Rock of Ages Movie Fails to Rock the Box Office – Barely Moves The Needle on the Broadway Show

The film version of the highly successful Broadway musical Rock of Ages opened this past weekend to disappointing box office sales and tepid reviews. Featuring a star-filled cast and a slew of beloved ’80s hair-band hits like “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and “Wanted Dead or Alive”, Rock of Ages seemed poised to do well, but when all was said and done, the hard-rocking movie only placed #3 at the box office, bringing in less than $15 million in ticket sales.

The exact reason for Rock of Ages‘ lackluster performance is hard to pinpoint. Some of the reviews felt the Rock of Ages movie failed to capture the silly fun and hard rock spirit of the Broadway show version (and of course the film couldn’t possibly duplicate the concert-like feel of a live show). The movie advertisements, which emphasize the more famous cast members (Tom Cruise, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, etc.), are also rather misleading, since the main characters are actually played by relative unknowns. Some moviegoers may have also simply thought that the movie looked a bit too cheesy for their tastes (Alec Baldwin in a ratty-looking long wig can’t be helping matters on that front).

Perhaps the real question is whether or not ’80s music has as much mass appeal anymore, particularly to the largest movie-going demographic, young men. It’s more likely that their parents are the ones who hold a strong affection for ’80s hair metal, which would explain why Rock of Ages is a bigger success on Broadway (where middle-aged ticket buyers rule) than in movie theaters (which is more the domain of young people).

Cirque du Soleil: Zarkana Review

Cirque du Soleils Zarkana

Zark from Cirque du Soleil’s Zarkana ringleads an impressive troupe in this year’s show at the Radio City Music Hall

The golden glow of the walls and the oddly dressed performers walking the aisles set the stage for this year’s incarnation of Zarkana, the latest spectacular by Cirque du Soleil that runs through September 2, at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall.

The show tells the story of Zark, a magician who has lost his powers, on his quest to rescue his love who was kidnapped. The plot, although confusing, was secondary — after all who doesn’t love a good Cirque du Soleil show strung together on a flimsy premise?

As for action, Zarkana doesn’t disappoint. The opening act features an impressive juggler and although she didn’t miss a beat, the onslaught of performers around her, was quite a distraction from her art.  The Trapeze and Acrobatics were sensational, and sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.  The Cyr Wheel and High Wire acts, although exciting, felt a little too circus-like. The Flag Throwers fell flat, hardly perilous enough to compete with the other death-defying feats followed by the Hand Balancing performer who will not only have you gasping, but will inspire you to run to a local yoga class.

The Sand Painting was by far, one of the highlights of the evening.  The magical ability to highlight every segment of the show using only hands and sand could easily leave you feeling mesmerized.  The Wheel of Death was the show stopper — with the huge cage-like cylinders rotating while two daring performers leapt inside and out, flipping and jumping — was nerve wracking. In an apparent misstep, when the performer’s leg became stuck in the jump rope as the wheel rotated at lightning fast speed, it appeared that near disaster was averted — or maybe it was part of the act.  Either way, it made for a nail biting experience.

As for the creepy factor, the six-armed floating fetus, the “Freddy Krueger meets Little Mermaid’s Ursula” Snake Lady, and eyeball projections will have you and that five-year old having nightmares for weeks.

The stage sets and elaborate costumes made you feel instantly transformed into an odd enchanted world. For a show that is supposedly a rock opera, the music is unimpressive, actually distracting to a point.   It was hard to make out what the singers were saying, even though it was in English versus Cirque’s typical Esperanto.

This is an entertaining show filled with phenomenal talent. Even with the many distractions, Cirque Du Soleil’s Zarkana, is a must see — but leave the timid toddlers at home.

If you can’t catch Zarkana‘s swan song in the New York show, don’t worry — beginning this fall, Zarkana will make its permanent home at Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.

War Horse Launches U.S. Tour

War Horse, the theatrical sensation currently playing in London’s West End, on Broadway in New York, and in Toronto, is finally going out on the road. The North American tour of War Horse has begun with an engagement at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, where it will play until July 29. After the L.A. stop, War Horse will march on to numerous stops across the U.S., including San Francisco, Dallas, Atlanta, Boston, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle, and Minneapolis. A number of smaller cities, such as East Lansing, Tempe, Spokane, Fayetteville, and Appleton are also on the docket.

Based on the Michael Morpurgo novel (adapted for the stage by Nick Stafford), War Horse started as a huge hit for the National Theatre in London, going on to enjoy a successful Tony Award-winning production on Broadway at the Lincoln Center Theater.  In addition to the power of its World War I-era tale of a boy and his beloved horse, War Horse‘s main draw has been the phenomenal life-size (and life-like) puppets created by the Handspring Puppet Company.

This past Christmas, director Steven Spielberg brought the story to a global movie-going audience with his adaptation of War Horse.  The film — which of course used real horses — was well-received and earned a Best Picture Oscar nomination, but the stage adaptation still offers a uniquely theatrical experience that is likely to draw large audiences as it makes its way across the country.

Woody Harrelson, Playwright

Actor Woody Harrelson will be wearing both his writer’s and director’s hats later this summer, when his new play Bullet for Adolf has its American premiere at New World Stages Off-Broadway. Harrelson, who co-wrote the high-octane comedy with his friend Frankie Hyman, will serve as the production’s director.

In the play, a pair of Midwesterners meet up with a slick New Yorker during a sweltering Texas summer in the early ’80s. The events of the play are set off when a World War II artifact (related to the Adolf of the play’s title perhaps?) goes missing.

“Frankie and I worked construction together in Houston in the summer of 1983,” Woody Harrelson was quoted as saying in a press statement about the play. “The people we got to know that summer had a profound effect on us and we knew we had to write a play about them.”

Set for an eight-week run, Bullet for Adolf will begin performances on July 19, with an opening night set for August 8.

Ricky Martin Absence Means Ticket Discounts for Evita

The new Broadway revival of Evita has been such a big hit that it hasn’t had to offer any ticket discounts – until now. Evita co-star Ricky Martin, whose Broadway debut has been attracting tourists and locals alike in droves, will be taking a few days off in July and August. During those dates, Evita is offering discounts of up to 30% off.

From July 2-8, and August 6-11, Ricky Martin will be out of the show, leaving the role of peasant revolutionary Che to be played alternately by his understudies Max von Essen and Daniel Torres. During that time, a Broadway discount code can be used to purchase Evita tickets ranging from $67 (mid-mezzanine) to $96-$100 (front mezzanine and orchestra).  The discount offer even includes two dates — July 10 and 11 — that Ricky Martin is actually scheduled to be in the show, but no doubt those seats will sell fast.

Starring newcomer Elena Roger, this well-received Broadway production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical Evita received Tony Award nominations for Best Revival of a Musical, Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Michael Cerveris), and Best Choreography (Rob Ashford), but it ultimately did not win any awards on Tony night.

Godspell Announces June 24th Closing

The first post-Tony Award casualty, Godspell has announced that it will be concluding its run on June 24. The cast of the energetic Broadway revival performed on the Tony Awards telecast on June 10, but presumably the television exposure was not enough to boost ticket sales. The insertion of Corbin Bleu into the production and the failure to get any Tony nominations didn’t help, so the show went into the Tony’s against the wind.

When the production closes, it will have played nearly 300 performances at the Circle in the Square Theatre. Although the New Testament-based musical, featuring songs by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked), is leaving Broadway, Godspell will soon hit the road in 2013 for a U.S. national tour.

This production of Godspell was Ken Davenport’s grand experiment that received its funding from over 100 separate small investors, a true example of crowd-funding. It’s been nearly 40 years since Godspell made its ground-breaking debut on Broadway, so it was fitting that it would come back to Broadway in a revolutionary way. No word yet on whether the production broke even, but the very thought of that misses the point.

Once Takes Top Honors at the 2012 Tony Awards

Many Broadway shows were honored at the 2012 Tony Awards this past Sunday evening, but it was the musical Once, based on the Irish indie film of the same name, that received the most recognition, nabbing eight Tonys (including Best Musical and Best Leading Actor for Steve Kazee).

Little-show-that-could Peter and the Starcatcher won the second largest number of Tony Awards, taking a total of five Tonys, including Best Featured Actor in a Play for Christian Borle (now well-known to TV audiences for his role as a Broadway songwriter in the NBC series Smash).

Beloved Broadway actress Audra McDonald received her fifth Tony Award, this time for her acclaimed performance in The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, which took the Best Musical Revival award.

The Best Play award went to the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Clybourne Park, while the Best Revival of a Play award went to the sell-out production of Arthur Miller’s classic Death of a Salesman (co-starring Andrew Garfield, star of the new Spider-man movie).

Newsies, the Disney film flop that has now become a popular Broadway show, won Best Score (for lyricist Jack Feldman and composer Alan Menken), as well as Best Choreography for Christopher Gattelli’s energetic dance moves.

Hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, this year’s Tony Awards ceremony not only featured the presentation of the awards to this season’s winners, but also several musical performances (including a special performance by the cruise ship cast of Hairspray on the high seas) and special awards like one given to Hugh Jackman in recognition of the money he raised for charity while performing his solo show.