“Violet” Opens at the American Airlines Theatre

Sutton Foster has long been considered to have the potential to become one of the great musical theatre performers of our time.  Her big break occurred in 2002, when she was cast as the last minute replacement star of Thoroughly Modern Millie.  When the show transferred to Broadway, the consistently laudatory reviews and 2002 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical proved that she had begun to pave her way to theatrical stardom.  Her most recent Broadway star turn was in the Roundabout Theatre Company’s 2011 revival of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, where Sutton played Reno Sweeney and took home her second Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical.  Despite this success, however, Sutton had yet not proven her invincibility as a surefire star – until now, with the recently opened Roundabout Theatre Company production of Violet.


Violet CD ImageViolet
is the story of a young disfigured woman who travels from North Carolina to Oklahoma in search of healing treatment.  Based on the short story “The Ugliest Pilgrim” by Doris Betts, it has music by Jeanine Tesori (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Caroline or Change) and libretto by Brian Crawley (A Little Princess).  Violet first premiered Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons in 1997, receiving seven Drama Desk nominations and winning the Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Musical.  On July 17, 2013, the Encores! Off-Center Series at New York City Center mounted a one-night production of Violet, this time starring Sutton Foster in the title role.  The creative team at Roundabout must have been impressed by her performance, for they decided to bring the show to one of their Broadway houses, the American Airlines Theatre, for a run this spring to summer 2014.  The production is directed by Leigh Silverman (Chinglish, Well) and choreographed by Jeffrey Page (Fela!).

When the musical opened on April 20, 2014, it received unanimously positive reviews.  Charles Isherwood at The New York Times remarked that this was a “career-redefining performance.”  Whereas Sutton has often appeared in light-hearted musicals such as Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Drowsy Chaperone, and Anything Goes, here she takes a darker turn and embraces issues of self-delusion and in security.

sutton-foster-in-violet

sutton-foster-in-violet

Similarly, Time Out New York stated that this was the “darkest and richest” part that Sutton has ever played, congratulating her on her seamless ability to portray both the optimistic and bitterly anguished elements of her character.  NBC New York also observed that this performance of Sutton’s is “a star being reborn.”  Despite the low-key sets and less than elaborate spectacles involved with the production, critics far and wide praised the ambition and the seriousness of the storyline.

The musical is slated to run until August 10, 2014.  Although this is the first time the show has appeared on Broadway, it is still considered a “revival” for the purposes of Tony Award consideration.  This is not the only show this season to premiere on Broadway after having had an Off-Broadway production years ago; Hedwig and the Angry Inch is similarly considered a “revival” though this is the first time it has been on Broadway.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 4/27/2014

This week’s notable movements on Broadway are:

A SLOW WEEK FOR BROADWAY
In the week ending April 27, 2014, the vast majority of shows saw a decrease in ticket sales from the previous week.  Even the heavy hitters went down significantly.  For instance, though Wicked and The Lion King still both grossed over two million dollars, Wicked earned $694,805 less and The Lion King earned $399,631 less than the week before.  Other big drops include Matilda, which went down $324,076, Cinderella, which decreased by $293,539, Newsies, which slowed down by $256,702, Rocky, which decreased by $238,855, and The Phantom of the Opera, which went down by $399,865.  Even the mega-hit The Book of Mormon decreased by $15,835.  As this list includes some of the top tourist picks, this goes to show that Broadway was hit hard by the last week of April, presumably because spring break has now ended.  Certain shows showed a slight increase that may appeal less to tourists, including Violet, The Realistic Joneses, The Bridges of Madison County, Mothers and Sons, and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.  Though these grosses are still significantly lower than the tourist shows mentioned above, this is further evidence that the overall decrease is due to the slower numbers of tourists flocking to the city this past week.

HEAVY DISCOUNTING
Casa Valentina, Harvey Fierstein’s new play about transvestites in the 1960s, is one of the more notable shows in terms of discounting, as evidenced by these figures.  Though the play grossed only $210,585 this past week, it still played to an average 91.3% capacity, with an average ticket price of only $44.78.  This shows that the play does attract a certain degree of interest from theatregoers, but they are not willing to pay full price.  Furthermore, The Velocity of Autumn had by far the lowest average paid ticket price at $20.77, still only managing to fill up 67.0% average capacity.  With a horrendous weekly gross of $84,521, this show looks to be on its very last legs.  With those numbers, it has definitely been dispersing complementary tickets in an effort to spread word of mouth, but it won’t be able to last long if sales don’t pick up soon.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending April 27, 2014:

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 4-27-14

Show GrossGross Total Attn %Cap AvgPdAdm
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $470,784 5,702 78.58% $82.56
A RAISIN IN THE SUN $1,183,783 8,368 100.00% $141.47
ACT ONE $373,915 5,308 61.21% $70.44
AFTER MIDNIGHT $488,203 6,142 74.11% $79.49
ALADDIN $1,194,264 13,790 100.04% $86.60
ALL THE WAY $994,085 9,118 80.15% $109.02
BEAUTIFUL $1,015,673 8,164 99.46% $124.41
BULLETS OVER BROADWAY $956,227 10,783 82.69% $88.68
CABARET $624,575 7,108 100.17% $87.87
CASA VALENTINA $210,585 4,703 91.28% $44.78
CHICAGO $667,125 7,618 88.17% $87.57
CINDERELLA $1,119,405 13,362 95.39% $83.78
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH $725,517 7,200 102.14% $100.77
IF/THEN $1,004,383 9,750 92.96% $103.01
JERSEY BOYS $800,204 8,253 84.01% $96.96
KINKY BOOTS $1,519,830 11,300 99.19% $134.50
LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL $489,022 4,504 94.34% $108.58
LES MISÉRABLES $1,258,537 11,099 98.47% $113.39
MAMMA MIA! $842,376 9,103 97.59% $92.54
MATILDA $1,253,017 11,517 100.53% $108.80
MOTHERS AND SONS $192,942 3,210 50.03% $60.11
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL $1,203,398 11,487 95.28% $104.76
NEWSIES $812,665 9,232 97.38% $88.03
OF MICE AND MEN $897,852 8,555 99.66% $104.95
ONCE $569,833 6,749 79.66% $84.43
PIPPIN $682,229 7,063 89.18% $96.59
ROCK OF AGES $359,970 4,278 91.72% $84.14
ROCKY $783,892 8,805 72.60% $89.03
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,674,070 8,752 102.63% $191.28
THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY $351,946 4,922 60.38% $71.50
THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN $579,630 7,535 87.78% $76.93
THE LION KING $2,143,746 13,602 100.01% $157.61
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $1,117,440 10,679 83.17% $104.64
THE REALISTIC JONESES $619,507 6,458 92.57% $95.93
THE VELOCITY OF AUTUMN $84,521 4,070 67.03% $20.77
VIOLET $360,849 5,022 85.52% $71.85
WICKED $2,074,749 14,320 98.95% $144.88
Totals: $31,700,745 307,631 88.49% $97.10

Broadway ticket sales raw data are provided courtesy of The Broadway League All other data, text, opinion, charts and commentary are copyright © 2014 nytix.com

“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” Opens on Broadway

Hedwig and the Angry Inch first hit the Off-Broadway stage in 1998, and it has taken 16 years for this gender-bending rock musical to find the Great White Way.  In this time, its book-writer and original star John Cameron Mitchell, though forever ageless in the mind of his fans, has sadly aged beyond the prime energy levels required to sustain this magnificently vibrant performance, which requires the lead to carry the entire show on his shoulders.  Fortunately, however, Neil Patrick Harris has stepped up to the post at the Belasco Theatre, and according to the unanimous response from critics, he does so to stupendous success.  Directed by Michael Mayer and choreographed by Spencer Liff, Hedwig and the Angry Inch has music and lyrics by Stephen Trask, along with the book by John Cameron Mitchell.

With its style rooted in thedwig and the angry inch neil patrick harris titlehe androgynous glam rock of the 1970s, Hedwig and the Angry Inch is the story of a struggling East German rock star named Hansel during the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Hedwig is homosexual turned accidental transsexual, so to speak, as his tragic story originates with his desire to marry another man, and in so doing escape the communist East for the capitalist West.  However, his sex change operation gets botched, and instead of a makeshift vagina, Hansel a.k.a. Hedwig ends up with a one-inch mound of flesh.  After Hedwig moves to Kansas with her new husband, he leaves her for a man and she forms a rock band called Hedwig and the Angry Inch.  The story, divulged by means of a spectacular rock concert, continues as Hedwig tells of her encounter with a lonely Christian teenager, who becomes a famous rock star named Tommy Gnosis and leaves her in the wake of his success.

For purposes of Tony consideration, this musical is considered a revival, although this is its first time on Broadway.  (The same thing happened with this season’s production of Violet.)  This is because many productions have been done of the show since its Off-Broadway premiere.  Still, it has earned a remarkable eight Tony Award nominations, including those for Best Revival of a Musical and Best Actor in a Musical.  (Coincidentally, Harris has hosted the Tony Awards four times.)  In addition, a well-known film version was released in 2001, immortalizing John Cameron Mitchell as the anti-hero he created.  Though that film may not have been a financial success, having grossed just over half of its $6 million budget, it is widely regarded as a beautiful and unique masterpiece of the screen.  With this history, many doubted if Neil Patrick Harris could hold a candle to his fellow three named predecessor.  Fortunately, with the opening of the Broadway production on April 22, 2014, the results are in, and Harris is a winner.neil patrick harris in performance as hedwig in hedwig and the angry inch

Neil Patrick Harris has appeared on Broadway three times prior to this: as Hal in Proof in 2002, as the Emcee in Cabaret in 2003, and as Lee Harvey Oswald in the 2004 production of Assassins.  However, he is best known for his television roles, specifically for starring in How I Met Your Mother as well as Doogie Howser, M.D.  If the magnificent reviews and the eager cult following were not enough to make this a sell-out hit, then Harris’ star power will convince the less daring theatregoers to give this risqué piece a try.  Fortunately, the box office is holding up to its potential.  Bringing in over $700,000 per week, Hedwig has maintained sell-out capacity as well as an average ticket price of well over $100.  This may be no The Book of Mormon, but this small-scale edgy rock show seems to have found its audience.  Hedwig and the Angry Inch is presently scheduled to have an open-ended run.

The 2014 Tony Nominations Are Announced

2014 tony awards

It is always a time of great anticipation.  The Tony Awards, the most prestigious awards ceremony for Broadway, mean a great deal to the fate of plays and musicals, often dictating tourist picks throughout the summer and certainly adding a measure of prestige for the award recipients.  This year, the Tony Awards ceremony will be held on June 8, 2014 at Radio City Music Hall.  The nominations were just announced.

The Nominations
Leading the list of shows with the highest number of nominations is the new musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which received 10 nominations.  Hedwig and the Angry Inch followed with a respectable 8, and four shows tied next with 7 nominations: After Midnight, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Twelfth Night, and The Glass Menagerie.  The Tony Nominating Committee adopted a new rule this winter, which allows each category to select up to five contenders, if deemed appropriate due to the votes being close enough in the final tally.  Despite this fact, several categories still have only four or three nominees, even when those supposed to be serious contenders were left out of the running.  For instance, the category of Best Musical includes only four nominees – After Midnight, Aladdin, Beautiful, and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder – even while Bullets Over Broadway, If/Then, The Bridges of Madison County, and Rocky were all left out.

2014 tony awardsThe Snubs
You cannot make everyone happy all the time, but perhaps the most notable snub was Will Eno’s new play The Realistic Joneses, which did not receive any nominations.  Critics have hypothesized that this is because the nominating committee was turned off by the show’s unusual structure and provocative subject matter, while the plays that were selected were all more conventional, if significantly less moving or original.  These nominees for Best Play are Act One, All the Way, Casa Valentina, Mothers and Sons, and Outside Mullingar, most of which received moderate to mixed reviews.  The category for Best Revival of a Musical includes only three titles – Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Les Misérables, and Violet – though the only other contender, Cabaret, was blatantly left off the list.  The four titles chosen for Best Revival of a Play are The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Glass Menagerie, A Raisin in the Sun, and the all-male production of Twelfth Night.

Other Surprises
Not appearing on the Tony nomination list includes Daniel Radcliffe, who did not receive a nomination for Best Actor for his role in The Cripple of Inishmaan, despite having received magnificent reviews.  This marks the third time he has starred on Broadway yet failed to be nominated for a Tony Award, it seems that he cannot shake his Harry Potter persona, albeit in the eyes of the Tony Award committee.  Other actors who were astonishingly left out of the running include Denzel Washington for A Raisin in the Sun, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart who co-starred in the repertory productions of No Man’s Land and Waiting for Godot, as well as Zachary Quinto who was the only star of The Glass Menagerie to be left off.  Other shows that did not receive any nominations – some to great surprise – are the box-office smash Betrayal, the big-budget musical Big Fish, and the musicals Soul Doctor, First Date, and the revival of Cabaret.

Interestingly, all the nominees for Best Director of a Play were for revivals, rather than new plays.  These are John Tiffanytony awards statue for The Glass Menagerie, Kenny Leon for A Raisin in the Sun, Tim Carroll for Twelfth Night, and Michael Grandage for The Cripple of Inishmaan.  Perhaps the nominating committee prefers to acknowledge the work of directors who revive older works, rather than those who create the first Broadway production of a new play.  They failed to recognize Bill Rauch for All the Way and James Lapine for Act One, both of whom worked magic with large casts.

Furthermore, it is notable that no women were nominated for play directing awards, and only one woman was nominated for directing a musical: Leigh Silverman for Violet.  What’s more, none of the ten new plays this season were written by women.  In fact, women were notably few amongst the nominees overall – with the clear exceptions of the Best Actress categories.  Patrick Healy of The New York Times postulated that this is because men in power often choose those with whom they have a friendly relationship for high-up positions in the theatre, so it often turns out that men serve these roles.

“Act One” Opens on Broadway

The Vivian Beaumont Theatre is the 1,105 seat Broadway house run by Lincoln Center, which also operates two smaller houses in their beautiful West 65th Street complex.  This revolving stage is presently occupied by the set of Act One, a play written and directed by James Lapine, based off the memoir of the same name by Moss Hart.  As the set by Beowulf Boritt revolves, the audience is able to glimpse the past, present, and future scenes of Hart’s life at once, which sets the tone for the multi-generational time-hopping play.  Though many critics gave positive reviews to this story catering to the theatrical die-hards, other reviewers found it lacking drama, despite being a recounting of the ultimate drama success story.

Without fail, critics praised the performances of the two main actors.  Santino Fontana, who has increasingly come into the Broadway consciousness of late due to his star turns as the Prince in Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella as well as the lead in the Off-Broadway play Sons of the Prophet, plays Moss Hart as a young man.  Tony Shalhoub, well-known to the public through the television show Monk,and a Lincoln Center favorite recently seen in Golden Boy, has multiple parts to play: Moss Hart as an older man, his father Barnett, and also his great collaborator, George S. Kaufman.  Throughout most of the first act, Shalhoub juggles the first two of these roles, generally serving as narrator when playing Hart as an older man, while Fontana simultaneously serves as a second narrator.  Finally at the end of Act I, Shalhoub re-enters, this time as Kaufman, who joins forces with Hart to create some of the great musical collaborations of Broadway history, such as You Can’t Take it With You, The Man Who Came to Dinner, and the play Merrily We Roll Along, which later served as the source for the musical of the same name whose score was written by Stephen Sondheim.

James Lapine knows a thing or two about collaboration himself, as he is best known for his musical theatre collaborations with Behind the Curtain of Act One! Chart Theater Legend Moss Hart’s Extraordinary Journey to Broadwaythe Stephen Sondheim.  Their work together includes Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods, Assassins, and Passion.  It therefore must have been very close to Lapine’s heart to tell this rags-to-riches story of a young theatre artist looking for his big break, only to find a collaborator in a more experienced individual.  For the most part, Lapine manages to adapt Hart’s memoir with a significant degree of wit and a great deal of humor.  However, it is extremely difficult to adapt an entire book into a play of manageable length, and this play does trail on the long side.  Whereas the first act was critiqued as being a bit cliché, for which any story of a struggling artist could have filled in, the second act suffers from the lack of dramatic tension and over-exposition.

The play also features excellent supporting performances by Matthew Saldivar (Peter and the Starcatcher), Will Brill (Tribes), and Will LeBow as both Jed Harris and Augustus Pitou.  Despite fabulous work from the cast, however, the production is overblown and the storytelling at times flavorless.  Though it makes perfect sense that this biography of a modern theatre icon would find its home on the Vivian Beaumont stage, the theatrical adaptation of this theatre master’s life story does not quite match up to his legacy.

Book of Mormon Touring Show Criss-Crosses the U.S.

When a musical is doing well on Broadway, its producers will generally opt to take the show on a U.S. National Tour, as they will have optioned this right along with their original Broadway rights agreement.  As such, a tour is often the mark of a successful show, sometimes taking place after a show has earned a number of Tony Awards that can be touted as the show travels from state to state.  There are also cases in which a tour can be launched after a show has flopped on Broadway, in an effort to recoup some of the lost funds in cities other than New York.  For instance Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark, which concluded its Broadway run on January 4, 2014, will soon open a Las Vegas production and is also considering an arena tour around the country, though its large-scale special effects may make that difficult.  While it sold many tickets over its 3-year run, becoming the sixteenth-highest grossing show of all time, it still failed to recoup its enormous capitalization, estimated at $75 million.  More investment would need to be raised, and yet a tour could potentially earn back some of Spiderman’s lost capital.

Book Of Mormon Broadway - USA Map
The Book of Mormon
, on the other hand, is far from a flop.  Between extremely high demand and clever dynamic pricing strategies, the satirical musical managed to recoup its $11.4 million investment after only nine months of performances.  The show has been playing at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre since March 2011, where it looks to remain for many years to come.  After making a huge splash at the 2011 Tony Awards, receiving 14 nominations and 9 wins, the show ran for another year before the producers decided to launch a national tour.  On August 14, 2012, the first national tour began at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, then proceeding to the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles where it played for the fall season, before continuing on a tour around the country that is still underway.  Meanwhile, a replica production ran at Chicago’s Bank of America Theatre from December 11, 2012 to October 6, 2013, after which it also began a tour around the country, thereby allowing The Book of Mormon to enjoy two tours simultaneously.  This is in addition to the West End production, which has been running in London’s Prince of Wales Theatre since February 2013.

 

The Book Of Mormon
This is not the only show that has made the choice to launch two simultaneous tours.  Wicked presently has two tours running, and Elf the Musical launched two simultaneous tours during the holiday season of 2013.  Still, The Book of Mormon is covering a lot of ground between its two touring companies.  While the first national tour is presently playing in Boston, the second national tour is enjoying a run at Los Angeles’ Pantages Theatre, where the first tour played a year and a half ago.  Next, the first tour will play Providence, Rhode Island; Columbus, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky; East Lansing, Michigan; Indianapolis, Indiana; Memphis, Tennessee; and the list goes on.  Meanwhile, after the second tour finishes in Los Angeles, it will proceed to Costa Mesa, California; San Diego, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; and many more.  As such, the show is effectively criss-crossing the United States, allowing theatregoers all over the country to catch a performance at a theatre near them, and exponentially boosting profits for the producers.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 4/20/2014

This week’s notable movements on Broadway are:

THE TWO MILLION DOLLAR CLUB
Two heavy hitting shows, Wicked and The Lion King, both managed to cross the threshold into the two million dollar gross mark this past week.  Whereas grossing over one million dollars is already a significant achievement for any show, even a musical, these two crowd-pleasing musicals continue to show incredible success at the box office.  The reason is that each show played nine performances this past week, which is one higher than the usual 8.  The producers of both shows must have been aiming to capitalize on the higher tourist traffic due to spring break, as well as the finally balmy weather.  Wicked, which has now been running for over 10 years, holds the record for the highest weekly gross of all time, which was $3.2 million over nine performances in the last week of 2013. The Lion King, which has been running since fall 1997, was the highest grossing show of 2013, pulling in $97 million throughout the year.
This past week, Wicked grossed a whomping $2,769,554, which was an increase of $839,192 from the previous week.  With a top ticket price of $300, this show has not resorted to price gauging for premium tickets as much as, say, The Book of Mormon, which charges as much as $477 for premium seats, granted in a smaller theatre.  Filling its 17,352 seats to 100% capacity, Wicked earned 146.44% of its gross potential due to premium ticket pricing.  The Lion King, on the other hand, also made it into the two million dollar club, grossing $2,543,377 this past week over its nine performances, which was an increase of $628,440 from the previous week.  The Lion King had a top ticket price of only $197.50, which demonstrates restraint of the part of the show’s producers, and with an average ticket price of $166.19, the show grossed $102.54% of its gross potential.

OVERALL AN EXCELLENT WEEK
With few exceptions, every show experienced an increase in gross ticket sales in the week ending April 20, 2014.  The four shows that went down did so only slightly, all losing under $100,000 from the previous week. Hedwig and the Angry Inch grossed $68,797 less than last week, presumably due to complimentary press tickets given out in anticipation of its wildly successful opening.  Mothers and Sons, Of Mice and Men, and The Velocity of Autumn all went down a relatively small amount as well.  Overall, however, this was a hugely successful week on Broadway.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending April 20, 2014:

Broadway Show Ticket Analysis 4-20-14

Show GrossGross Total Attn %Cap AvgPdAdm
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $507,224 6,201 85.46% $81.80
A RAISIN IN THE SUN $1,212,665 8,368 100.00% $144.92
ACT ONE $340,604 6,344 73.15% $53.69
AFTER MIDNIGHT $542,801 7,112 85.81% $76.32
ALADDIN $1,225,128 13,797 100.09% $88.80
ALL THE WAY $1,067,173 9,729 85.52% $109.69
BEAUTIFUL $1,027,244 8,147 99.26% $126.09
BULLETS OVER BROADWAY $974,076 11,730 89.95% $83.04
CABARET $692,319 7,094 100.42% $97.59
CASA VALENTINA $212,097 4,796 93.09% $44.22
CHICAGO $845,382 8,275 95.78% $102.16
CINDERELLA $1,412,944 13,529 96.58% $104.44
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH $815,295 7,116 100.95% $114.57
IF/THEN $1,104,188 10,372 98.89% $106.46
JERSEY BOYS $854,430 8,556 87.09% $99.86
KINKY BOOTS $1,629,283 11,341 99.55% $143.66
LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL $459,071 4,640 97.19% $98.94
LES MISÉRABLES $1,396,410 11,258 99.88% $124.04
MAMMA MIA! $950,480 9,472 101.54% $100.35
MATILDA $1,577,093 11,542 100.75% $136.64
MOTHERS AND SONS $187,192 3,355 52.29% $55.79
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL $1,179,643 11,533 95.66% $102.28
NEWSIES $1,069,367 10,756 100.85% $99.42
OF MICE AND MEN $755,158 7,508 99.96% $100.58
ONCE $681,763 7,732 91.27% $88.17
PIPPIN $882,705 7,843 99.03% $112.55
ROCK OF AGES $421,341 4,477 95.99% $94.11
ROCKY $1,022,747 10,654 87.85% $96.00
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,689,905 8,752 102.63% $193.09
THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY $345,270 5,243 64.32% $65.85
THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN $463,064 8,212 95.67% $56.39
THE LION KING $2,543,377 15,304 100.03% $166.19
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $1,517,305 12,759 99.37% $118.92
THE REALISTIC JONESES $613,441 6,532 93.64% $93.91
THE VELOCITY OF AUTUMN $94,400 4,011 75.49% $23.54
VIOLET $283,182 5,879 100.12% $48.17
WICKED $2,769,554 17,352 100.00% $159.61
Totals: $35,365,319 327,321 93.11% $100.32

Broadway ticket sales raw data are provided courtesy of The Broadway League All other data, text, opinion, charts and commentary are copyright © 2014 nytix.com

“Of Mice and Men” Opens on Broadway

John Steinbeck’s 1937 play Of Mice and Men, based on his 1937 novella of the same name, is presently being revived on Broadway for the second time.  On April 16, 2014, Anna D. Shapiro’s production of this classic story of two displaced migrant workers during the Great Depression opened at the Longacre Theatre.  This production has received a great deal of press, primarily because it stars James Franco, the ever-increasingly famous (with bouts of infamy) multi-hyphenate actor, writer, director, producer, author, teacher, and poet.  He stars alongside Chris O’Dowd and Leighton Meester, both also stars of the screen making their Broadway debuts.  As such, it has been selling considerably well at the box office, averaging around 96% capacity with an average ticket price of $101.76.  Therefore, though the production received mixed to positive reviews following its opening, this is unlikely to sway ticket-buyers who are more drawn by the star factor of the face on the marquis than by promises of quality.


Ben Brantley of The New York Times is by far New York’s most influential Broadway theatre critic.  Producers flaunt positive quotes with his byline, and they live in fear of his negative responses to their shows.  In an era where people are reading fewer newspapers than ever before, New York City has become a one-paper town, where Brantley rules the theatre section.  James Franco, though new to the Broadway scene, has clearly picked up on the sensitivity of this one man’s opinion to his show’s fate, and in the fashion of any egomaniac on a quest for world domination, he decided to publicly flaunt his distaste for Brantley’s less than positive review.  Of course, Franco’s medium of choice for this proclamation was none other than Instagram.  (Lest we forget, this is the same place that Franco made an utter fool of himself two weeks ago for blatantly hitting on a Scottish 17 year-old whom he had met outside of the Of Mice and Men stage door.)  After Brantley published a critical review of Franco’s stage demeanor and level of acting effort, Franco posted to Instagram a link to the positive Variety review, then commenting that Brantley is a “little bitch” whom the theatre community hates for good reason, as he is an “idiot”.  Though he has since taken down this post, it only further illustrates Franco’s lack of grace and dangerously swollen ego.

Other reviewers were more positive in their reviews of the play.  Variety, Time Out New York, NBC, and the Hollywood Reporter all praised the revival and Ms. Shapiro’s direction.  The Los Angeles Times, on the other hand, was more in line with Brantley.  Charles McNulty reviewed Franco as being in “CliffsNotes mode,” which is not surprising as he is flying to L.A. to teach a class on his one day off, while also working on his innumerable other projects, when most other Broadway stars would be focused on their stage performance.  Perhaps this is the beginning of the end for Franco’s success in merely dialing it in.  However, it is more likely that the greater world will continue to swoon for his celebrity, excusing his madness and even finding it endearing, and allowing him to take credit for wild success when his biggest achievement seems to be just showing up.  It is time we acknowledge that James Franco has become a brand.  We generally look for a soul in our Broadway performers, and it seems Franco’s has long been buried by his ever-growing success.

Of Mice and Men is scheduled to run until July 27, 2014.

“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” Opens on Broadway

The Circle in the Square Theatre is one of Broadway’s more intimate venues, allowing the audience to get up close and personal with the performer in front of them.  In the case of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, which opened on April 13, 2014, the star is five-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, and the personal story is that of the timeless and beloved jazz singer Billie Holiday.  According to the largely positive critical response, this play with music is an engaging and compelling piece, in which McDonald guides her crowd through the journey of Holiday’s life – both musical and personal.  The play is written by Lanie Robertson, directed by Lonny Price, and the music was arranged and orchestrated by Tim Weil.

ladyday2

The play was first produced at New York’s Off-Broadway Vineyard Theatre in 1986, and this is its Broadway premiere.  This bio-show recounts the songs that made Billie Holiday famous, as well as the tales that made her notorious.  Specifically, she was an alcoholic and heroin addict, who only found balance and solace through the deep bounty of her singing voice.  The fictional set-up is meant to recreate one of Holiday’s final performances, at a small, intimate bar in Philadelphia.  Fortunately, the Circle in the Square Theatre is able to recreate this venue better than many other Broadway houses might.  Still, The New York Times critiqued the show for its lack of believability, for Holiday often performed in a dark room with a spotlight so she could not see her own audience, and she would have never divulged such a personal tale as McDonald does in this portrayal.

This show follows in the tradition of biographical shows based off the lives of now deceased performers, delving into their tragedy as well as their timeless beauty.  For instance, End of the Rainbow, also a bio-play with music, ran on Broadway in the spring of 2012, with Tracie Bennett portraying Judy Garland with all her force and folly, including her timeless hits such as “Somewhere over the Rainbow.”  Furthermore, the spring of 2013 saw Nathan Lane playing the 1930s burlesque performer Chauncey in The Nance, exploring the ups and the downs of his life.  Time and again, producers rely on the familiarity of historical figures recreated by modern-day performers, banking on the double name recognition to move tickets.

Lady Day and Emerson’s Bar and Grill is just hanging on at the box office.  As it is only playing seven performances a week in a theatre with only 682 seats, the show already faces difficulty in competing with the other shows in terms of weekly grosses.  Even so, its weekly figures have been fairly low.  In the week ending April 13, 2014, the show grossed $366,156, which was only 58.73% of its gross potential.  This is about how well the show has been doing since it began previews.  It is scheduled to close on August 10, 2014.

Shubert Ticketing Passes ‘Plum Benefits’ Over To EBG’s ‘TicketsAtWork.com’

Plum Benefits is a leading corporate entertainment benefits provider that specializes in providing discounted attractions and events for company employees. Plum had a specific focus on Broadway shows in NYC, the stable from which it was born.  For the past three years, Plum has been owned and managed by Shubert Ticketing.  This is a division of The Shubert Organization, a private organization owned by the Shubert Foundation, which is also the majority landlord on Broadway, owning 17 of the 40 Broadway theatres.  After acquiring Plum Benefits (Formerly SVM Marketing) from its founder Shara Mendelson in 2011 for a reported $2 million in cash, the Shuberts have continued to run the company, apparently profitably.  As of April 2, 2014, they have announced a merger with TicketsAtWork.com, which is a similar business owned by Entertainment Benefits Group (EBG).  Although it is technically a legal “merger,” the resultant business appears to be more of a takeover as the new entity is largely managed by EBG, and key Plum employees are now employees of EBG.  Oversight of the Plum Benefits brand has been passed from Shubert Ticketing to another Shubert sub-division, “Broadway Inbound.”

Differences Between The Companies

The difference between EBG’s Tickets-APlum Benefits Merges with EBG Entertainment Benefits Groupt-Work and Plum Benefits is that while Plum is based in the New York City area and specializes in promoting Broadway shows to Fortune 500 employers, Tickets-At-Work has a wider reach geographically and also has a significantly larger roster of major entertainment companies including theme parks, hotels, flights, and travel.  In addition, Plum Benefits has until now been using a link-off site transaction process, requiring users to purchase tickets outside of their platform.  On the other hand, Tickets-At-Work uses an internal transaction process, offering a proprietary ticketing technology developed by EBG that only allows customers to buy tickets within their website.  The Shuberts, who are notoriously slow to adopt new technology and practices, have surprisingly provided a competitive advantage to EBG in terms of allowing Tickets-At-Work to engage in end-to-end transactional ticket sales using the Shuberts’ own back-end data from Telecharge, something no other Broadway business has been allowed to do.  Tickets-At-Work has the unique and enviable position of no longer needing to use discount codes, and they are able to circumvent broadwayoffers.com completely, the traditional website that all other market players have been forced to use for online discount Broadway tickets.  It’s unclear if the Shuberts are just testing the waters with Tickets-At-Work and plan to roll out the ticket sales API to other Broadway ticket vendors, or whether they intend to keep this competitive advantage for their Tickets-At-Work relationship only.  It is also unclear how Broadway show producers feel about Plum and EBG’s Tickets-At-Work having this logistical advantage over all the other players in the Broadway ticket market, especially given that EBG and Tickets-At-Work are outside the normal Broadway ticket sales channels.  It is yet to be seen if Broadway producers will see any real value in an increase in ticket sales from this merger. The new website for Plum Benefits looks largely identical to the existing Tickets-At-Work website, not only in terms of structure but also design, but now Plum clients are pitched a dizzying array of other products and services.  Plum Benefits is now called “Plum Benefits, powered by TicketsAtWork,” but the IP address of the new PlumBenefits.com website is actually owned by EBG, further underscoring the fact that it is the latter who has the overall power in this relationship.  Despite the duplicate layout, the differences in the companies’ specialties are clear by the activities that are advertised on each of their sections on the home pages: presently, Plum Benefits’ section advertises Aladdin the musical, as well as Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, The Cripple of Inishmaan starring Daniel Radcliffe, and the jukebox 80s musical Rock of Ages.  On the other hand, the rest of the site is dedicated to Tickets-At-Work and promotes Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Cirque du Soleil, and the recently much maligned Sea World.

Plumbenefits, now part of the EBG Group including TicketsAtWork

Plum Benefits, now part of the EBG Entertainment Benefits Group that includes TicketsAtWork

Plum Benefits Business Model

The business model for Plum Benefits had thrived for many years under Shara Mendelson’s iron-fist rule. principally because it was a free service exclusively for employer corporations and organizations.  This is especially attractive as employers have been cutting back on “fringe” benefits in recent years, adding voluntary benefits made up for that void.  Plum’s revenue comes from fees paid by the producers of the entertainment events, so corporate members incur zero cost while producers pay for the promotional benefits of the service.  Therefore, it is surprising that the Shuberts would decide to share ownership of this cash-cow so soon after acquiring it themselves.  Fortunately for them, the agreement provides that they retain rights to the name and trademark of Plum Benefits, and presumably take a fee from all transactions, though EBG conducts the business on their behalf.  At the ground level, they are erasing many roles within their organization, removing what they may have considered to be role redundancies.  EBG has reported that the remaining Plum Benefits staff who manage the corporate clients are now employees of EBG.  It is unclear whether the former Plum Benefits organization was failing to make sufficient profits, or whether there were some other logistical reasons for this merger/takeover decision. In any case, existing Plum Benefits customers can now enjoy a seemingly endless roster of entertainment options, as well as a streamlined booking process.  With a 19 hours a day, 365 days a year, dedicated customer service team and the seamless back-end ticketing technology that the Shuberts have allowed EBG to implement on their behalf, the Tickets-At-Work merger appears to be a step forward from the consumer perspective.

Shopping At Work

However, Plum Benefits’ existing corporate client roster may balk at the multitude of new choices to which their employees now have access through the new relationship.  HR departments are already very wary of being aligned with this new service, as their own employees and management approval may take interpret this as their HR department encouraging and approving of “shopping at work,” something that corporate management is keen to avoid.  HR employees are very concerned about being seen as providing benefits and value, but not distractions, for their employees at work.  The new Plum Benefits’ site does not provide a method to switch off the multitude of offers, and employees are force-fed all these offers from the new partnership, often against their will.  What is missing from this model is the HR manager’s desire, and discretion, to pick and choose what types of offers they want to provide to their employees and which ones they do not, which may mean many Corporations may jump ship to other solutions such as “Corporate Perks” by Nextjump or “Corporate Offers,” which are more attuned to the HR division’s needs. With EBG and “Tickets At Work” primarily based in Aventura, Florida, it is clear that the bulk of the offers will no longer be focused on New York City and certainly not on Broadway shows.  Plum will inevitably see a dilution of interest in Broadway show attractions, but an increase in overall income from its commissions from the other entertainment sales in this joint venture.  Broadway shows expect that their overall ticket sales will go down for Plum, even though the merger with TAW opens up their product to a lot more people, most of whom aren’t in the NYC area.  As such, any ticket sales will be “visitor” sales, something to which the Broadway producer has historically been able to sell full-price tickets, but they are now are stuck selling at a discount, even though they didn’t ask for one.

Overall Value To Each Organization

Through this relationship, it is clear that  EBG’s Tickets-At-Work now has a great opportunity to pitch their endless wares to Plum Benefits’ exclusive corporate club, and will no doubt see profit growth through this merger/takeover.  The Shuberts’ Plum Benefits, however, gets to deliver a wider product range to their existing client base and, in theory, will see increased sales of Broadway tickets.  In reality though, sales of Broadway tickets may in fact go down (due to offer dilution) and their existing corporate client base may be confused and bewildered by the array of choice now available for their employees.  It is expected that the Shuberts will have increased revenue from the Plum Benefits division from the sales of non-Broadway product to their existing clients, making up for any losses incurred by a reduction in overall Broadway ticket sales.  Plum Benefits has opened up their corporate client base to peruse hundreds of other competing entertainment offers, something that does not seem wholly appropriate for the HR divisions of the various blue chip corporations, and this is also quite surprising given that the Shuberts’ mission statement is to help develop Broadway Theatre.  It appears that they may have instead sold out for cash, or at least a commission on the sale. The merger of these two entities was the brainchild of Charles Flateman, the VP of Marketing for Shubert Ticketing (formerly of Gray Line New York Sightseeing Tours and co-founder of Broadway Inbound) and Brett Reizen, EBG President and CEO.  Both individuals are now board members of the newly combined organization and did not return calls seeking comment for this story.

Charles Flateman at Shubert

Charles Flateman at Shubert

Brett Reizen at EBG

Brett Reizen at EBG