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.