Forthcoming Broadway Revival of Picnic Announces Casting

Maggie Grace

Casting for the Roundabout Theatre Company’s upcoming revival of the William Inge classic Picnic has been announced.  The impressive leading cast includes some of New York City theater’s finest actors, as well as some notable film and TV performers.  The cast is headed by Ellen Burstyn (TV’s Big Love), Mare Winningham (TV’s Hatfields & McCoys), Maggie Grace (Taken, TV’s Lost), Sebastian Stan (TV’s Once Upon a Time, Talk Radio on Broadway), Reed Birney (TV’s Gossip Girl), and Elizabeth Marvel (Other Desert Cities on Broadway).  Ben Rappaport, Madeleine Martin, Cassie Beck, Maddie Corman, and Chris Perfetti will also star in Picnic.

Picnic, an American classic set during a hot Labor Day in the Heartland, originally opened on Broadway in 1953.  The Pulitzer Prize-winning play went on to be preserved in a famous film starring William Holden and Kim Novak.

Under the direction of Sam Gold, Picnic will begin performances at the American Airlines Theatre on December 14, with an official Broadway opening set for January 13, 2013.  Tickets can be purchased at roundabouttheatre.org or by calling 212-719-1300.

Lewis Black Running On Empty Ends Today

Lewis Black concludes his very limited engagement Broadway show, Running on Empty, today.  The comedian, well known for his biting humor and furiously funny rants, only did a handful of performances at the Richard Rodgers Theatre during a two-week period.  Given his popularity and the limited number of performance, Lewis Black’s Running on Empty was a great Broadway success, selling out its seats.

Lewis Black actually began as a playwright in New York, before embarking on a career as a stand-up comedian.  He is perhaps best known for his long-running and well-loved “Back in Black” segment on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show.  He has also done some acting, voiceover, and commercial work, and regularly performs at venues around the country.

Although Lewis Black’s run on Broadway has come to an end, he is scheduled to perform Running on Empty at several other venues around the country.  See Ticketmaster.com for more information on upcoming dates and locations.

Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons On Broadway Opens

Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons on Broadway opens at the Broadway Theatre today.  The lives and music of the original four-man pop sensation inspired the massive hit musical Jersey Boys, which is just playing a couple blocks away at the August Wilson Theatre.  The limited engagement offers people an opportunity to see the real-life Jersey boy Frankie Valli singing songs that, decades later, remain part of the public consciousness.  “Sherry”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Walk Like a Man”, “Working My Way Back To You”, “December 1963 (Oh, What a Night)”, and “Who Loves You” are just a few of the classic chart-topping hits from the ’60s and ’70s made famous by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.

Frankie Valli himself is the only remaining member of the original band who performs live, so the concert does not actually feature the original line-up.  But it is Valli’s clarion lead vocals that most people remember most when they think of the band’s songs, so no doubt Four Seasons fans will find the concert a treat.  They are only performing seven shows, from October 19-27.  To get tickets, visit www.telecharge.com or call 212-239-6200.  More information on the Broadway engagement is also available at www.frankievallionbroadway.com.

Broadway Understudies Take the Spotlight in “At This Performance”

Justin Bowen

There is no more waiting in the wings for the understudies and standby performers of Broadway and Off-Broadway.  At This Performance, presented by Musicals Tonight!, is an ongoing concert event that gives these hard-working theater folk the opportunity to shine.  The latest concert is being held at The Lion Theatre, an Off-Broadway venue at 410 W. 42nd Street, at 7pm on October 21.

The event will be hosted by casting director Stephen DeAngelis, and Eugene Gwozdz will provide piano accompaniment and music direction.  A host of Broadway understudies and standbys will sing numbers and talk about some of their standby experiences.  Among those performing are Justin Bowen (understudy for the title role in Chaplin), Mike Faist (Jack Kelly understudy in Newsies), Jennifer Smith (Nice Work If You Can Get It), Nikki Bohne (Bring It On: The Musical), and several understudies for the recent Shakespeare in the Park production of the musical Into the Woods.

Learn more about At This Performance at www.musicalstonight.org.  Tickets are just $25 and can be purchased through Telecharge by calling 212-239-6200.

Bring It On To Close End of December

Bright It On: The Musical has just announced its intention to close on Broadway on December 30.  The competitive cheerleading musical, based loosely on the 2000 movie of the same title, started performances at the St. James Theatre on July 12, with an official opening on August 1.  Originally Bring It On was only scheduled to play on Broadway until October 7, but good ticket sales and positive audience reaction encouraged the production to extend its run through January 20, 2013.

“We are extremely grateful for the enthusiastic audiences who have cheered on this extraordinary cast and that we’ve been afforded 12 additional performance weeks past our original end date,” said Universal Pictures Stage Productions spokesman Glenn Ross in a statement.  “We’ve decided to forego the historically slow month of January and play our final performance on December 30, at the height of the holiday season, as we celebrate the remarkable achievement of our creative team and all of the talented people who made Bring It On a one-of-a-kind Broadway experience.”

Bring It On: The Musical, which includes the participation of some real-life competitive cheerleaders to help create the show’s high-flying stunts, has a score by Tom Kitt (Next To Normal), Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights), and Amanda Green.  Avenue Q scribe Jeff Whitty penned the musical’s book.  Although Bring It On will be closing on Broadway at the end of the year, the show’s producers are discussing the possibility of touring it around the country in 2013.

Jesus Christ Superstar Stage Production Coming to Cinemas

A re-invented take on the Andrew Lloyd Webber / Tim Rice classic Jesus Christ Superstar has just had a successful opening at London’s 02 Arena (better known as a concert stage and, more recently, Olympics venue).  And now, theater fans across the Atlantic will get to view this production, dubbed the Jesus Christ Superstar UK Rock Spectacular, from the comfort of their local movie theaters.  Select theaters in the U.S. will show the production on October 29 and then again on November 1.  Visit www.FathomEvents.com to see where it is playing and to purchase tickets.

Jesus Christ Superstar has been on an arena tour throughout the United Kingdom.  The broadcast being shown in movie theaters was recorded at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, England earlier this month.  Andrew Lloyd Webber was quoted as saying, “I have waited 42 years for ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ to play arenas in the UK, and it is great to finally see the show as it was originally intended, as an arena rock opera.”

The production stars Ben Forster, selected by the British public, in the role of Jesus.  The rest of the cast features a number of personalities known in England, including Tim Minchin (co-author of the forthcoming Broadway musical Matilda) as Judas, DJ Chris Moyles as Herod, and Melanie C of the Spice Girls as Mary Magdalene.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 10/14/2012

Lewis Black Running on Empty Broadway ShowTOTAL BROADWAY TICKET SALES NUMBERS RISE STEADILY
Following last week’s impressive $3 million jump in ticket sales, total weekly revenue on Broadway seems to be on a slow and steadily upward trend, with a roughly $500,000 increase since last week.  As more new Broadway shows start performances, which is happening every week now, the numbers are certain to continue to rise.

LEWIS BLACK MAKES GOOD SHOWING IN SHORT RUN ON BROADWAY
Comedian Lewis Black’s limited-run one-man show Running on Empty made a fine showing in its debut week, filling the theater to 100% capacity and earning an average paid admission price of $89.30.  Given that it is an extremely limited engagement (scheduled to play only from October 9-20), has a relatively low ticket price for a Broadway show, and taking into account that Black has a built-in cult following of comedy fans, it is not surprising that Running on Empty is already a success.  Its next and final week is likely to do just as well.

BROADWAY MUSICAL SCANDALOUS BEGINS PREVIEWS
Another Broadway newcomer, Scandalous, is not faring quite as well so far.  Its 88.68% theater capacity is fairly strong, but the average paid admission is quite low at $55.33.  The fact that the new musical is getting quite a bit of exposure on The Today Show due to Kathie Lee Gifford’s involvement (she penned the book and lyrics) has helped fill seats, but clearly most people are taking advantage of the show’s discounts, which have been readily available for weeks. It also appears that “Papering” is in effect for this show, which has a dramatic effect on the average price paid, dragging it down to be the least profitable show on Broadway, something the producers will not be able to afford to do in the long term.

TRENDS AMONG TOP SHOWS CONTINUE
Nice Work If You Can Get It, which joined the millionaire’s club last week when it brought in over a $1 million in weekly revenue, is continuing strong at $1,076,731 in total sales.  Evita, Jersey Boys, Once, Spider-Man the Musical, The Book of Mormon, The Lion King, and Wicked are the only other Broadway shows that made over one million last week, with The Lion King and Wicked narrowly beating out The Book of Mormon in total sales as they did last week due to the fact that their theaters are so much larger and they have more seats to sell.  The Book of Mormon continues to get the most bang for its buck by far, receiving an average paid admission of $189.63 (compared to The Lion King‘s $132.93).

THE LION KING AND WICKED TAKE TOP BROADWAY SALES SPOT AGAIN
Last week, The Lion King and Wicked surpassed The Book of Mormon in Gross Sales for the first time ever, mostly due to the increase in average ticket prices for the holiday week.  This week, Broadway producers went back to their normal non-holiday prices and although the top three Broadway shows sold 100% of their of their tickets, the Lion King won again, beating Wicked by $78,000 and pounding Book of Mormon by over $100,000 into third place, identifying in shift in fortunes.

The Book of Mormon has been sold-out continuously for the last year, but the relatively small size of the theater seems to be limiting the amount of sales revenue this Broadway show can generate. Mormon has only one variable factor left that they can adjust to improve overall sales revenue and that is their base ticket price.  But even with the highest average face-value ticket price on Broadway, The Book of Mormon has continued to sell-out making it appear that their tickets are still under priced, even at this high price  - consumers appear to be willing to pay much higher prices for this show and are less sensitive to price than the producers anticipated. No comment from the show on the thinking behind this, but the forums seem to indicate that its an honorable, albeit naive, move because they do not want to appear to be price gouging their audience – but that’s exactly what happens when the after market ticket brokers get hold of their tickets and when this kind of profit yield left on the table for them to grab, money that should belong to the production itself rather then in ticket brokers pockets. In our value analysis, the amount of yield on this show is the Average Face Value of $189.93 compared to the AVG Value of ticket broker sales at $297.52, a profit yield of $108 per ticket for ticket brokers.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers from the week ending October 14, 2012:

Broadway Show Ticket Sales

 

 

Show Name GrossGross TotalAttn %Cap AvgPaidAdm
AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE $230,281 3,997 77.58% $57.61
ANNIE $647,763 8,708 74.58% $74.39
BRING IT ON THE MUSICAL $365,689 6,006 56.28% $60.89
CHAPLIN $525,723 6,651 79.56% $79.04
CHICAGO $698,373 7,976 92.31% $87.56
CYRANO DE BERGERAC $210,342 4,935 84.74% $42.62
EVITA $1,185,495 11,138 86.37% $106.44
GRACE $547,708 6,828 79.10% $80.21
JERSEY BOYS $1,051,374 9,547 97.18% $110.13
MAMMA MIA! $869,580 9,938 82.93% $87.50
MARY POPPINS $777,553 11,323 78.76% $68.67
NEWSIES $930,248 9,516 99.54% $97.76
NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT $1,076,731 10,435 90.64% $103.18
ONCE $1,051,649 8,499 100.41% $123.74
PETER AND THE STARCATCHER $372,904 5,669 68.27% $65.78
ROCK OF AGES $531,654 4,566 97.90% $116.44
RUNNING ON EMPTY $742,860 8,319 100.04% $89.30
SCANDALOUS $66,341 1,199 88.68% $55.33
SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK $1,306,682 12,241 79.28% $106.75
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,659,600 8,752 102.63% $189.63
THE HEIRESS $542,464 6,244 81.73% $86.88
THE LION KING $1,769,949 13,315 99.25% $132.93
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $912,429 11,798 91.88% $77.34
WAR HORSE $634,303 7,507 87.78% $84.49
WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? $215,495 4,449 81.28% $48.44
WICKED $1,691,769 14,468 99.97% $116.93
Total:  $20,614,956 214,024 86.87% $90.38
Broadway ticket sales raw data are provided courtesy of The Broadway League
All other data, text, opinion, charts and commentary are copyright © 2012 nytix.com

Broadway-Aimed Musical Diner Holding NYC Workshop

Sheryl Crow

The new musical Diner, which is planning to open on Broadway in early 2013, has begun an extensive four-week workshop in New York City to prepare for its arrival on Broadway.  Originally the tuner was supposed to begin a tryout engagement in San Francisco this month, but, supposedly due to the fact that other large Broadway-bound musicals were likely to take the larger Broadway theaters this season, the Diner creative team to re-envision the show as a more intimate experience suitable for a smaller theater.  This fully-staged workshop will give them a chance to make certain that their new vision is solidified before bringing it to Broadway later this season.

Based on the ’80s movie of the same name, Diner is about a group of high school friends who come together at a diner in Baltimore in 1959.  Directed by Kathleen Marshall (Nice Work If You Can Get It, Anything Goes) the musical has a libretto by the film’s original writer/director, Barry Levinson, and music and lyrics by Grammy-winning rock singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow.

Diner has not yet secured a Broadway theater, but currently the musical is planning for a April 10, 2013 opening.

Grace Broadway Show Review

Grace

Though Craig Wright’s Grace has already been seen in a few theaters around the country, it is just now making its Broadway debut at the Cort Theatre.  The play has a small but impressive cast, headed by film star Paul Rudd and TV legend Ed Asner (who makes a big impression with a relatively small role), along with indie film and TV actor Michael Shannon and Kate Arrington.  The quartet are uniformly excellent as they explore the relationships of Wright’s complex characters.

The actual plot of Grace may sound a bit off-beat (and it is).  It concerns a couple from Minnesota who leave their evangelical church community in St. Paul and move to Florida with the hopes of establishing a Gospel-themed hotel there.  Their lives become entwined with that of their neighbor, a reclusive astrophysicist who is recovering from a car accident that has disfigured him and left his fiancee dead.  Ed Asner plays a German-born exterminator who periodically comes to spray their homes for pests.

From the opening scene–which, intriguingly, plays out backwards–we see that Grace has serious undertones.  It addresses themes of redemption, predetermination, faith, loyalty, love, and what our place is in this world.  But it’s also very funny and well-observed, and seeing the culture clash between the well-meaning Christian Minnesotans and their new Florida friends is enjoyable.

Each of the four characters seem pretty set in their view of life at the beginning of the play, none more so than Rudd’s, whose initially certain faith sends him into a tailspin as soon as it is challenged by major setbacks in his marriage and work.  But the other characters too have emotional and spiritual experiences–subtly and convincingly rendered by the playwright–that leave them changed before the play’s dramatic conclusion.

Grace is a thought-provoking if brief (the running time is only 90 minutes) evening at the theater, and well worth seeing during its limited engagement, scheduled through January 6.

Tom Hanks Confirmed To Star in Lucky Guy on Broadway

It has finally been confirmed that Tom Hanks will indeed be making his Broadway debut in the upcoming Broadway play, Lucky Guy.  Written by the late Nora Ephron and directed by George C. Wolfe, Lucky Guy is a biographical drama about controversial newspaper columnist Mike McAlary.  Hanks and Nora Ephron of course had a history of working together, with Hanks starring in the Ephron-penned films Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail.

Perhaps because of Tom Hanks’ generally busy movie schedule (his latest, Cloud Atlas, is opening soon), Lucky Guy is currently scheduled for what appear to be a very limited run.  The play will begin preview performances at the Broadhurst Theatre on March 1 and open on April 1, but it is only selling tickets through May 19.  However, if ticket sales are as good as one would expect for a Broadway turn by one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, it is always possible that the production could extend.