a major Broadway hit this season. But if you haven’t been able to score tickets to Crystal’s one-man show, you will be able to see it on HBO next year. On January 3 and 4, 700 Sundays will be taped to broadcast in 2014 on the premium cable network.
“Billy Crystal has been a beloved member of the HBO family for more than three decades,” stated president of HBO Programming, Michael Lombardo. “It’s thrilling to us that he decided to let us film this legendary theatrical event.”
700 Sundays, which originally played on Broadway several years ago (and won a 2005 Tony Award for Special Theatrical Event), is Billy Crystal’s dramatic memoir in which he talks about growing up in New York City and in particular the cherished Sundays that he spent with his dad.
Stage and television performer Bebe Neuwirth (TV’s Cheers and Frasier) earned a Tony Award for her turn as Velma Kelly in the long-running Broadway revival of the musical Chicago back in 1997. Years later, she returned to the production to play the show’s other main role, Roxie Hart. And now Bebe Neuwirth will be graduating to a third role, that of the matron Mama Morton, when she comes back to Chicago again for a limited engagement early next year.
“Simply put, Bebe Neuwirth is Chicago,” stated producer Barry Weissler. “This January she’s back again, now as Matron ‘Mama’ Morton, making her the first leading lady in Broadway history to play all three principal roles.”
Bebe Neuwirth is scheduled to be in the show from January 14 to March 9, 2014. Chicago plays on Broadway at the Ambassador Theatre, located at 219 West 49th Street.
The week of Christmas is always unusually busy on Broadway, but performance schedules often change during this time, so it is important to keep this in mind if you or your family plans to catch a Broadway show during the holidays.
December 24, Christmas Eve Day, which is a Tuesday this year, will see very little activity on Broadway. Most plays and musicals are canceling performances on that day. The only exceptions are Betrayal, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, The Lion King, Newsies, and Spider-man all have 2pm matinees on the 24th. Macbeth will have a 7pm performance that night.
On Christmas Day, December 25, roughly half the shows on Broadway will have evening performances, but several will be canceling their normal evening shows. Even though it’s a Wednesday, when matinees are usually plentiful, no Broadway shows have matinees scheduled for Christmas Day.
To make up for performances canceled right over the Christmas holiday, many shows will be adding a matinee on Thursday, December 26 and a handful of other shows will add a Friday matinee.
To see the complete Christmas holiday schedule, click here.
The classic John Steinbeck novel Of Mice and Men will come to the Broadway stage early next year in a new production starring James Franco, Chris O’Dowd, and Leighton Meester. Anna D. Shapiro will direct the production, which will mark the first time that Of Mice and Men has been seen on Broadway in 40 years.
James Franco (Oz the Great and Powerful, 127 Hours) will take on the main role of George, while O’Dowd (Bridesmaids) will play his sweet but simple-minded friend Lennie. Meester (TV’s Gossip Girl) will play Curley’s wife.
Of Mice and Men will start preview performances at the Longacre Theatre on March 19, 2014, with opening night scheduled for April 16. The production will be a limited engagement, playing until July 27. Tickets go onsale on January 11. Find out more information at OfMiceAndMenOnBroadway.com.
The Manhattan Theatre Club production of the new Sharr White play The Snow Geese concludes its limited Broadway engagement at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre today. The production first began previews on October 1 and opened on October 24.
Set in 1917, in a country lodge in New York, The Snow Geese is a poignant and often funny drama that charts how a well-to-do family copes with a change in their fortunes following the death of their patriarch.
The play stars Mary-Louise Parker as the mother of the family, and co-stars Evan Jonigkeit and Brian Cross as her two very different sons. Victoria Clark and Danny Burstein also star, and Daniel Sullivan served as director of the production.
The latest Broadway revival of William Shakespeare’s 400-year old romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet ends its Broadway run at the Richard Rodgers Theatre today. The production began previews on August 24, and then opened on September 19.
Orlando Bloom (The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies) and Condola Rashad starred as the doomed lovers in this production, which was directed by David Leveaux. Christian Camargo, Brent Carver, Chuck Cooper, Justin Guarini (the American Idol alum turned Broadway performer), Jayne Houdyshell, and Geoffrey Owens co-starred.
Romeo and Juliet has had no shortage of productions on Broadway over the years. This one was the 36th on the Internet Broadway Database’s list, with the first one having been a production in 1754 at the New Theatre.