Carly White

About Carly White

Carly graduated University Of Toronto, Theatre and Performance program. She has written for various publications including art-speaks, Pembroke Daily Observer, Toronto Star - Performing Arts Section, The Canadian Post and more recently the Village Voice and the New York Daily News. As a member As a member of the Barrow Group, her specialties include performance stage production and talent casting.

Broadway’s Anna Kendrick to Host SNL on April 5

Anna Kendrick, the multi-talented actress and singer, has been tapped to host Saturday Night Live on April 5, 2014.  This will be her SNL hosting debut.  The telecast will also feature Pharrell, the seven-time Grammy Award winner known for his recent hit “Happy” from the animated film Despicable Me 2.  Created and executive produced by Lorne Michaels, SNL is filmed in front of a live studio audience at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City.

anna kendrick on SNL Saturday Night LiveAnna Kendrick made her Broadway debut at the age of 12, when she played Dinah Lord in the 1998 production of High Society.  She was nominated for a Tony Award for this performance, but she has not appeared on Broadway since.  Subsequently, her career has mostly been focused on film, yet she has not forgotten her musical roots.  Her screen debut was 2003’s Camp, where she played nerd turned surprise diva Fritzi Wagner.  More recently, her fame skyrocketed due to her role in the a cappella themed film Pitch Perfect, as her performance of the song “Cups (When I’m Gone)” became the number 2 hit on Billboard’s Adult Pop Song Chart.  Furthermore, she has just finishing filming two musical screen roles: Cathy Hyatt in The Last Five Years and Cinderella in Into the Woods, both of which will be released later this year.

anna kendrick on SNL on 04/05/14 on NBC Saturday Night LiveSince its original airing in 1975, NBC’s weekly late night variety and sketch comedy show has often been a place for celebrities to let loose and stretch their versatility.  As such, there has often been an overlap between Broadway actors and SNL hosts.  The record for having hosted SNL the most number of times is held by Alec Baldwin (he hosted 16 times since 1990), who has been on Broadway 5 times.  His Broadway debut was Loot in 1986, and he was recently seen on stage in the 2013 production of Orphans.  Furthermore, many individuals who have hosted the Tony Awards over the years have also served as SNL hosts.  These include Hugh Jackman, Neil Patrick Harris, Sean Hayes, Bernadette Peters, and Rosie O’Donnell, to name a few.  Even Seth MacFarlane, who hosted last year’s musical themed Academy Awards show, has also hosted SNL.

Anna Kendrick at the Toy Awards Red Carpet 2013

The list of Broadway performers who have hosted SNL does not end there.  Many A-list actors have been featured both in Broadway shows and also as the host of SNL.  For example, the stars of The Producers, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, have both served as SNL hosts.  So have Martin Short and Jason Alexander, who played those same roles in the Los Angeles production and US National Tour.  The stars of the film version of Chicago, Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones, have both hosted SNL.  Furthermore, there are several famous Hollywood actors who are presently appearing on Broadway, who have also served as SNL hosts.  These include James Franco, Alan Cumming, Daniel Radcliffe, and Bryan Cranston, among many more in recent years.

Anna Kendrick may not have been on Broadway since she was 12 years old, but she is nonetheless a beloved star of stage and screen, whose singing chops make her memorable as a musical theatre star.  After she makes her SNL hosting debut, and then appears back-to-back in two major musical film releases, we may see her on the Great White Way once again before too long.

‘The Book of Mormon’ Inks Deal with StubHub.com

The Book of Mormon now officially sells tickets on StubHub.com.

Since its opening in 2011, the Broadway production of The Book of Mormon has been selling out its houses at the 1,006 seat Eugene O’Neill Theatre.  With rampant demand for the satirical musical written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, along with Avenue Q writer Bobby Lopez, the show has regularly seen premium ticket prices as high as $477.  The show’s lead producers Scott Rudin and Anne Garefino have often been at the cutting edge of strategies to maximum their ticket revenue, utilizing dynamic pricing to vary ticket prices throughout the house in line with demand.  As of just week ago, they have announced a new partnership that changes the game for the Broadway ticket marketplace: they will now sell tickets on StubHub.com.

Book of Mormon and Stubhub join forces

Book of Mormon and StubHub.com  join forces

StubHub.com, an online ticket marketplace owned by eBay, has grown from America’s largest secondary-market ticket marketplace to the world’s largest ticket marketplace.  The secondary market for tickets refers to when tickets are re-sold, often at a higher amount than their original price, especially when the primary ticket sellers have sold out their inventory.  Another example of a secondary-market ticket site is TicketsNow.com, which is an acquired subsidiary of Ticketmaster.  Ticketmaster often redirects its customers to TicketsNow.com when the original inventory is sold out, which is effectively the same thing as selling tickets at a higher price through the same outlet.  Critics of secondary market ticket sites consider them to be just another form of scalping, and thus the legality of such sites is often questioned.

In an unprecedented move for Broadway, The Book of Mormon has decided to utilize StubHub.com as another outlet to sell their higher priced premium tickets.  In this way, StubHub will not be functioning as a secondary ticket marketplace, but rather a primary ticketing outlet.  Presently, the primary ticketing outlet for Broadway shows is more often than not Telecharge.com, which is owned by the Shubert Organization, one of the major Broadway landlords.  Therefore, this decision will present StubHub as a direct competitor to Telecharge.

It is common for producers to turn to additional outlets to help move their inventory, yet this is generally done in the form of discount ticket sales.  When sales are slow for a certain show, producers will often offer lower priced tickets either by direct mail to potential ticket buyers’ homes, or through online promotions by email or on websites.  However, the decision to sell premium seats for this hot-ticket show specifically through StubHub is an interesting maneuver, especially as the StubHub customer base may not be accustomed to seeing theatre options on the site.  StubHub’s biggest business comes from the music and sports industries, and this will present a Broadway option to this largely untapped audience.  On the other hand, the advantage from StubHub’s point of view is that it will help shift their reputation from that of a glorified online scalper to a more legitimate ticket sales outlet.

In any case, this novel approach presents an interesting dilemma for the Shuberts, who own Telecharge.com.  If premium tickets can be sold directly though secondary outlets commonly known for scalping tickets, there is a grey area between the primary and secondary market ticket outlets that had not previously existed for the Broadway marketplace.  If they neglect the opportunity to invest in secondary outlets, like Ticketmaster did with TicketsNow, then they might very well be losing profits in the long run.  Still, for now, The Book of Mormon’s new partnership will be a noteworthy case study to see if the StubHub customer base opens up new avenues for premium Broadway ticket sales.

The Rockettes’ ‘Heart and Lights’ Postpones Its Run

Heart and Lights, the new Rockettes show that was slated to begin performances on March 27, 2014 at Radio City Music Hall, has cancelled its run less than week before its first scheduled show.  The producer, MSG Entertainment, part of the Madison Square Garden Company, cited narrative issues as the reason for postponement until 2015.

heart and lights

Though traditionally successful with their Rockettes Christmas extravaganza in the winter season, MSG Entertainment has often struggled in attracting tourists during the spring and early summer season. They were attempting to turn that trend around with Heart and Lights, a love affair to New York City in which two cousins explore the city of their grandmother’s youth.  With choreography by Rockettes artistic director Linda Haberman, Heart and Lights has a story written by Doug Wright, the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning writer of the 2004 Broadway play I Am My Own Wife.

While narrative problems were the officially stated reason for the delay, the musical must not have been doing stupendously in terms of advance ticket sales.  Though MSG Entertainment claimed 100,000 tickets were sold out of the 350,000 tickets available, the show did show up on discount sites such as Groupon a week ago.  In any case, because of back-to-back booking at Radio City Music Hall following the scheduled 5-week run, Heart and Lights has needed to delay until 2015.  This decision left the 40 Rockette performers, not to mention the entire crew, jobless at the last minute.  It was reported that several of the dancers broke out in tears in hearing the news.  Furthermore, the producers were estimated to have incurred a loss of at least $5 million from foregone ticket sales alone.

For the final dress rehearsal of Heart and Lights, MSG executive James Dolan invited film impresario Harvey Weinstein, as well as producers Jane Rosenthal and Daryl Roth, to pipe in.  Though these individuals’ opinions have not been stated publically, it is clear that their advice was one of the final straws in Dolan’s decision to cancel the show.  Doug Wright commented only that Linda Haberman is a pleasure to work with, and that the rest of the heartbreaking tale of the deferment would be saved for his memoirs.  While the story was not ready, the intensive special effects and expert Rockettes dancing were said to be in top shape.  Fortunately, the groundbreaking 3-D technology and innovative puppetry will only be put on hold, as audiences will be able to witness their delights when the book has been revamped.

The postponed performances dates have not yet been determined, but MSG will make an announcement when they have reached a decision.  All purchased tickets will be refunded at point of purchase, except Ticketmaster purchases which will be refunded automatically.

James Franco in ‘Of Mice and Men’ Begins Previews

Of Mice and Men with James Franco and Chris O'DowdFor the first time in 40 years, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men will hit the Broadway stage this evening: Wednesday, March 19, 2014.  Adapted by Steinbeck from his novella of the same name, this play first premiered on Broadway in 1937, after which it was chosen as Best Play by the New York Drama Critics’ Circle.  In addition to a short-lived run from 1974 to 1975, this is the play’s second Broadway revival.  The new production, directed by Anna D. Shapiro (The Motherf**ker with the Hat, August: Osage County), is playing at the Longacre Theatre on West 48th Street.

This production is unique in that the cast is led by three young Hollywood stars making their Broadway debuts.  James Franco, the multi-talented actor, director, screenwriter, producer, teacher, and author (Freaks and Geeks, James Dean, Oz the Great and Powerful, Spring Breakers), stars as George, and Chris O’Dowd, known for the film Bridesmaids as well as the HBO / BBC series Family Tree, plays opposite Franco as his friend Lennie.  Furthermore, Leighton Meester, who rose to fame by starring as Blair Waldorf on the CW’s Gossip Girl, plays Curley’s wife. The cast is rounded out by Tony Award winner Jim Norton as Candy, Ron Cephas Jones as Crooks, Alex Morf as Curley, Joel Marsh Garland as Carlson, James McMenamin as Whit, Jim Ortlieb as the Boss, and Jim Parrack as Slim.

Of Mice and Men is the story of two migrant field workers in California during the Great Depression, holding onto their dream of becoming landowners one day.  However, they encounter a menacing situation, confronted by the Boss’ small-statured son Curley and his flirtatious wife.  When Candy, an older one-armed ranch hand, offers to pitch in for the land in exchange for living on it, they think their future is set, but the tragic bonds of friendship interfere, and they fail to achieve the elusive American dream.

Though the novella is often featured as required reading in many school curricula, it has also been the frequent target of censorship due to accusations of vulgarity.  The book has also been adapted to the screen several times, in 1939, 1981, and 1992.  The first film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Original Score, Best Musical Score, and Best Sound Recording.

The present production is lead produced by David Binder, with scenic design by Tony Award winner Todd Rosenthal (August: Osage County), costume design by Suttirat Larlarb, sound design by Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen, and lighting design by Japhy Weideman.

Rocky Opens at Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre

Rocky, a new musical based on the 1976 film of the same name, had its official opening last night on Broadway.  With an original score by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens (Ragtime, Once on This Island, Anastasia), and a libretto by Thomas Meehan (The Producers, Hairspray, Annie) in collaboration with Sylvester Stallone, Rocky is directed by Alex Timbers (Here Lies Love, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Peter and the Starcatcher). 

rocky the musical on BroadwayProduced by the international theatre powerhouse Stage Entertainment, Rocky premiered in Hamburg, Germany in 2012 in a German language production, where it is still running today.  In its newly translated English version, the Broadway production now occupies the Winter Garden Theatre, where Mamma Mia! played from 2001 to 2013 (Mamma Mia! is now continuing its run at the Broadhurst Theatre).

When the film came out in 1976, Sylvester Stallone was relatively unknown.  After writing the script and starring as the fictional boxing hero Rocky Balboa, Stallone launched to fame, and went on to write, star, and also direct four subsequent sequels.  (The first film as well as Rocky V were directed by John G. Avildsen.)  The original Rocky, which was made on the shoestring budget of under $1 million, became the highest grossing film of 1976, and the franchise has since earned over $1.1 billion worldwide.  Sylvester Stallone is also the second billed producer after Stage Entertainment of Rocky the Musical, which has a production budget of approximately $15 million.  Because of its successful run in Hamburg, whose budget of $20 million included development expenses, Rocky the Musical was able to avoid an American pre-Broadway tryout and economize for a lean Broadway budget.

Starring Andy Karl as Rocky, Margo Seibert as Adrian, Terence Archie as Apollo Creed, Dakin Matthews as Mickey, and Danny Mastrogiorgio as Paulie, this musical is not relying on A-list Hollywood stars to sell its tickets, a luxury generally reserved for musicals rather than plays.  The director Alex Timbers, who is only 35 years old, is often referred to as the “boy genius” of theatre, as his whirlwind career thus far includes two Tony Award nominations and four Broadway directing credits, including Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson for which he also wrote the book.  As for his writing, Timbers is known for a quirky and often irreverent style, but for Rocky which he only directs, his skills are most visible in terms of the magic of technical design employed onstage, especially in the adrenaline-charged closing number bolstered by the choreography of Steven Hoggett and Kelly Devine.

In fact, Ben Brantley of The New York Times praised this closing number and little else, going as far as to claim the show doesn’t even begin until over 2 hours after its curtain time.  Reviewers were generally mixed – Entertainment Weekly and The New York Post gave it raves, but the Hollywood Reporter called its score “unmemorable” and AM New York made fun of how its musicality undermined the serious story at its core.  Still, the success of the show’s last 15 minutes was basically unanimous, and critics also largely agreed that Alex Timbers’ direction was innovative, the technical elements were unique, and the emotional impact of the classic underdog story was indestructible.

In terms of box office sales, the show has not been knocking it out of the park.  In the last week of previews, the average discount ticket price was a low $66.29, though premium seats were sold for as high as $248.00, reaching only 43.65 percent of its gross potential.  Still, national awareness has just been augmented by wide press coverage, and the brand power of this movie franchise will most likely overshadow any ambivalence in critical praise.  In any case, it is undoubtedly one of the more buzz-generating Broadway shows opening this season, and we may expect to see these numbers increase in the coming weeks.

All The Way, With Bryan Cranston, Opens on Broadway

bryan cranston on broadway as Lyndon B Johnson in all the wayAll the Way, Robert Schenkkan’s bio-play about Lyndon B. Johnson, opened last week at Broadway’s Neil Simon Theatre. After Bill Rauch, the artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, directed its premiere at OSF in 2012, he partnered with Diane Paulus of the American Repertory Theater to mount the political drama this past fall for a limited engagement in Boston.  Further to this, he partnered with the commercial producer Jeffrey Richards to bring it to Broadway, where previews began on February 10, 2014.  At A.R.T. as well as now on Broadway, the role of Lyndon Johnson is played by Bryan Cranston, whose fame has recently skyrocketed due to his starring role as Walter White on AMC’s Breaking Bad.  Between Cranston’s viscerally talented portrayal of Johnson, Schenkkan’s masterfully realistic script, and Rauch’s poised and polished direction of the ensemble cast, All the Way received wide critical praise and is stirring a lot of buzz among theatregoers.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan has declared the play to be the first half of a two-part series, with its action focused on the years leading to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  As exemplified by the biographer Robert Caro’s lifelong project to chronicle Johnson’s career in what will be five massive volumes, the story of LBJ is a rich and detailed one.  It therefore makes sense that Schenkkan would choose to break up his story into two plays.  All the Way, in focusing on the years 1963-4, includes not only Johnson’s perspective, but also gives us an inside look into the experience of Martin Luther King, Jr. (played by Brandon J. Dirden), Coretta Scott King (played by Roslyn Ruff), J. Edgar Hoover (played by Michael McKean), Senator Hubert Humphrey (played by Robert Petkoff), Governor George Wallace (played by Rob Campbell), Robert McNamara (played by James Eckhouse), Senator Strom Thurman (played by Christopher Gurr), and Johnson’s long-time aide Walter Jenkins (played by Christopher Liam Moore).  This is therefore a democratic portrayal of history, with insight not only into the presidential podium but also the experience of African Americans as well as homosexuals during the time period.

bryan cranston on broadway as Lyndon B Johnson in all the way

As for the latter, Christopher Liam Moore – who is the real-life partner of director Bill Rauch, as well as the only cast member to remain from the original Oregon production – plays Walter Jenkins, whose tragic story is honored by Schenkkan’s inclusion of his narrative, though it could easily be over-shadowed by the other events of this dynamic era.  Weeks before the 1964 political election, Jenkins was caught in an elicit act with another man in the public restroom of the YMCA.  Though Jenkins was forced to resign and leave Washington, Johnson never faltered in his support of his close friend, showing the man’s compassion despite his rough political exterior.  It is the presence of tales like this one alongside major political events that make Schenkkan’s play a personal and compelling theatrical experience.

Marilyn Stasio in Variety called the play’s style “Expressionism Lite,” referring to how the characters are not entirely realistic, nor fully caricatured, with the one exception of Cranston’s LBJ who succeeds in feeling fully authentic.  This is to the play’s credit, for it is a tricky balance to fictionalize history onstage, and the blend between rigorous detail and abridgment helps the audience to navigate this complex tale.  The cohesion of the piece also stems from Rauch’s clever direction, which stylizes the story just enough to make it artful while allowing the actors to exercise a grounded approach to their characters.  The cast of 20 remain in sight, either sitting on upstage benches designed by Christopher Acebo or by marching through the aisles of the theatre.  This lends the show a vibrant energy and a structural integrity.

Bryan Cranston in all the way on broadway

Johnson is known as a great manipulator, and this play allows us to see his Machiavellian expertise.  Bryan Cranston embodies the towering figure of Johnson despite his less-than-enormous height, partially with the help of hidden risers in his shoes, but more so due to his ferocious energy and commitment to the character.  Throughout the play, we see how Johnson bent Congress to his needs, which in this case was to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  On the other hand, we also see how the black freedom fighters acted as a counterbalance to Johnson’s own agenda, as they make up a significant part of his constituency, and we are given an inside look into Martin Luther King, Jr.’s own political savviness.  Alongside NAACP director Roy Wilkins (played by Peter Jay Fernandez) and the SNCC head Stokely Carmichael (played by William Jackson Harper), we see the other side of the story of the passing of the Civil Rights Act, allowing for a balanced take on this historic struggle.

Despite its rave reviews, All The Way has not yet been selling out its houses.  Last week, it averaged an audience capacity of 81.94% with an average paid admission of $79.04, grossing a total of $736,790 for the week.  With the reviews having determined it to be a skillful and entertaining production, the audiences may become more confident in their choice to see their beloved Cranston in his Broadway debut in such a competitive Broadway marketplace.  As the post-opening numbers start coming in, we will soon see if this becomes a commercial as well as a critical success.

Les Misérables Returns to Broadway

Les Miserables 2014On March 1, 2014, the anticipated new revival of Les Misérables began previews at Broadway’s Imperial Theatre, where the first American production of the musical ran from 1987 to 2003.  With music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, book by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer, and based off the novel by Victor Hugo originally published in 1862, Les Misérables tells the epic and uplifting story of a French peasant named Jean Valjean and his quest for redemption amidst a revolutionary period in 19th century France.  Opening night will take place on March 23, 2014.

Directed by Laurence Connor and James Powell, this newly reimagined production of Les Misérables has been receiving rave reviews on its tour across North America, having grossed more than $160 million in two and a half years, and it has also broken box office records with capacity crowds at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Toronto.  This version of the musical has also seen great success internationally, with productions in the U.K., France, Spain, Japan, Korea, and soon to be Australia.  Furthermore, this incarnation, which premiered in the U.K. in 2009, is said to have inspired filmmakers to make the 2012 film which won Academy, Golden Globe and BAFTA Awards.  In May 2013, it was announced that the show would return to Broadway, encouraged by the widespread success of this revised production.

waving red flagLes Miserables 2014 on Broadway

The revival is produced by Cameron Mackintosh, who has been shepherding productions of this show around the world since its first English-language incarnation in London’s West End, which is presently in its 28th sell-out year.  In October 2006, Les Misérables earned the title of Longest Running Musical Worldwide, followed by two other Cameron Mackintosh shows: The Phantom of the Opera and Cats.  As for Broadway, Les Misérables is the fourth longest-running Broadway production of all time.

The new Broadway cast features Ramin Karimloo (Les Misérables London and Toronto) as Jean Valjean, Will Swenson (Hair, Priscilla Queen of the Desert) as Javert, Caissie Levy (Ghost, Hair, Wicked) as Fantine, Nikki M. James (The Book of Mormon) as Eponine, Andy Mientus (Smash) as Marius, Samantha Hill (Les Misérables Toronto, The Phantom of the Opera) as Cosette, Cliff Saunders (The 39 Steps) as Thenardier, Keala Settle (Hands on a Hardbody) as Madame Thernadier, and Kyle Scatliffe (The Scottsboro Boys London) as Enjolras.  The design team includes sets by Matt Kinley, who took as inspiration the paintings of Victor Hugo, as well as costumes by Andreane Neofitou, additional costumes by Christine Rowlands, lighting by Paula Constable, sound by Mick Potter, and projections by Fifty-Nine Productions.

The musical features many timeless songs including I Dreamed A Dream, On My Own, Bring Him Home, Do You Hear the People Sing?, One Day More, Master of the House, and At the End of the Day.  There have been 47 cast recordings made of Les Misérables, including the original London recording which won multiple platinum accolades, as well as the Broadway cast and symphonic recordings, both of which won Grammy Awards.  The show has been translated into 22 languages and seen in 42 countries, and new productions are constantly been mounted worldwide.

Les MiserablesThis revival is especially timely in light of the widely praised Les Misérables film that opened in U.S. theaters on Christmas Day 2012, grossing over $441 million worldwide and receiving nominations for eight Academy Awards, winning three.  The movie was co-produced by Cameron Mackintosh and Working Title Films, distributed by Universal Pictures, and starred Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, and Eddie Redmayne.

Despite all of this success in other realms, the timing of this Broadway revival may seem surprising, considering how a recent revival attempt was relatively disappointing in terms of box office.  That revival ran for only 463 performances and 17 previews from November 2006 to January 2008.  Just a handful of years later, will this musical manage to take Broadway by storm?  It certainly has the household recognition and history of global achievement to woo audiences with promises of breathtaking entertainment. Most notably, last year’s film succeeded in capturing American hearts, proving that there is still great love for the material.  We will not be able to anticipate the future of this production until the weekly gross figures begin to come in after the show’s official opening on March 23rd.  Still, we can expect that the Broadway revival will benefit from the recent renaissance of this masterpiece.

Bronx Bombers Closes Early. Machinal Closes As Planned.

On Sunday, March 2, 2014, Bronx Bombers shuttered its doors at the Circle in the Square Theatre, less than a month after its official opening on February 6, 2014.  A new American play by Eric Simonson, who also penned recent Broadway sports-themed shows Lombardi and Magic/Bird, Bronx Bombers tells the story of Yogi Berra and his wife Carmen, bringing a century of Yankee star players to the stage.  Unlike with his previous two plays, this time Simonson also directed.

The play had a pre-Broadway limited run at bronx bombersthe Duke on 42nd Street Theatre from September 17, 2014 to October 19, 2014, produced by Primary Stages.  Broadway producers Fran Kirmser and Tony Ponturo, who were also behind Lombardi and Magic/Bird, transferred the play to Broadway with previews beginning January 10, 2014.  The Broadway production was also produced in association with The New York Yankees and Major League Baseball Properties.

The Broadway production starred Peter Scolari (Lucky Guy, Magic/Bird) as Yogi Berra and Tracy Shayne (Chicago, The Phantom of the Opera) as Carmen Berra, and the cast also included Francois Battiste as Reggie Jackson and Elston Howard, Chris Henry Coffey as Joe DiMaggio, Bill Dawes as Mickey Mantle and Thurman Munson, Christopher Jackson as Derek Jeter and Bobby Sturges, Keith Nobbs as Billy Martin, John Wernke as Lou Gehrig, and C.J. Wilson as Babe Ruth.

This premature closing follows a pattern of unsuccessful shows that cater to the heterosexual male theatergoer.  According to a Broadway League audience survey conducted during the 2012 to 2013 season, 68 percent of Broadway attendees were female, which reflects the fact that male-directed content has trouble staying afloat on Broadway.  Simonson’s previous attempt Magic/Bird, which told the story of rivalry and friendship between basketball players Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, closed in 2012 after only 23 previews and 38 performances.  Though his football play Lombardi played for a respectable 31 previews and 244 performances between 2010 and 2011, it appears the demographic for these sports dramas became saturated more quickly than the producers had projected.

The play was capitalized at a little under $3 million, which was surely not recouped in only 31 previews and 29 performances.  Though the property may have a regional life and also earn some money through amateur rights licensing, it will likely never make back its initial investment.  It is interesting to consider the possible reasons behind the producers’ logic in trying their hand at another sports play by the same writer so soon after a comparable flop.

ny yankees

Though the play was produced in association with the Yankees and Major League Baseball, it is possible that their contribution was not monetary but only one of permission.  Perhaps if these organizations had not been involved, the play would have been able to enter into more controversial territory, upping the stakes for dramatic tension and allowing for a more compelling story.  Still, it is possible that the opportunity for these partnerships alone was enough to convince the producers that the transfer was one worth pursuing.

More importantly, the Off-Broadway run at the Duke on 42nd Street received fairly negative reviews – the New York Times said, “The Yankees… deserve better than this mawkish and sappy effort, which brings new meaning to the phrase ‘high cheese.’” – so they could not have been relying on a stellar critical response to sell the Broadway run.  Furthermore, with no A-list actors leading the cast, the producers could not have been banking on star power to move tickets.

Therefore, the producers must have been relying on nothing but sheer hope that the overlap of Broadway ticket-buyers who were also interested in baseball was more robust that those who were also interested in basketball.  Unfortunately, this unscientific reasoning proved fallible, as Bronx Bombers did not manage to overcome all the odds against it.

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In other news, the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of Machinal also concluded its limited engagement on its scheduled closing date of Sunday, March 2, 2014.

The play ran from December 20, 2013 at the American Airlines Theatre on 42nd Street, and it officially opened on January 16, 2014.  It played 28 preview performances and 52 regular performances.  Starring Rebecca Hall and directed by Lindsay Turner, Machinal is a revival of Sophie Treadwell’s play which first premiered in 1928 starring a young Clark Gable in his Broadway debut.

Inspired by the infamous 1927 murder trial of Ruth Snyder, Machinal is the story of a young stenographer (played by Hall) who did not bargain for the unfulfilling life offered by the male-dominated industrial world of 1920s America.  With a passionless marriage and an unwanted child, she winds up in an extramarital affair and ends up resorting to extreme means to maintain her freedom.  This production received generally positive reviews.  Ben Brantley of The New York Times called the revival “intensely stylish,” the play “fascinating,” and Rebecca Hall “illuminating.”  New York Magazine called the production “superb,” and The Hollywood Reporter lauded Hall for choosing such a “challenging” piece to make her Broadway debut.

The cast also included Suzanne Bertish, Morgan Spector, Michael Cumpsty, Damian Baldet, Ashley Bell, Jeff Biehl, Arnie Burton, Ryan Dinning, Scott Drummond, Dion Graham, Edward James Hyland, Jason Loughlin, Maria-Christina Oliveras, Daniel Pearce, Henny Russell, Karen Walsh, and Michael Warner.  The creative team included Es Devlin as the scenic designer, Michael Krass as the costume designer, Jane Cox as the lighting designer, and Matt Tierney as the sound designer.

Unlike commercial Broadway productions, Machinal benefited from being produced by the not-for-profit Roundabout Theatre Company, which released it from the usual tight constraints of a financially successful play on Broadway.  This production of a lesser known title did not feature any huge A-list stars and only played a short run, yet it did not need to be as concerned with making back its entire capitalization due to the buffer of the not-for-profit endowment.

Super Bowl XLVIII Negatively Impacts Broadway Ticket Sales, Despite Positive Expectations

superbowl 48 trophyOn Sunday, February 2, 2014, the Seattle Seahawks crushed the Denver Broncos, 43-8, winning the National Football League championship at the Super Bowl XLVIII. The game was held just over the Hudson River from New York City at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

As it turns out, the Broncos were not the only ones who could have used a better defense.  Though Broadway shows across the board adjusted performance schedules and made promotional efforts to engage the influx of sports fans flocking to the city, theatre ticket sales were at a disappointing low, with weekly box office grosses dropping $2.4 million and with 15,000 fewer tickets sold compared to the previous 7-day period.

Total ticket sales were only $16,714,694 in the week leading up to the Super Bowl, though they reached $19,122,428 in the preceding week.  The only shows to reach full audience capacity were The Book of Mormon and the double-bill Mark Rylance-led Shakespeare productions of Twelfth Night and Richard III.  Even long-running hits such as The Lion King saw a big drop in sales, decreasing 10 percent since the week before.  Although the total weekly gross for all productions was comparable to the total gross in Super Bowl week last year, there are presently four more shows running than this time last year.

In recent history, Broadway producers have seen non-weather related ticket sales slumps, the most recent during the Republican National Convention in 2004, when ticket sales dropped 22%. This time the slump was so severe, that the New York City Mayor may rethink efforts to bring other events to the area, like the Olympics, the World Cup or even the Stanley Cup. It may increase hotel receipts, but do little for the rest of the NYC economy.

superbowl-tobaggan-run

In honor of the football event, New York City and the Super Bowl Host Committee joined forces to carry out an unprecedented shutdown of 13 blocks in Midtown Manhattan.  As a result, traffic was restricted in the heart of Times Square on Broadway between 34th Street and 47th Street for the four days leading up to the game.  The officially dubbed “Super Bowl Boulevard” hosted a slew of events ranging from a toboggan run to an outdoor stage featuring performances by, among others, the Broadway casts of Rock of Ages and Jersey Boys.  Other shows – including Rocky, Pippin, Motown, Chicago, Mamma Mia! and Newsies – gave special performances in nearby Bryant Park.  Still, it appears the excitement of the game overpowered the convenience of the theatre district welcoming the flood of visitors with open arms. The “Super Bowl Boulevard” festivities felt crushed in the small space on Broadway, especially given that the Javits Center, on the West Side of Manhattan was the original location earmarked , but another event grabbed the booking.

Broadway producers, anticipating the conflict, made significant efforts to take advantage of the tourist traffic.  Broadway Week, an annual 2-for-1 ticket promotion, happened to coincide with the shutdowns, and every running production (with the exception of the confident hit The Book of Mormon) participated in the discount program – most likely aiming to attract Super Bowl theatregoers.  Furthermore, the Broadway League (calling themselves “the theatrical equivalent of the NFL”) released a press statement welcoming Super Bowl XLVIII to Times Square, providing a user-friendly map for pedestrians to navigate their way to the theatres, and announcing alternate curtain times to accommodate football aficionados.

Rock of Ages

One show, Rock of Ages, made multiple efforts to attract football fans.  The 1980s rock jukebox musical has traditionally done very well with the adult male demographic, which is unusual for Broadway musicals.  It therefore makes sense that they would take this opportunity to gain added exposure among sports fans.  In addition to performing a half hour set onstage at Super Bowl Boulevard on Thursday afternoon prior to the game, the cast made the journey to MetLife Stadium on game day, performing two sets outside the gates prior to kickoff.  In an even greater feat, the producers convinced three NFL stars to join the cast onstage at Broadway’s Helen Hayes Theatre, playing bartenders in four brief scenes for a temporary stint.  However, Rock of Ages was no exception in terms of poor box office performance; their gross was $60,000 less than the previous week.

Overall, despite positive expectations that the event might help rally the crowds to Broadway, the performance week was disappointingly low.  Presumably, the grosses might have been even worse had it not been for the Broadway League’s efforts to woo the scant few Super Bowl fans that actually did go to a show.  It is likely that the Super Bowl fans also booked all the hotel rooms in New York City, which meant that the normal tourists didn’t have anywhere to stay. Super Bowl Boulevard also served to distract the remaining tourists from going to the theatre, merely adding to the multitude of entertainment options available in Times Square.  Still, some of these marketing efforts may prove fruitful in the long run, having possibly increased national awareness of the current Broadway slate.

Broadway Musical Taboo Stages Reunion Concert

TabooThe beloved but relatively short-lived Broadway pop musical Taboo, which played the Great White Way in 2003, is holding a 10th Anniversary reunion concert tonight and tomorrow at the club 54 Below. There will be two performances of the reunion concert on February 7 at 8pm and 11pm and again on February 8 at 8pm and 11pm.

Produced by Rosie O’Donnell, Taboo was the biographical tale of Boy George and the ’80s London club scene, and even co-starred Boy George himself in the role of Leigh Bowery. The reunion show will feature several original cast members from the Broadway production of Taboo, including Jeffrey Carlson, Cary Shields, Liz McCartney, and Sarah Uriarte Berry.

John McDaniel, Taboo’s original music director on Broadway, will also provide music direction for the concert. Proceeds from the event will go to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.  Click here for more information.