Christina Morningside

About Christina Morningside

Christina Morningside is a native New Yorker who grew up loving theater and writing for various periodicals on the subject including Playbill and BroadwayWorld. Christina is an alumna from Columbia University in the City of New York and serves on several historic preservation committees in the city. When Christina is not at a Broadway show she can be found outdoors in Vermont enjoying snowshoeing or skiing.

“Fish in the Dark” Concludes Its Run on Broadway

A Mega Box Office Hit That Took Broadway by Storm

fish-in-the-dark-logo-no-tix_300On August 1, 2015, Fish in the Dark will play its final performance on Broadway. The show began previews on February 2, 2015 at the Cort Theatre, and officially opened on March 5, 2015. Written by and originally starring Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm, creator of Seinfeld), the show was a major box office draw from the first day. Before the show even began its first preview, it had brought in over $11 million at the box office. This was by far the highest advance of any show this spring season on Broadway. By the opening on March 5th, the advance was reported to be $13 million. On May 20, 2015, it was announced that the show had recouped its initial investment which was never revealed to the press, but was expected to be somewhere between $3 million and $4 million. The reason it took so long for the show to recoup despite such an extraordinary advance is due to the high cost of running the show, which in no small part is due to the high salary given to Larry David himself. When Jason Alexander took over for Larry David on June 9, 2015, the box office receipts dropped $400,000 for the week, and stayed fairly constant until the end of the run. However, Jason Alexander also earned a significantly lower salary, allowing the show to stay afloat despite this drop in ticket sales.

Mediocre Reviews and Poor Awards Recognitionjason alexander larry david

Despite this astounding box office success, the show received mediocre reviews upon its opening. The New York Times found the show to be an excuse to glorify the fame of Larry David, but that the comedy was not his best. Other critics were as impressed as ticket buyers, including David Cote from Time Out New York, David Rooney from The Hollywood Reporter, and Matt Windman from AM New York. However, the overall critical response did nothing to dissuade ticket buyers, many of whom had already made their ticket purchases before the reviews came out. Furthermore, Fish in the Dark received no Tony Award nominations, further confirming that the show was not the best Broadway has seen by any stretch of the imagination. However, the producers of the Tony Awards ceremony did give a nod to Larry David’s impact of the Broadway industry this season, as he was given the chance to present the final award of the evening, that for Best Musical to Fun Home.

Jason Alexander Didn’t Hold a Candle to Larry David

When Alexander took over for David on June 9, 2015, the weekly box office gross dropped by $403,563. Whereas David’s final week brought in a weekly gross of $1,246,196, representing 119.73% of the show’s gross potential, Jason Alexander’s first week had a weekly gross of $842,633, which represented 80.97% of the gross potential. With very minor fluctuations, the gross through Alexander’s run has stayed constant, that is until the last reported week of box office figures: the week ending July 26, 2015. That week, the show’s weekly gross went down by $185,258 to a figure of $716,936, which represented only 68.89% of the show’s gross potential. This is by far the lowest weekly gross to date. However, chances are the sales will pick up in the final week ending August 1, 2015.

Ryan Seacrest’s “Knock Knock Live” Fails To Ignite

FOX TV’s Knock Knock Live Show Review

knock knock liveAt 9PM on July 21 2015, Ryan Seacrest’s new TV show Knock Knock Live beamed out , live, over the Fox broadcast airways for the very first time and now it all seems a blur. Knock Knock Live is Seacrest’s bid to remain on the broadcast air long after American Idol has died and gone to heaven, which will be in early 2016. The format of the show is basically a feel-good, let’s give away lots of sponsors prizes to people who are deserving by knocking on their doors and surprising them. The show roped in a couple of stars like the rapper Common and soccer star David Beckham. Kellie Pickler (from American Idol fame) co-hosted. The show consisted of hearing sappy back-stories of deserving families and then showing them being surprised by one of the celebrities with a easy challenge and then a big prize. Some of the people who nominated the families also got prizes. In a bid to keep the in-studio audience entertained, one of the families in the TV studio was also surprised.

Sponsors Galore

Knock Knock Live had an amazing slew of major sponsors that included Ford, Sprint and Meineke who gave away cars, iPhones and buses for teachers to pick up their students. The show often felt akin to when Oprah gave out all those cars (but later turned out that it was Chevy the gave away the cars). The same format played off here, with Seacrest giving away over half a million dollars worth of prizes of OPM (other peoples money). One such money giveaway was hilarious with Seacrest’s team spraying money into the street using a fan out the back of a truck and having the winner get on their hands and knees in the street to pick up the money in the dirt and grime and whatever else was there. The use of an armored truck is also hysterical, especially when the cash amount is only $25,000. Homeowners all over America will now be using armored trucks to take them to their condo closings as their bank checks are worth way more than $25k

ryan seacrest at knock knock liveThe Twitter Sphere Reacts

Twitter sphere was quick to react to the show with claims that all the “surprised” fans at home were all remarkably well dressed. Each man had on a shirt and tie and the women were wearing their Sunday best with full makeup – not one person was in their boxer shirts or covered with paint or sweat, indicating that all the families were tipped-off in some way prior to the “surprise”. Fox probably didn’t want anything to go wrong on the debut of a live show. With the sheen off the surprise, the show lacked any genuine surprises and many questionable moments appeared in the show. One obvious fake surprise came when one of the hosts came to the door of the neighbor who nominated someone else. That neighbor acted totally surprised, yet a veritable riot had been happening outside their house for the last thirty minutes with over 50 TV crew, 100 neighbors, four TV trucks and an armored truck. Every neighbors in the street had seen the show on TV or heard the noise and came out, how did the nominated neighbor not know anything? Clearly they did. It was the most obvious fake of all.

Seacrest is Charming Host But Lacks Comedic Skills

Ryan Seacrest is no stranger to fake-ality TV shows, especially given his mastermind of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Knock Knock Live may have landed in that genre given its less-than-honest surprises. There were many moments in the show that a more talented host could have used to comedic effect, but Seacrest is just not-that-kind-of-host and the show often came over as bland, if not banal. Kellie Pickler shone brightly in this show that gave her an outlet for her upbeat and winning personality. It was clear to all that while this show may not last, she just passed the interview for something bigger and better. Pickler had talked about doing The View with Whoopi Goldberg, but that seems a step down for this bright and talented star on the rise.

In-Studio Audience Experience

The In-Studio audience did not have much fun on this show as anticipated as all the action was either pre-recorded or shown live on the giant screens in the studio. Only Seacrest was in the TV studio with the audience, and he is not exactly an electric personality in person. The audience members described the experience as only slightly better than America’s Funniest Home Video’s, but at least each audience member was paid $40 for their six hour experience on the show debut. The audience was gathered by OnSet productions, who are considering raising the pay rate for the audience, as it was a stretch to get five hundred people to come to this show in the first place, where very little live-action happens. Even with the extra money, they do not anticipate on making the show any more interesting for the in-studio audience, so the whole project is difficult.

Back Story Format Lifted From American Idol

david beckhamThe “feel good” format of the show is unlikely to sustain good viewership over time as there was very little raw entertainment in the show, just one family back story after another – with each family getting a bunch of money at the end. The over-the-top attention on the back-story format grew so large on American Idol that many feel that is what ultimately did the show in. Other major networks have made the same mistake, with NBC and their prime time show AGT (America’s Got Talent).

If you cast your mind back to 2012, NBC’s Olympics coverage also has way too much back-story and they managed to make the Olympics slow-paced and bland. It’s amazing that NBC was able to add huge amounts of back-story and not even show the sports events live. They also cut out of opening ceremonies to, you guessed it, show some more back story, this time a
a Ryan Seacrest interview with Michael Phelps. Seacrest is certainly no stranger to messing up good formulas.

During the initial TV show pitch meeting for Knock Knock Live, it is reported that Fox executives often heard the terms “low brow bonanza” and ” feel good format” and they thoroughly bought into the concept. If the plan was to aim the show at individuals who think that “investing in your future” means buying a lottery ticket, then they hit that demographic perfectly. The problem is that advertisers do not necessarily want that demographic and once the sheen is off this show, they will depart, especially given that Neil Patrick Harris’s similar TV show, Best Time Ever is just around the corner and that is being produced by the masters in this genre,  ITV America who have had ten years of experience of developing a show like this.

Simon Cowell’s Suggestions Ignored

Simon Cowell had been asked for his informal input on the show and had been vocal about significant changes that would need to be made to make this show a long-term success. An insider indicated that Cowell stated that Seacrest just wants to be Mr Nice Guy, which after a little while, becomes boring and not edgy or interesting in any way. Cowell suggested that an additional character be introduced (perhaps he was referring to himself) who would arbitrarily decide whether or not the family could keep the money they just won. The reality would be that they would get the money anyway, but on TV they would be denied just to see the reaction in some macabre They Shoot Horses Don’t They kind of way. “Seacrest needs a bad guy to counter his Mr Nice Guy personality, otherwise he is a bit boring” Cowell is quoted as saying. Where is Brian Dunkelman when you need him?

Show Update: Show Cancelled

On July 29, 2015 Fox executives pulled the plug on this show directly after the ratings for the 2nd show were announced. Ratings that were already low in the 18-50 range for the premiere show, went down by another 17% in the 2nd show. The producers  pulled out all the stops on the 2nd show by bringing in singing sensation Justin Bieber to give a 16 year old girl a surprise. Executives figured that If Bieber was unable to turn this show around then nothing would. A summer launch of a new show is always risky, but this show ended up being a real doozy. The 2nd show was aired Jul 28 2015 and the show was cancelled on July 29.

New York TV Show Pilots On The Rise

Hollywood loves to add its own level of fanfare to its latest TV shows that are in the Pilot stage, but in the New York area, TV production companies like to keep the new TV shows in pilot-stage on the down-low. Sometimes the reasoning for the secrecy is because they do not want to the show to go off half-cocked if the show is picked up. Other times it is because the celebrity is doing something that is off-contract, or may be embarrassing (or damage) their e-score rating if it flops. It seems that well known celebrities do not like to advertise what projects they are working on when on the East Coast, but the second they are in LA, their PR people cannot wait to tell the world via their social media accounts.

THE AL ROKER SHOW

al roker in black and white suit on red carpetAl Roker has been uber-busy. He has been working on a new show for NBC Universal, in between the gig he has at NBC on Today and the Wake Up With Al show, Roker has been developing The Al Roker Show that has filmed a number of episodes in the Stamford Media Center at 307 Atlantic Street in Stamford, CT. Al Roker’s self-titled new TV show uses a game show format and is similar to the likes of The Newlywed Game, The Pyramid Game  and Clue (All Born back in the 1970’s in Hollywood) in which couples ask questions and test their spouses knowledge about each other. Al Roker and his PR group has been tight lipped about the show that is under development but it is being exec-produced by Terence Gray (The creator of the New York Television Festival) The PR is being handled by Jon Harris at Jon Harris and Associates and the show producer is Tiffany Trigg. Audience management was provided by the LA based OnSet productions, that have scant New York TV shows to their credit. They had to resort to pay $60 to each audience member to make them go out to the Connecticut studios to watch them tape the show. Lord knows how cheap it is to tape a show in Stamford, CT – but when you have to bus-in a paid audience, all the economical value goes out of the window. Also the quality of a paid audience shifts the dynamic of the show. Now they are being paid to laugh, which, everyone knows, comes over the TV tube as closer to canned laughter than natural audience reaction.

Roker first made his name as a weather anchor in 1974, working for a CBS affiliate WHEN-TV in Syracuse, New York. Since 1996, he has been the weekday weather forecaster on NBC’s The Today Show, and since 2009 he has hosted an early morning show every weekday on The Weather Channel called Wake Up With Al. Al is beloved for his creative approaches to forecasting the weather, often done outside the studio, as well as his success as an actor and as book author.

KNOCK KNOCK LIVE and BEST TIME EVER

knock knock liveLike a modern-day version of the Mad TV vs SNL ratings war in the 1990’s, Ryan Seacrest’s Knock Knock Live, currently in production in LA appears to be a straight copy of Neil Patrick Harris’s, yet to be shot, Best Time Ever on NBCSeacrest’s Knock Knock Live show debuts on Fox on July 21, 2015. This TV show dodged the whole pilot phase and went straight into production, beating Patrick-Harris and NBC by a solid eight weeks, which, in TV terms, can be an eternity. It is not clear how Fox got to use the trademark format owned by ITV productions for its British show Saturday Night Takeaway, but if the initial Knock Knock Live tapings are anything to go by, it uses exactly the same formula including the “live from your living room” format to surprise viewers at home. At this point it will be a surprise for some, but after a while, as both shows become established, the surprise may wear off and one of the shows will ultimately fail. With Seacrest lacking any on-stage talent other than show hosting and losing his American Idol gig in 2016, he will be desperate to make this work as he cannot live off Keeping Up With The Kardashian’s money (a show where he is the exec producer) for very long. Patrick Harris, on the other hand, may be coming to the party rather late, but he brings tremendous talent to his show, but with NBC calling the shots, they may over-produce the show and sabotage him with the content constraints they have put on other shows (Americas Got Talent being a great example of how they mess things up). If the NBC execs can keep their hands off the show, they may well have an SNL style winner. best time ever with neil patrick harrisFox’s TV ratings will be boosted tomorrow night by the amount of ITV and NBC executives who will be tuning in to see how good the show is and how many bits have been lifted from Patrick Harris’s show. It remains to be seen if anyone else will watch in the notoriously soft summer of viewership. Lacking creative originality, Seacrest has used some of the household names he helped create on the American Idol show namely Kellie Pickler and Adrienne Bailon, as co-hosts. Seacrest gets to be first on TV, Patrick Harris brings his stage talent later.TV viewers may tire quickly if Seacrest’s show just gives  Let the battle royale commence.

Knock Knock Live is produced by Dick Clark Productions and Simon Fuller’s XIX Entertainment. Seacrest, Fuller, Michael Herwick, Allen Shapiro, Mike Mahan, Mark Bracco, Stijn Bakkers and Nicolle Yaron serve as executive producers. The new show series will premiere on Tuesday, July 21 at 9:00 p.m. on Fox and will be broadcast on the same night each week. Best Time Ever is produced by ITV Studios America and NBC Entertainment. Executive Producers on the show are Neil Patrick Harris, Orly Adelson, Siobhan Greene, Anthony McPartlin, Declan Donnelly and David A. Hurwitz. The latter three individuals are all producers of the British version of the show: Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.Glenn Weiss is directing the show.

“Gigi” Revival Opens on Broadway

Vanessa Hudgens and Victoria Clark Star

gigi vanessa hudgensOn April 8, 2015, Gigi opened at the Neil Simon Theatre. It had been running in previews since March 19, 2015. This musical is scheduled for an open-ended run at the moment. The show is produced by Jenna Segal, a first-time Broadway lead producer who has a background in television, and who has long loved this show and wanted to bring it to a new generation of audiences. In the lead role she found Vanessa Hudgens, the Disney star who has since ventured into more irreverent films such as Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, but here makes one of her life long dreams come true by appearing for the first time on Broadway. The original Broadway production premiered in 1973, based off of a novella of the same name by Colette, as well as a musical film that followed in 1958. Though the film was a hit, the original Broadway production had a disappointingly short run, although it walked away with the Tony Award for Best Score at that time. The musical has book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, and a score by Frederick Loewe. Vanessa Hudgens was not recognized by the Tony Award committee for her performance, although her much more experienced co-star Victoria Clark was nominated for the award for Best Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical. This is the only nomination the production received.

Mixed Response from Criticsgigi

When the reviews hit the press, some were in love with the revival, whereas just as many found it less than appetizing. Charles Isherwood from The New York Times was on the fence, did not approve of the way this revival, in an adaptation by Heidi Thomas, was scrubbed so squeaky clean, removing it of any naughtiness as well as intrigue. Likewise, Adam Feldman in Time Out New York did not either love or hate the show, agrees that it is inoffensive to a fault, as it refuses to address head on the complicated idea of a woman grooming herself to be a courtesan. David Rooney at the Hollywood Reporter was less generous, finding the musical deficient of charm although acknowledging it was pretty at best. David Finkle of the Huffington Post was equally unmoved by the revival, found the musical to be a cheap rendition of the successful film, remarking that cheap was used figuratively as a great deal of money was spent on the production, although to ill effect. On the other hand, Robert Kahn of NBC New York was happy with the show, praising Vanessa Hudgens’ performance for her verve and vivacity, as well as Victoria Clark’s glorious performance as her grandmother.

Box Office Struggling

With only one Tony nomination and mixed reviews, this show is not being pushed upwards at the box office. Though it began previews with signs that it might start to improve its weekly grosses as word of mouth spread, that word of mouth was too negative for it to be any help. In the last reported week of box office figures, the week ending May 10, 2015, the show brought in $434,201, which represents 32.38% of its box office potential. Furthermore, that is a decrease of $116,315 from the week before. In fact, it hasn’t earned such a low weekly gross at all in its first, with the exception of the first week when it only played four performances. With so much buzz going around for all the shows that were recognized by the Tony committee, it is only natural that Gigi would get lost in the fray. Once the finite pool of Vanessa Hudgens fans dries up, this show may not be around for much longer.

“Skylight” Opens on Broadway

A Lauded Revival of David Hare’s 1995 Play

skylightOn April 2, 2015, Skylight opened on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre. It had been running in previews since March 13, 2015. This revival of David Hare’s play is directed by Stephen Daldry, who is also helming the vastly successful play The Audience presently running this season. Daldry’s previous Broadway credits include Billy Elliot: The Musical, Via Dolorosa, and An Inspector Calls. This is in addition to his enormous list of British credits, including the previous incarnation of this production of Skylight, which prior to its Broadway run played in the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre, with the same cast. This three character play stars Carey Mulligan as Kyra Hollis, Bill Nighy as Tom Sergeant, and Matthew Beard as Edward Sergeant. Bill Nighy previously played this same role in the 1997 production of Skylight, which was directed by Richard Eyre at London’s Vaudeville Theatre. Carey Mulligan is a Hollywood star whose recent film credits include The Great Gatsby, Inside Llewyn Davis, Drive, Shame, and Far from the Madding Crowd. This is her second Broadway credit, following The Seagull in 2008, for which she was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play. She was also seen Off-Broadway in 2011 in the New York Theatre Workshop production of Through a Glass Darkly.

Rave Reviews and Tony Nominationsskylight

The show received all around rave reviews from the major publications. Ben Brantley in the New York Times found the dynamic between Mulligan and Nighy to be magnetic, with their performances making their relationship seem meant to be despite the enormous gulf that exists between them in the circumstances of their lives. He also calls the play possibly David Hare’s best work, and definitely his tightest. David Cote in Time Out New York dubbed the play a Critics’ Pick, calling the actors deep-diving and fearless. David Rooney in The Hollywood Reporter deemed Nighy as being in his top form, calling the first act terrific and the entire play riveting. Marilyn Stasio in Variety loved the fierce pas de deux, as she called it, relishing in the dreary portrait of human life at the very bottom of the social ladder. Robert Kahn in NBC New York also loved the play, calling it artfully performed. In addition to critical praise, the play was widely recognized by the Tony nominating committee. It received a remarkable seven Tony Award nominations, beat out by only one straight play in terms of number of nominations (Wolf Hall Parts One and Two received eight). The production was nominated for Best Revival of a Play, Bill Nighy was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Play, Carey Mulligan was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Play, Matthew Beard was nominated for Best Actor in a Featured Role in a Play, Stephen Daldry was nominated for his direction (and interestingly for his play but not for The Audience), Bob Crowley was nominated for his scenic design, and Natasha Katz was nominated for her lighting design.

Ever Increasing at the Box Office

For a straight play, Skylight is not doing badly at the box office. Since the Tony nominations were announced, the figures have been increasing. In the last week of reported box office figures, the week ending May 3, 2015, it brought in $776,373, which represents 90.48% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of $297.00, the average paid admission was $121.29, and the average audience capacity was 99.8%. That weekly gross is the highest yet, and it may even get higher as word of mouth continues to spread for this gloriously reviewed production.

 

“Airline Highway” Begins Broadway Performances

MTC Produces a Broadway Play by a Female Writer

airline highwayThe Manhattan Theatre Club has been receiving a lot of criticism for their failure to produce a play on Broadway by a female playwright over the past two years. For the first time, they broke that streak with the production of Lisa D’Amour’s Airline Highway, which began previews at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on April 1, 2015. The show opened on April 23, 2015, and is scheduled to run until June 14, 2015. Lisa D’Amour is a renowned playwright, but this is the first time her work has been seen on Broadway. Her other plays include Nita & Zita, for which she received an Obie Award in 2003, Terrible Things, for which she received MAP Fund award in 2008, and Ten Thousand Things, for which she received the award for Best New Play from the Austin Critics’ Circle in 2002. Her play Detroit was scheduled to be produced on Broadway, but it was instead produced Off-Broadway by Playwrights Horizons in 2012-2013. This is therefore a great achievement for her work to finally be seen by a wider audience. Airline Highway is directed by Joe Mantello, whose many Broadway directing credits include An Act of God, The Last Ship, Casa Valentina, I’ll Eat You Last: A Conversation with Sue Mengers, and The Other Place.

A Gathering in a Run Down New Orleans Motelairline highway

Airline Highway takes place in New Orleans, where Lisa D’Amour was formerly a Carnival Queen. She utilizes her firsthand knowledge of the crazy range of characters in that town to craft this play. The concept of the play is an all-night party that the friends throw for their friend in honor of her death, before she has died. This pal is Miss Ruby, who lays upstairs on her deathbed, and then eventually makes it down to the parking lot party, with her bed in tow. She was a kind of maternal figure to all these tragic souls, and they are celebrating her life with a preemptive funeral. The other characters include Sissy Na Na, a wise and learned transvestite who will take on the matriarchal role once Miss Ruby has passed. We also meet the motel manager, a man who does odd jobs at the motel, and a variety of hippies and outcasts who form a tight knit community.

Difficulty Catching Hold at the Box Office

This little known play by a little known writer is having a tough time making tracks at the box office. In the last reported week of box office figures, the week ending April 26, 2015, the show only brought in $126,468, which represents 23.44% of its gross potential. In the week prior, the show reached its peak thus far with a weekly gross of $144,334, which represents 24.49% of the show’s gross potential. The average paid ticket has ranged between $29.08 and $37.42, showing a heavy amount of discounting. And yet they are still not managing to completely fill up the audience, as this last week had an average audience capacity of 86.7%. The peak in terms of audience capacity was the week before, at an average of 90.8%. Because this play is produced by Manhattan Theatre Club, it will likely survive this difficult string of box office losses, but it will still not be easy to last until June if sales don’t pick up.

“The Heidi Chronicles” Opens on Broadway

Elisabeth Moss Shines at the Music Box Theatre

heidi chroniclesOn March 19, 2015, The Heidi Chronicles opened on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre. This play, originally produced in 1988, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1989. Written by Wendy Wasserstein (The Sisters Rosenweig, An American Daughter), this production is directed by Pam MacKinnon (A Delicate Balance, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Clybourne Park). Wendy Wasserstein, who passed away in 2006 due to lymphoma, is highly regarded as one of the great contemporary feminist playwrights of our time. This production has done justice to her legacy, with Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men,” Speed-the-Plow, London’s The Children’s Hour) playing the title role of Heidi Holland, a character who is semi autobiographical. Additional roles are played by Jason Biggs (“American Pie” franchise, The Play What I Wrote, The Graduate) and Bryce Pinkham (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Ghost the Musical). It tells the story of a young woman named Heidi, spanning her life from childhood through more than 20 years of her life, dealing with themes of a woman’s independence, raising children, settling with a man, and building a career. The play is scheduled to run for a limited engagement until August 9, 2015.

Overall Positive Reviews from Criticsheidi chronicles

In sum, the reviews were positive for The Heidi Chronicles. Charles Isherwood of The New York Times found the play resonant today despite being written 27 years ago. He praised Elisabeth Moss, calling her “superb” and remarking on her ability to portray innocence at the same time as cunning. Robert Kahn of NBC New York also loved the show, commenting that it did not seem dated as the issues at the heart of the play are definitely still important today, and the answers are just as uncomfortable, as our culture as a whole has not fully figured out the dilemma of women’s place in society. Furthermore, Linda Winer of Newsday was overwhelmed with sentiment following this revival, not only because it is the first major production of Wendy Wasserstein’s work following her death, but also because the play definitely stands up to its legacy. Adam Feldman of Time Out New York was less sold on the production, finding the heartbeat of the play to be less resounding than it was when first performed, although acknowledging that the play has always been historical in its perspective. In addition, David Rooney of the Hollywood Reporter found the best thing about the play to be Ms. Moss’ performance, but he did not fully enjoy the construction of the narrative.

A Difficult Sell at the Box Office

Elisabeth Moss may be a hot name in Hollywood due to her fame from “Mad Men,” but perhaps she has not yet reached the heights of a star who can sell a Broadway show from her name alone. Furthermore, the play and the playwright have a serious pedigree among theatre circles, but in the wider community, and especially the tourist market, they may have little resonance. Therefore, the box office figures have not been outstanding thus far in the run, and even following the mostly positive reviews, the numbers have budged just barely upward. In the most recent week of reported box office, the week ending March 29, 2015, The Heidi Chronicles brought in $335,976, which represents 37.7% of its gross potential. In the five weeks of the run thus far, the show has been on a steady incline, although very slight. For instance, this past week it only went up by $6,974 from the week before, when it had increased by $7,025 from the week before that. Therefore, it may be difficult for this show to come close to breaking even, unless something dramatically different happens in these financial patterns.

“On the Twentieth Century” Opens

A Revival of a Screwball Musical Comedy

on the twentieth centuryOn March 15, 2015, On the Twentieth Century played its opening night performance at the American Airlines Theatre. Produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company, this musical is a revival of the original produced in 1978, which in turn was based off a play from 1932 by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, which was based off an unpublished by Charles Bruce Millholland. Furthermore, a film entitled Twentieth Century was released in 1934 based off the Hecht and MacArthur play. This musical has book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green (Singin’ in the Rain, Bells are Ringing, Wonderful Town), and a score by Cy Coleman (Sweet Charity, City of Angels, The Will Rogers Follies, Barnum). Following its 1978 Broadway run, the show won the Tony Award for Best Book as well as the Tony Award for Best Original Score, and then transferred to the West End in 1980. With the exception of a smaller London production in 2010, this is the first major revival. Directed by Scott Ellis and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, the musical stars Kristin Chenoweth, Peter Gallagher, Mary-Louise Wilson, Michael McGrath, Andy Karl, and Mark Linn-Baker.

Overall Positive ReviewsON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

The reviews are in, and critics are generally laudatory of this production. Ben Brantley wore none of his sometime cynicism in writing that he was on cloud nine following this performance, praising the “over-the-moon” acting which is a level above over-acting. In this case, he believes the extravagant performances by Chenoweth and Gallagher, among others, served the material brilliantly, and furthermore he was delighted to see a musical revival that isn’t revived very often, in this case for the first time. Joe Dziemianowicz calls the show Broadway musical bliss, delighting in everything from David Rockwell’s art deco set of the locomotive train, to Chenoweth’s dynamite comedy and voice. Frank Scheck from the New York Post delights in the fact that they don’t make musicals, or write dialogue, like this anymore, and likewise calls the show theatrical bliss. Jesse Green in Vulture calls the revival delicious, acknowledging that there are a million reasons why the show shouldn’t work today, but that Chenoweth above all makes those reasons fall to the wayside, as the role of Lily Garland is perfectly suited to her natural gifts. David Rooney of The Hollywood Report was more on the fence, deeming that Scott Ellis is off his game and that the mock operetta style becomes tedious to watch.

Mediocre Box Office Performance

Despite these largely positive reviews, the show is still struggling at the box office. This is not surprising, because most of these critical responses were extravagantly positive especially because they did not expect to like it. The show’s title, description, and appearance seem to make it very dated, and this makes it a difficult sell at the box office. It doesn’t matter that the show defies expectations, because you have to buy a ticket to find that out. In the full week of performances following the release of these reviews, the show’s weekly gross went up by only $75,479, bringing it to a gross of $466,078 across eight performances. This is only 56.69% of the week’s gross potential. Still, the Roundabout is managing to fill many of its seats, as the show did average over 100% of audience capacity in the last two weeks. However, with a top ticket price of $229.00, the average paid admission was $80.30, showing a heavy amount of discounting. Fortunately, the Roundabout is equipped to handle these numbers as a not-for-profit theatre company.

David Hare’s “Skylight” Begins Previews

The Long Road from the National Theatre

Skylight-Broadway-Play-Tickets-176-012814On March 13, 2015, Skylight began previews at Broadway’s John Golden Theatre. It is scheduled to open officially on April 2, 2015, and to run for a limited engagement until June 14, 2015. The play was written by David Hare, and first premiered in 1995, when it was directed by Richard Eyre starring Michael Gambon and Lia Williams. At the time, it opened at the National Theatre’s Cottesloe Theatre, transferred to the West End, and then to Broadway, where it was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play, among other Tony nominations. It had also won the Olivier Award for Best New Play in 1996. Following the Broadway premiere, Skylight returned for another engagement in the West End, this time at the Vaudeville Theatre starring Bill Nighy and Stella Gonet in 1997. In June 2014, a revival of Skylight opened at the Wyndham’s Theatre. That revival was directed by Stephen Daldry, and starred Carey Mulligan alongside Bill Nighy, playing the same part as in 1997. In July 2014, the show was broadcast to cinemas around the world through the National Theatre’s NT Live programme. This helped it gain momentum towards its Broadway run, where it has just begun previews with the same cast as the recent West End revival.

A Promising Start at the Box Officecarey mulligan bill nighy skylight

In the three performances for which box office figures have been thus far reported, Skylight is performing fairly well, although it is not selling out at this stage. Over the course of those three shows, the box office gross was $253,369, which represents 83.59% of its gross potential. With an average paid admission of $105.31, the show’s top ticket price was $248.00, and the audience was at 100.0% capacity. This demonstrates that the show’s producers – Robert Fox and Scott Rudin – have stealthily employed discounting strategies to perfectly fill up the house while maximizing box office grosses. Of course, the expert ticket price strategist Scott Rudin would much prefer not to discount at all, a feat he has managed with an astounding number of his shows, and perhaps as word of mouth spreads, and reviews are eventually published, the production may gain enough traction so as to be able to stop discounting. After all, Carey Mulligan is a big household name, especially with her recent film starring roles such as Daisy in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. Furthermore, the NT Live exhibition of the London production has served as the best advertising a play can ask for, so hopefully ticket sales will continue to increase as the spring weather comes on more strongly.

A Small Play with a Large Message

Skylight is the first of David Hare’s plays to be set wholly in one room. Carey Mulligan plays Kyra Hollis, a schoolteacher in East London who had previously been living with a family by the name of Sargeant. The play has only three characters. At first, Kyra converses with Edward Sargeant (played by Matthew Beard), who was the son of the family she had lived with. It comes out that Kyra had had an affair with Edward’s father Tom, and she had left her living quarters with their family when Tom’s wife had discovered this adultery. Since that time, Edward’s mother has died, and he confronts Kyra about having abandoned him, as he considers to be like a sister to him. Soon, Tom shows up unannounced, and Kyra cooks an entire spaghetti dinner for him onstage. It becomes clear that the future of their relationship depends on whether they can both lay to rest their preconceived opinions of each other.

“Fish in the Dark” Opens on Broadway

Mixed to Negative Reviews Despite Record Box Office

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

Rounding Up the Criticsfish in the dark

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

Well Above 100% of Gross Potential

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