If/Then Begins Previews, With Idina Menzel, But Not With Adele Dazeem

Idina Menzel in if/then on BroadwayIdina Menzel has returned to the Broadway stage for the first time in almost 10 years.  If/Then, a new musical by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey (the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning team behind Next to Normal) began previews at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Wednesday, March 5, 2014.  The musical is directed by Michael Greif, who first cast Idina in the role that became her big break – Maureen in Rent – and it is produced by David Stone, who mounted the production that earned her a 2004 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical – for playing Elphaba in Wicked.  In If/Then, she plays a woman named Elizabeth on the verge of turning 40 who, after a divorce, decides to move to New York City to make a fresh start.  The official opening will be on Sunday, March 30, 2014.

If/Then is the only new musical this spring season that is not based on pre-existing source material.  With the marketplace competition dominated by recognizable titles such as Rocky, Aladdin, Bullets Over Broadway, and The Bridges of Madison County, If/Then might have a tough time standing out.

However, national awareness of this show and its star was unintentionally heightened during this past Sunday’s Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars, broadcast, when John Travolta infamously mispronounced Idina Menzel’s name while introducing her performance of the song Let It Go from the Disney animated film Frozen.  Without displaying any sign of recognizing his error, Travolta presented her as “Adele Dazeem.”  Social media has been in an uproar about this flub ever since, and people who had never even heard of Idina Menzel now know that her name is, in fact, Idina Menzel.

Apparently, the producers of If/Then realized the benefits of this tangential publicity, as the show’s official twitter account referred to the Oscars incident by tweeting “You Know Her Name.  Idina Menzel stars in If/Then on Broadway March 5th.”  Furthermore, a less official statement, but one that is still traceable to the production team, made its way across the cybersphere.  In what appeared to be an insert from the Playbill for If/Then, a picture of Idina from the Oscars was accompanied by the text: “At this performance the role of “Elizabeth” will be played by “Adele Dazeem.””  A joke bio then followed which cited her as having played “Moritz” in Nert, followed by “Ephraima” in Wicked-ly, and referred her voice performance in the Disney animated musical Farfignugen.  (Clearly this was a play on “Maureen” in Rent, “Elphaba” in Wicked, and Frozen.)  Though the note has been confirmed not to have truly been inserted into Playbills in the theatre, it fooled many people who thought it was real.  Among others, the image was tweeted by Janet Krupin, an actress in If/Then.  As those inside the theatre’s doors were spreading the prank, it is possible that the producers were the ones behind it, taking advantage of the added exposure from Travolta’s blunder.

taye diggs and idina menzel

In any case, Idina Menzel already has a huge fan base from her vast success in her career thus far, and hopefully the show’s merits will allow it to shine at the box office.  The musical had a pre-Broadway engagement at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C. from November 5, 2013 to December 8, 2013, the reviews for which were not wildly positive.  Though critics praised Idina’s performance as well as the score, the storyline was reportedly muddled.  The musical features a “Sliding Doors” – style plot with two “what-if” scenarios played out side-by-side, as Elizabeth becomes both the characters “Liz” and “Beth.”  Audiences found this a bit difficult to follow.  Still, fixing kinks is what out-of-town tryouts are for, and hopefully the creative team has had time to refine the plot structure in the intervening months.

The story is actually not far from Idina’s own experience.  She recently separated from her husband of 10 years and Rent co-star Taye Diggs, and at age 42, she is struggling to be a mother to her four year-old son while revitalizing her Broadway career.  After attempting to develop herself as a singer-songwriter in Los Angeles in the years since Wicked, she is now ready to take on this role which is surprisingly close to her heart.  A naturally raw and vulnerable performer, audiences can expect that her character will pulsate with the truth of her own experience, not to mention the gravity-defying power of her sensational singing voice – no matter what her name is: Idina, Adele, Elizabeth, Liz, or Beth.

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.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 3/02/2014

DISNEY’S ALADDIN BEGINS PREVIEWSAladdin on Broadway
Aladdin began previews on February 26, 2014 with strong sales.  Already one of the top 10 grossing shows after only seven performances in five days, the Broadway comedy has already sold out in it’s first week in previews with 100% capacity at an average paid admission of $80.44.  The Broadway ticket price point seems a bit low for a Disney production showcasing music by Alan Menken in this Disney classic, but this may be due to the limited time pre-sale discount offers that were available in the beginning of January.  Aladdin fans definitely took advantage of the Broadway show discount while it lasted!

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending March 2, 2014:

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis 3-02-14

Show GrossGross Total Attn %Cap AvgPdAdm
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $388,472 5,126 70.64% $75.78
AFTER MIDNIGHT $577,290 5,986 72.22% $96.44
ALADDIN $691,812 8,600 100.00% $80.44
ALL THE WAY $652,281 7,029 61.79% $92.80
BEAUTIFUL $798,680 7,068 86.11% $113.00
BRONX BOMBERS $169,730 4,093 66.62% $41.47
CHICAGO $437,771 5,640 65.28% $77.62
CINDERELLA $743,843 9,540 68.10% $77.97
JERSEY BOYS $575,260 6,083 61.92% $94.57
KINKY BOOTS $1,215,435 10,044 88.17% $121.01
LES MISÉRABLES $180,871 1,408 100.00% $128.46
MACHINAL $300,119 4,927 84.71% $60.91
MAMMA MIA! $506,482 6,934 74.34% $73.04
MATILDA $953,741 10,908 95.22% $87.43
MOTHERS AND SONS $211,660 4,112 64.09% $51.47
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL $1,036,817 10,433 86.54% $99.38
NEWSIES $641,338 8,429 88.91% $76.09
NO MAN’S LAND/WAITING FOR GODOT $557,067 6,296 73.35% $88.48
ONCE $512,480 5,602 66.12% $91.48
OUTSIDE MULLINGAR $357,319 4,840 93.08% $73.83
PIPPIN $541,791 5,981 75.52% $90.59
ROCK OF AGES $299,584 3,786 81.17% $79.13
ROCKY $551,300 7,890 73.57% $69.87
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,549,715 8,733 102.40% $177.46
THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY $390,578 6,254 76.72% $62.45
THE LION KING $1,474,205 13,455 98.93% $109.57
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $645,045 8,665 67.48% $74.44
WICKED $1,539,830 15,237 98.79% $101.06
Totals: $18,500,513 203,099 80.06% $88.08

Broadway ticket sales raw data are provided courtesy of The Broadway League All other data, text, opinion, charts and commentary are copyright © 2013 nytix.com

Broadway Stars at the 2014 Oscars

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

neil_meron_craig_zadan_osca

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

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

bobby-lopez2

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

***

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.

Disney’s Aladdin Finally Hits the Broadway Stage

Aladdin on BroadwayAladdin, a musical stage adaptation of the beloved 1992 Disney movie, has finally come to Broadway.  Previews began on February 26, 2014 at the New Amsterdam Theatre on 42nd Street, and the red carpet opening night will take place on March 20, 2014.

Based off of centuries-old folklore including One Thousand and One Nights, Aladdin is the story of a street urchin who wins the heart of a princess with the help of a genie from a magic lamp.  With a musical score by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, the stage version incorporates additional lyrics and a book written by Chad Beguelin (Elf the Musical, The Wedding Singer).  The show is directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Monty Python’s Spamalot, The Drowsy Chaperone).

The cast is led by Adam Jacobs (The Lion King, Les Misérables) as Aladdin, Courtney Reed (In the Heights, Mamma Mia!) as Princess Jasmine, James Monroe Iglehart (Memphis, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) as Genie, and Jonathan Freeman (The Little Mermaid, Mary Poppins) as Jafar.  Freeman also played Jafar in the original animated film.  Furthermore, the musical features a trio of sidekicks to Aladdin, who reportedly were conceived and then discarded during the making of the original film, but who are now finally incorporated into this stage adaptation.  These roles are played by Brian Gonzales as Babkak, Brandon O’Neill as Kassim, and Jonathan Schwartz as Omar.

Aladdin is the newest in a line of Disney animated movie to musical theatre adaptations mounted by Disney Theatricals, whose producing history includes Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Tarzan, Mary Poppins, and The Little Mermaid.  Three of these were enormous hits.  Beauty and the Beast ran for 13 years (from 1994 to 2007), grossing over $1.4 billion worldwide.  The Lion King has been a huge smash since its opening in 1997, and this past October it became the first show to gross over $1 billion from its Broadway production alone.  Mary Poppins also had a profitable run from 2006 to 2013, recouping its investment after only one year.  However, Tarzan and The Little Mermaid were notorious flops, failing to attract an audience despite the success of their precursors.  Therefore, Aladdin is not necessarily a shoo-in for mega-hit, but its fate will be more discernible when the reviews come out after its opening.

The show has had several out-of-town runs prior to its arrival in New York.  After its premiere at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre in July 2011, the musical has had stints in Ivins, Utah in June – October 2012, St. Louis, Missouri in July 2012, and it has just completed its official pre-Broadway run at Toronto’s Ed Mirvish Theatre, where it ran from November 2013 to January 2014.

It is not unusual for a musical’s producers to counter their risk by trying out a show in a different city before bringing it to Broadway.  In anticipating a Broadway run, producers may choose to enhance the budget of a not-for-profit theatre’s production of the show while retaining legal rights to the property, and generally while maintaining a degree of creative control.  Though they do not stand to profit monetarily from the early run, they can test the waters in the press to tweak creative elements before investing the whole Broadway budget, and they can also economize by keeping the same costumes and sets.  In certain cases, if the show really isn’t as good as predicted, they may even decide to cut their losses and put a kibosh on the Broadway run.  Though they would have lost their enhancement (often in the realm of one million dollars), they would be avoiding an eventual loss of much more (Broadway musical budgets can easily range $10 – $16 million).

In this light, the fact that Aladdin has had so many pre-Broadway productions implies that its producers were not satisfied with the quality of the first run and felt the need to make adjustments.  Despite any changes that may have been made after the first three attempts, Aladdin’s most recent run in Toronto still triggered a mixed response.  The Toronto Star said that A Friend Like Me was a show-stopping number, but otherwise the musical did not match up to its animated predecessor.  The Vancouver Sun predicted that kids may enjoy the spectacle and simple story, but that its gleam may be lost on adults who crave more complex characters.  Still, Canada’s National Post gave it a rave.  In any case, critical response does not always dictate ticket sales, and over time we may see the brand power of this animated classic overriding ambivalence from the press.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 2/23/2014

ALL THE WAY BEGINS STRONG BUT NOT ALL THE WAY YET
All The Way began previews just two weeks ago and already made the top half spectrum of the Broadway Show Ticket Analysis Chart (see below) with the Broadway ticket gross of $726,190.  Not too shabby for a Broadway show that has not even opened yet but Broadway ticket sales may be affected by the star playing Lyndon B. Johnson, Breaking Bad’s Brian Cranston allowing the show to hold an average Broadway ticket price of $95.79.  Gross ticket sales may be high in relation to the other Broadway shows but average capacity of the Neil Simon Theatre was at a mere 66.64%. Achieving the gross potential for ticket sales will require the show to go All The Way!

MOTHERS AND SONS FEATURING TYNE DALY PREVIEWS
Mothers and Sons, featuring American stage/screen actress, Tyne Daly, began previews on February 23, 2014. Though it seems to be the lowest grossing show according to the Broadway Show Ticket Analysis chart below, it is only considering one performance. Next week’s sales should better indicate where the Broadway show stands in relation to the other Broadway shows.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending February 23, 2014:

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis

Show GrossGross Total Attn %Cap AvgPdAdm
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $436,762 5,275 72.70% $82.80
AFTER MIDNIGHT $621,483 6,636 80.07% $93.65
ALL THE WAY $726,190 7,581 66.64% $95.79
BEAUTIFUL $913,047 7,849 95.63% $116.33
BRONX BOMBERS $140,446 3,462 56.35% $40.57
CHICAGO $484,604 5,585 64.64% $86.77
CINDERELLA $939,356 11,300 80.67% $83.13
JERSEY BOYS $734,020 7,635 77.72% $96.14
KINKY BOOTS $1,331,106 10,769 94.53% $123.61
MACHINAL $285,728 4,583 78.80% $62.35
MAMMA MIA! $549,515 6,982 74.85% $78.70
MATILDA $1,200,517 11,492 100.31% $104.47
MOTHERS AND SONS $29,638 485 60.47% $61.11
MOTOWN: THE MUSICAL $1,134,039 11,075 91.86% $102.40
NEWSIES $780,736 9,101 96.00% $85.79
NO MAN’S LAND/WAITING FOR GODOT $555,256 6,147 81.84% $90.33
ONCE $683,111 7,551 89.13% $90.47
OUTSIDE MULLINGAR $382,274 4,995 96.06% $76.53
PIPPIN $675,859 7,080 89.39% $95.46
ROCK OF AGES $348,778 4,221 90.50% $82.63
ROCKY $642,830 8,091 88.02% $79.45
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,616,666 8,752 102.63% $184.72
THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY $364,888 7,047 86.45% $51.78
THE GLASS MENAGERIE $652,206 6,137 98.60% $106.27
THE LION KING $1,754,208 13,585 99.89% $129.13
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $791,098 10,080 78.50% $78.48
WICKED $1,765,925 15,141 99.72% $116.63
Totals: $20,540,284 208,637 84.89% $92.42

The Glass Menagerie Concludes Its Run On Broadway

The Glass MenagerieThe critically lauded revival of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie finished its 24-week Broadway run this past Sunday, February 23rd 2014.  Starring Zachary Quinto (Angels in America, TV’s Heroes) as Tom, two-time Tony winner Cherry Jones (The Heiress, Doubt) as his mother Amanda, Celia Keenan-Bolger (Peter and the Starcatcher) as his sister Laura, and Brian J. Smith (The Columnist) as the gentleman caller Jim, the production swept critics and audiences away with an essentially perfect record of critical acclaim.  Following its opening on September 26, 2013, audiences flocked to the theatre, allowing the show to recoup its $2.6 million investment with seven weeks remaining to reap profits.

Revivals are not always successful on Broadway, as it takes a truly eloquent reimagining for an older work to strike a chord with critics and audiences alike.  Director John Tiffany, who along with his award-winning design team from Once, crafted a magnificent recreation of Williams’ vision by surrounding the Wingfield family apartment with a pool of reflective black liquid.  The play made numerous top 10 lists at the end of 2013, celebrating this as a landmark production of the American masterpiece.

The production attracted a wide demographic due to the play’s classic status and national familiarity.  With its original New York production in 1945, this play became the first major work by Tennessee Williams and has now been produced a total of seven times on Broadway.  Williams is also renowned for plays such as the Pulitzer Prize winning A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, both of which have been revived numerous times, including in the past two years.  The Glass Menagerie was also adapted into two Hollywood films; the more well-known version, directed by Paul Newman in 1987, starred Joanne Woodward (Amanda), Karen Allen (Laura), John Malkovich (Tom), and James Naughton (Jim).

Williams is known as an autobiographical writer; as legendary director and frequent Williams collaborator Elia Kazan once said, “Everything in his life is in his plays, and everything in his plays is in his life.”  The Glass Menagerie is understood to mimic his life even more so than his other writing, as Williams (whose real first name is Tom) grew up with his neurotic, Southern belle mother not unlike the character Amanda, and his older sister named Rose who, like the character Laura, suffered from physical and mental instability throughout her life.  In writing this piece, Williams coined the term “memory play,” granting a poetic freedom to real life that has enabled this work to be particularly resonant.

This production transferred to Broadway from its original staging at Boston’s American Repertory Theatre, produced by Jeffrey Richards, John N. Hart, Jr., and Jerry Frankel.  The frequent producing team Richards and Frankel are represented this upcoming spring season with the following productions: Robert Schenkkan’s All The Way starring Bryan Cranston; Marsha Norman and Jason Robert Brown’s musical The Bridges of Madison County starring Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale; Will Eno’s The Realistic Joneses starring Toni Collette, Michael C. Hall, Tracy Letts, and Marisa Tomei; and Lonny Price’s Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill starring Audra McDonald.

Heterosexual Males Prove To Be An Elusive Audience For Broadway Producers

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

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

Mad Men In The Movie Theatre

Mad Men Photo Courtesy AMC Inc.

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

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

Bronx Bombers

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

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

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

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

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

matilda broadway discount

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

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

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

Matilda The Musical

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

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

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