Lynn Manuell

About Lynn Manuell

Lynn Manuell has had articles published in Broadwayworld.com, Theatrescenes, and Playbill online. Her theatrical career spans almost every aspect of professional theatre. She is a press agent and is currently on the board of FACT Theatre Company. She has worked in the professional theatre acting, directing and producing. She worked in both non-profit general management at The Cultural Council Foundation and for Broadway at Gatchell and Neufeld. She booked national and international tours of Broadway shows, Ballet and Concert Artists. She is President of International Production Management as a consultant to artists and has company managed national and international tours. She has worked with Sarah Brightman, Betty Buckley, Anita O’Day, Steve Ross, Black and Blue, Tango Pasion, The National Ballet of Great Britain, The St. Petersburg State Ice Ballet, William Michals and many other individual and productions as clients.

“An American in Paris” Begins Performances

A Gershwin Musical Based on a Film Based on a Symphony

an american in parisIn 1928, George Gershwin wrote a symphonic poem entitled “An American in Paris” based on his travels in Paris in the 1920s. Influenced by both jazz and the blues, the musical piece was intended to show the experience of an American walking around the French capital, taking in its sights and sounds. In 1951, a film adaptation was made of this symphony starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. The film incorporates several Gershwin classics such as “I Got Rhythm,” “’S Wonderful,” and “Our Love is Here to Stay.” Directed by Vincente Minnelli from a script written by Alan Jay Lerner, the film was a major hit, winning the Academy Award for Best Picture among many other honors, and bringing in almost $7 million at the box office. Now, for the first time, An American in Paris has been adapted for the stage. Directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, the show premiered in Paris on November 22, 2014, and ran there at the Theatre du Chatelet until January 4, 2015. Now, the show has finally come to Broadway, with its first preview having taken place on March 13, 2015 at the Palace Theatre.

An All-Star Creative Teaman american in paris

The director and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon is making his Broadway directorial debut. He has choreographed once before on Broadway, for Sweet Smell of Success in 2002. However, he is widely considered one of the world’s most coveted and respected ballet choreographers. He trained at the Royal Ballet and then the New York City Ballet, and in 2001 he was honored as the City Ballet’s first choreographer in residence. In 2006, he founded his own ballet company, Morphoses. The producer Stuart Oken invited Wheeldon to direct this musical, and it took some convincing, as he had never directed actors before. However, he eventually agreed. In addition to music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin, the show has a new book by Craig Lucas (Prelude to a Kiss, The Light in the Piazza, Reckless). In addition, Bartlett Sher (South Pacific, The King and I) is a creative consultant for the show. Wheeldon and Lucas developed a 60 page treatment of the show together before the Gershwin estate agreed to let the producers continue developing the show. Unlike the film, which is set in the 1950s, Lucas and Wheeldon decided to set their An American in Paris in the time just after World War II. Furthermore, they made other changes such as making Lise, the main character, a ballet dancer, and also having her relationship with her composer friend Adam more central to the story.

An American in Paris

The story centers around a young man named Jerry Mulligan (Robert Fairchild), who has just completed his time in the World War II army. He decides to move to Paris, which has been recently liberated, to make his life as a painter. He is helped out by another ex-pat, a wealthy woman named Milo Davenport (Jill Paice) who has a past she does not want to remember. Things become complicated for Jerry when he meets Lise (Leanne Cope), a beautiful Parisian girl who works in a shop. Jerry’s friends Adam (Brandon Uranowitz), a Jewish-American composer, and Henri (Max von Essen), a French aristocrat, also have romantic interests in Lise. Only through the beauty of dance and music can this love triangle be reconciled. An American in Paris is set to open on April 12, 2015, and will continue for an open-ended run.

“You Can’t Take It With You” Closes

Final Performance Sunday, February 22nd

you can't take it with youOn Sunday, February 22, 2015, You Can’t Take It With You will play its final performance at Broadway’s Longacre Theatre. It began previews on August 26, 2014, and the official opening night took place on September 28, 2014. This comedic revival is directed by Scott Ellis, who also helmed The Elephant Man starring Bradley Cooper, which wraps up performances the day before. The play was written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, and original music was written for this production by Jason Robert Brown (Parade, The Bridges of Madison County). The play starred James Earl Jones as the patriarch, Grandpa Martin Vanderhof. Furthermore, Rose Byrne starred alongside him, making her Broadway debut. Additional roles were played by Fran Kranz (Death of a Salesman), Annaleigh Ashford (Kinky Boots), and Byron Jennings (Arcadia). This comedy, originally written in 1936, takes place during the Great Depression. It is also a timely revival for the New York theatre scene, as last season Lincoln Center put on a play called Act One, which dealt with the life and collaborative partnership of Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman.

Critical Praise, and Commercial Survivaljames earl jones

Upon its opening night on September 28, 2014, critics were generally pleased with You Can’t Take It With You. Ben Brantley from The New York Times said that the only problem might be the pain in your cheeks after smiling for two and a half hours straight. Robert Kahn of NBC New York praised the performances of James Earl Jones, as well as Rose Byrne who is known for her performances in TV’s Damages as well as the film Bridesmaids. David Rooney from The Hollywood Reporter enjoyed the play’s escapist pleasure, emphasizing a life well lived rather than one marked by success. On the other hand, Mark Kennedy from the Associated Press did not enjoy the references from the Great Depression, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and the 48 States. Unfortunately, the concept of a farcical Broadway “laughfest” has died down since the 30s, and a comedy that was once thought hilarious may now come off as a glorified television sitcom. Nevertheless, this Pulitzer Prize winning play from 1937 managed to charm critics and audiences alike in 2015, which is no small achievement.

A Difficult Sell at the Box Office

Despite the overall laudatory response from reviewers, the box office was a tough sell for this play revival in light of the highly competitive season. The show’s highest weekly gross took place in the week ending October 19, 2014, when it brought in $680,921, which represented 87.4% of its gross potential. Still, it mostly hovered around the $400,000 to $500,000 marks, with the lowest weekly gross of $334,244, which took place just recently in the week ending February 8, 2015. Though the play has notable stars such as the esteemed James Earl Jones, the cutthroat competition proved a bit too much to allow this play to be a real hit on Broadway.

“Motown” Concludes Its Run with Plans to Return

The Critical and Commercial Hit Says Goodbye for Now

Vinyl record poster Motown the Musical Broadway Show On March 11, 2013, Motown the Musical began previews at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, a coveted Broadway house owned by the Nederlander organization. Its opening night was on April 14, 2013, where it received a round of highly positive reviews from critics. Since that time, the musical has played to generally full houses and financial success. The reportedly $18 million musical announced that it would recoup its capitalization by the time it closed, which happened this past week on January 18, 2015 after playing 738 performances (and 37 preview performances). The show was a regular member of the million dollar club on the weekly gross charts, but sales softened in the last season. With very high running costs reaching around $850,000, there was a lot of pressure to sell a full house of full price tickets in order to stay afloat. With that accomplished, the production has decided to shutter this present Broadway incarnation, focusing for the next 18 months on the London production and touring productions. Having decided to depart before sales turned sour, the musical will be thought of as a complete success.

An Unusual 18-Month Hiatus for “Motown the Musical”Motown the Musical Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder

More importantly, the producers have learned that they can mount the show with lower running costs. In the Broadway production, there are 41 performers in addition to 18 in the orchestra, but they found that the touring production was as much of a hit with only 33 actors and 15 in the pit. Though the producers do not plan on mounting the same pared down touring production when the show returns to Broadway in July 2016, the show may end up in the middle of those two versions. This will allow the production to lower its running costs, sustaining its endurance on Broadway for perhaps several or even many years longer. Of course, this is the goal of almost all musical producers: to have their show run as long as possible. It appears that in this case, the show’s creators determined that they would last longer if they took a breather. They made a deal with Nick Scandalios, a top executive in the Nederlander organization, who promised to give Motown a Nederlander theatre (no promises which) when it returns in July 2016. The reason the landlord agreed is that this allowed them to open up the desirable Lunt-Fontanne, which many other productions – including Harvey Weinstein’s Finding Neverland – are vying for.

In the Meantime, London and U.S. National Tour

The London production of this hit musical is planned to open this upcoming summer 2015. Employing another cost-saving strategy, the producers have decided to use the Broadway costumes and sets in the West End. If the London show is a hit beyond July 2016, they will likely have to make or acquire new sets and costumes, but that window leaves enough time for the show to open and close if it cannot find its legs in the West End. Either way, it is a smart strategy given the odds. In addition, the U.S. tour is ongoing and has just left Chicago. The first U.S. tour grossed $20 million over the course of 16 weeks, so the producers have a reason to be optimistic about the future of this musical, even if the Broadway production is temporarily closed.

“Honeymoon in Vegas” Begins Previews on Broadway

A Jason Robert Brown Tuner, Derived from a Movie

honeymoon in vegasOn November 18, 2014, Honeymoon in Vegas began previews at the Nederlander Theatre. With music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown (Parade, The Bridges of Madison County), a book by Andrew Bergman (who wrote and directed the film), and based on the 1992 film of the same name starring Nicolas Cage, James Caan, and Sarah Jessica Parker, the Broadway production of Honeymoon in Vegas is directed by Gary Griffin (The Apple Tree, The Color Purple) and choreographed by Denis Jones (Legally Blonde, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels). The musical premiered at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey in September 2013, where it received positive reviews and ran for just over a month before transferring to Broadway just over a year later. The lead role of Tommy Korman is played by Tony Danza, and the other principal roles are played by Rob McClure (title role in Chaplin), Brynn O’Malley (Annie, Sunday in the Park with George), Nancy Opel (Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Memphis), and Matthew Saldivar (Act One, Peter and the Starcatcher).

A Tale of Wrought Love

Tony Danza

Tony Danza

Honeymoon in Vegas follows a young protagonist named Jack Singer (McClure), who is dating a young lady named Betsy (O’Malley), and although he has an established fear of marriage going back to a promise he made to her mother on her deathbed, Betsy has other plans. Meanwhile, a mafia man named Tommy Korman (Danza) takes notice of Betsy, and finds a strong resemblance between her and his recently passed wife. This makes him a renewed believer in the power of love, so he begins to form a plot of his own. Conveniently, Jack ends up in major debt to Korman during a poker game, and so he demands that in order to erase the debt, he will need to spend a weekend with Jack’s beloved Betsy – he agrees when they promise not to sleep together. Korman pulls out all the stops, taking Betsy to his vacation home in Hawaii. When Jack catches word that Korman plans to marry Betsy back in Vegas, he desperately tries to get there to stop it, only to get waylaid in a series of airports. Finally, however, Betsy escapes from Korman, and she and Jack end up happily ever after, married in a small chapel in Vegas with flying Elvises as their wedding guests.

Off to a Slow Start at the Box Office

You’d think that producers would realize theatregoers are getting tired of straight movie to musical adaptations, choosing a cheesy comedy and staging it with some song and dance. Though that combination can sometimes work, in recent years it has begun to show a serious decline in interest from the ticket-buying public. In the two weeks of reported box office figures thus far (one with only seven performances and one with the full eight), the musical has only managed to bring in $366,136 and $351,277 respectively. That means that with an entire extra performance the second week, the show still managed to lose $14,859 between the two weeks. With a top ticket price of $223.00, the average ticket price stayed fairly constant at around $69.00 each week. Therefore, despite a heavy amount of discounting, the show is still having difficult gaining any traction. The producers seemed to anticipate a difficult exit out of the gates, because it has allotted an entire eight weeks of previews, with its opening night scheduled for January 15, 2015. Perhaps they know the reviews will not be great, and they are trying to score some holiday tourist ticket-buyers before they can be dissuaded by the critics.

NBC Execs Bully Celebrities To Not Appear On Competing NYC Shows

FALLON’S RATINGS SUCCESS PROMPTS NBC TO STRONG HOLD STARS

There is good news and bad news in the talk show arena.  The good news is for Jimmy Fallon.  His successful ratings have breathed new life into The Tonight Show, so much so, that NBC has begun demanding exclusivity in order for A list guests to appear on the late night program.  The bad news is that other talk shows are going to have a difficult time getting these guests to appear on their lineups.  This moratorium on appearing on other shows doesn’t only include the late night circuit but also the morning talk shows.

jimmy-fallon-jimmy-kimmel wrestle onstage at the Academy Awards 2014For Press Agents this is also bad news. Whenever a star releases a film, a book or is featured on a new television series it is typical to do a press junket.  This allows the star to be seen on as many talk shows as possible to promote their newest venture.  NBC’s proposal will alter the entire method used by press agents to get their stars media attention.  It is interesting to note that by having The Tonight Show relocated to New York City the ability for stars to appear on multiple talk shows in a short period of time increased.  When Jay Leno and Johnny Carson hosted in Los Angeles it required a cross country flight to be seen on Late Night with David Letterman.  The unusual focus of NBC’s move was not to have first rights to a star appearance but to have all rights to a star appearance.

In August a foreshadowing of this type of exclusivity was evident on The Colbert Report when Daft Punk pulled out from the show due to an appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards.  Stephen Colbert deftly skewered this type of move, noting that “once you see a band play a song you like, you obviously never want to see them again.”  The sarcasm  can be applied to  the situation with NBC.  It seems likely if you are a fan of George Clooney and he is on Jimmy Fallon you will still turn in if he is on The View.  The fact is that these shows have different demographics, which is the reason public relations personnel are keen to promote on both programs.  People who are watching at midnight are not often the people watching at 8 AM.  Therefore, NBC demand seems to be an unreasonable reach of a non-compete for artists to adhere to.

The other unknown aspect of this new exclusive demand is that no one knows what will happen to an artist if they choose to ignore the exclusivity.  Will Kim Kardashian never appear on The Tonight Show again if she goes on Late Night or The View after visiting Jimmy Fallon?  As no one knows it will land on the artist and agents to decide this issue.  Daft Punk chose not to appear on The Colbert Report but other artists may not adhere to such pressure.  Only time and the ratings will tell.

‘Les Miserables’ Opens At NJCU at $15, Confusing Broadway Patrons

les-miserables-njcu

Les Miserables has become A Tale of Two Cities with two very different productions of Les Miserables running at the same time. One on Broadway in New York City and the other at NJCU New Jersey City University in Jersey City, NJ.

Music Theatre International who licenses the rights to Les Miserables describes the production as having won over 100 international awards and seen by over 65 million people worldwide. So it is not surprising that there are multiple productions playing simultaneously. What is surprising is to have a major Broadway revival opening of the show concurrently with another college production in Jersey City, New Jersey – just a short train ride away.

Also what may appear surprising is that the logos are identical. In obtaining rights from Musical Theatre International producers can also secure a logo kit which allows them to use the copy written logos on posters, fliers and postcards. So New Jersey City University has been sending out postcards, like ones sent for theatre discounts, over the last few weeks.

Generally rights to major productions have a statute of limitation on radius. However, in this case the rights had been granted prior to the decision to bring the show to Broadway and outstanding licenses were allowed to be monitored and produced according to a Music Theatre International representative.

There have been multiple National Tours and hundreds of licenses that had gone out prior to the decision to reopen the show on Broadway. They will run out in 2015 but it is unlikely one will be seeing local productions granted from this point while the show is on Broadway.

waving red flag at Les Miserables 2014 on Broadway

The Broadway Version of Les Miserables

The Broadway show opened on March 23rd, 2014 and the New Jersey University show opened on March 21st. The New Jersey City University Production will run only through March 30th . A short period when there might be some patrons buying tickets for New Jersey thinking it was for Broadway.

The Productions both have large casts and in fact the college production boasts 8 more musicians than the Broadway show. The director of the New Jersey University Les Miserables is quoted that ” it is the biggest undertaking in years”. It features students from voice and theatre departments, musicians from the music department as well as faculty and five children related to students and staff.  The admission for this production is $12.

The Broadway production is currently at the Imperial Theatre and features Ramin Karimoo who has starred in many Andrew Lloyd Webber productions. It has video projections and a large cast of Equity actors, and is produced by the shows original producer Cameron Macintosh.

So, if you saw the traditional Les Miserable logo and thought only “what a great promotion- a $12 Broadway ticket.”  If you take that ticket to the Imperial Theatre. Undoubtedly you will be re-directed to the nearest path train.