“Holler if Ya Hear Me” Opens on Broadway

“Holler if Ya Hear Me” Negative Reviews Will Not Help Low Box Office Figures

The Tupac Shakur inspired musical Holler if Ya Hear Me had its official opening on June 19, 2014 at the Palace Theatre, after running for 17 preview performances.  In the weeks approaching the opening night, upon which the critical response would be publicized to the masses, ticket sales were abominably low.  With an average weekly ticket price ranging between $24.10 and $32.84, the show only managed to bring in at the most $170,652 a week in its first three weeks of running.  These numbers were so dire, in fact, that one of the producers was quoted as saying that the musical would close just over a week after opening if the reviews were poor.  The reviews are in, and they are well below positive.  However, the production has made no official announcement of closing in the timeframe that they had supposedly specified.  Still, it is doubtful if the show will be able to stay afloat for much longer with these low numbers, coupled with the negative reviews.

holler if ya hear meVeteran Director Kenny Leon Did Not Save This Show

Holler if Ya Hear Me is written by Todd Kreidler and directed by Kenny Leon, with lyrics by Tupac Shakur, and the music arranged and orchestrated by Daryl Waters.  Leon is also behind the acclaimed and Tony Award winning revival of A Raisin in the Sun that just concluded performances this season.  However, Holler if Ya Hear Me was much less well received.  Charles Isherwood of The New York Times gave it a fairly negative review, criticizing the show for being relentless and heavy-handed in driving home its tragic themes.  The Hollywood Reporter called the show well-intentioned but toothless, and Time Out New York, NBC, and Associated Press were all on the fence but certainly not singing the praises of this tuner.  In general, critics were appreciative of the performances, especially the star Saul Williams making his Broadway debut.  They also enjoyed the beats and the music, but reviewers were less in favor of the uneven narrative storytelling and the ramshackle method of re-appropriating Tupac’s songs for the stage.

A Summer Hip Hop Musical Was A Long Shot All Along

The show was already a long-shot for success on Broadway for a number of reasons, and these reviews will certainly not help attract audiences to the struggling production.  For one, it opened in the summer after the Tony Awards, when no other shows are opening.  There is a reason for this, and it is because most summer tourists tend to choose a long-running musical, or a recent Tony Award winning hit, rather than a new show they have barely heard about.  Furthermore, its demographic is a tough one for Broadway.  According to Michael Riedel of The New York Post, a veteran producer was quoted as saying that the show would fail because the average theatre ticket buyers are middle-aged women, who are generally not familiar with the music of Tupac.  In general, he said, it would be tough for a rap musical to make it on Broadway, especially when there is not a Hollywood star leading the cast.

holler if ya hear me cast

This is unfortunate, as hip hop has been mainstream for quite a while, and it is a shame that Broadway has not reached the point where it can be representative of the nation as a whole.  Perhaps this is because Broadway prices out many of the individuals who would have enjoyed a show about Tupac, or maybe it is because the attempt to bridge these two art forms was misguided in the first place.  In any case, the show will most likely not be open for much longer, even if it is still hanging on a week after opening.

“The View” Fires Co-Hosts Sherri Shepherd and Jenny McCarthy

Whoopi Goldberg Remains As Sole Co-Host For Now

When Barbara Walters retired from her onscreen position on ABC’s The View on May 16, 2014, questions were circulating about who would replace her among the four co-hosts.  Just over one month later, two more co-hosts have left the show, but this time not of their own choice.  Sherri Shepherd and Jenny McCarthy will be leaving the daytime talk show at the end of Season 17, which runs through the first complete week in August.  Whereas Shepherd has been on the show for seven seasons, McCarthy is a newer addition, having joined this past September upon the departure of Joy Behar and Elisabeth Hasslebeck.  At this point, the only remaining co-host of The View is Whoopi Goldberg.  As The View has always been defined by its four powerful female co-hosts, this puts the entire show’s existence into question.

jenny mccarthy sherri shepherdMixed Justifications By ABC For The Firings

According to a TMZ exclusive story, ABC network executives had a meeting last Thursday afternoon, during which it was decided that Shepherd and McCarthy would not be returning to the show.  The reason for these firings is not quite clear.  As for Shepherd, some sources believe that the beginning of the end was when she disagreed with Barbara Walters for supporting Woody Allen in light of his daughter Dylan Farrow’s accusations of sexual assault.  According to People Magazine, however, the decision was made following a failure by Shepherd and her representatives to reach an agreement on a new deal with ABC.  As for McCarthy, TMZ claims that The View has been in turmoil ever since she joined the show, and many fans comments expressed gratitude for the announcement of her departure, proving she was not a very popular member of the team.  The official report, according to People Magazine, is that McCarthy is being let go due to a decision to take the show in a new creative direction.

Shepherd and McCarthy Told The World Through Their Twitter Feeds

On Thursday, Shepherd made her own public announcement via twitter, stating that the number 7 is God’s number, and therefore she is leaving the show after 7 seasons.  She also expressed gratitude to everyone for their support, and in particular to Barbara Walters for pushing her beyond her comfort zone.  McCarthy followed up with her own tweet, saying that if Sherri goes, then she goes too, including the hashtag “sisters.”  TMZ also reported that Bill Geddie, the show’s co-executive producer along with Barbara Walters, will be leaving the show.  (Walters has remained on as executive producer even after concluding her onscreen responsibilities.)

the view only whoopi left

Future Co-Hosts Are Still Uncertain

The future of The View is presently uncertain.  It is very possible that the show will not be able to withstand this many departures at once, but as of now there are still plans to continue with Season 18 in mid-September.  With only Whoopi remaining in a present co-host position, rumors are circulating about who the replacements will be to join her.  TMZ reported that Rosie O’Donnell might very well be returning to the show, and that producers are also interested in Laila Ali.  Other names in the mix are Ross Matthews and Jesse Palmer.  In any case, ABC executives are still presenting an appearance of confidence regarding the future direction of the show, and more information about its new creative direction should surface soon.

“Newsies” on Broadway Announces Closing in August 2014

Newsies: An Unexpected Closing Decision

Disney Theatricals’ production of Newsies has been running at Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre since March 15, 2015, with its official opening night on March 29, 2014.  For the 2012 Tony Awards, it was nominated for eight awards, winning two: Best Choreography for Christopher Gattelli, and Best Original Score for Alan Menken and Jack Feldman.  With a book by Harvey Fierstein and directed by Jeff Calhoun, this musical was the break-out role for its star Jeremy Jordan, who has gone on to star in the Broadway production of Bonnie & Clyde as well as the film version of The Last 5 Years and the television show SmashNewsies has been performing consistently well at the box office; with a modest budget of $5 million, it has gone on to gross over $100 million for Disney Theatricals.  In recent months, it has been holding up if not knocking it out of the park at the box office, which is why it comes as somewhat of a surprise that the show has just announced its closing date: August 24, 2014.

Disney Musical Newsies Broadway ShowNewsies is based on a 1992 film inspired by the true story of the Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City.  That film was much less of a success than this musical has proven to be, as it only earned less than $3 million, with a budget of $15 million.  This film flop therefore ranks as one of Disney’s lowest-earning live action movies of all time.  This goes to show that different elements make for different degrees of success on the stage and on the screen.  With a compelling storyline, this show is renowned for its thrilling choreography, embracing the theatricality of the musical medium.  Furthermore, Harvey Fierstein is not only an industry favorite but a very talented musical book writer, and he did a wonderful job of adapting the story for the stage.

The Disney Theatricals Slate

Though Disney did not disclose its decision-making process, the organization likely felt that the show had been a great enough success to go out with a bang, rather than continue to have it run on sales that could only begin to taper off as time went on.  Whereas the show once regularly earned over a million dollars weekly, its numbers have been significantly lower in recent months.  Furthermore, Disney has several enormous Broadway hits already, the most notable being The Lion King which has been running for 16 years at the top of the gross charts, and the now-closed Beauty and the Beast which ran for 13 years.  Furthermore, the organization has just opened its new show Aladdin this season, and it will soon premiere its stage adaption in London of Shakespeare in Love (a co-production with Sonia Friedman Productions), as well as a revised stage adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame in California’s La Jolla Playhouse this upcoming fall.  Still, not all of Disney’s stage shows have been successes, with notable flops including Tarzan and The Little Mermaid.

newsies choreography

A National Tour, and An Available Nederlander Theatre

Not only does Disney have other shows to focus on, but it never planned for Newsies to run for as long as it did.  The production had its first try-out run at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey, with the intention of focusing the property on licensing, regional, and amateur productions, similar to its High School Musical franchise.  However, when the reception proved to be a success, especially from notable New York theatre critics, the decision was made to transfer to the Nederlander Theatre, but again only for a limited engagement of three months.  Now that the show has played for well over two years, it has far exceeded its original expectations.  Plans are now underway for a national tour to begin in October 2014.  This will now open up the Nederlander Theater for musicals that are vying for a venue, as there are remarkably few available theatres on Broadway for new musicals, though there are many in development.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 6/22/2014

This week’s notable movements on Broadway are:

Ticket Sales Have Risen Along With The Temperature

As we are officially in the summer season, and the weather is consistently lovely, the Broadway industry is seeing a healthy season of sales.  In the week ending June 22, 2014, the collective total of Broadway shows saw an increase of $1,513,333 from the week before.  Of the 34 shows presently running, only seven earned less money this week than the week prior, with the rest seeing an increase in ticket sales.  The biggest increase was seen by All the Way, which won the Tony Award for Best Play (along with a slew of other honors this season), and which is playing a strictly limited engagement; it will be forced to close in August due to the schedule of its cast.  It earned $195,542 more this week from the previous week, when it had already seen a healthy increase.  The biggest loser this week is Casa Valentina, which earned $73,413 less than the previous week, only bringing in a total weekly gross of $182,859.  That play will also be closing this summer, but it has done much less well in terms of both box office and awards this season.

Summer Blockbuster Musicals

Also with the summer season officially underway, it is becoming clear which shows will be the big summer blockbusters.  Unsurprisingly, the biggest earners this week were the megahit musicals The Lion King and Wicked, which brought in $2,098,868 and $2,027,347 respectively.  Playing in a much smaller theatre, but performing equally well in terms of gross potential, was The Book of Mormon, which brought in $1,641,677 this past week.  Not far behind is All the Way with $1,425,001, which is an immense accomplishment to be the fourth highest earner as a straight play, when musicals have a greater earning potential as well as a bigger precedent for attracting the big bucks at the box office.  In order, the next biggest grosses were achieved by Kinky Boots, Aladdin, Beautiful, Matilda, Les Misérables, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Motown the Musical, and The Phantom of the Opera.  All of those titles were in the million dollar club this past week.  Trailing not too far behind were A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which won the 2014 Tony Award for Best Musical, as well as Jersey Boys, a long-running hit whose movie adaptation is just hitting the theaters.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending June 22, 2014:


Show GrossGross Total Attn %Cap AvgPdAdm
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $901,367 7,212 99.39% $124.98
AFTER MIDNIGHT $649,664 7,298 88.06% $89.02
ALADDIN $1,325,987 13,792 100.06% $96.14
ALL THE WAY $1,425,001 10,687 93.94% $133.34
BEAUTIFUL $1,196,533 8,260 100.63% $144.86
BULLETS OVER BROADWAY $756,559 8,351 64.04% $90.60
CABARET $753,329 6,957 97.38% $108.28
CASA VALENTINA $182,859 3,697 71.76% $49.46
CHICAGO $552,275 6,845 79.22% $80.68
CINDERELLA $891,861 11,621 82.96% $76.75
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH $1,069,433 7,210 102.28% $148.33
HOLLER IF YA HEAR ME $170,652 5,196 58.46% $32.84
IF/THEN $873,965 8,757 83.50% $99.80
JERSEY BOYS $901,234 8,907 90.67% $101.18
KINKY BOOTS $1,394,435 11,042 96.93% $126.28
LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL $575,156 5,045 92.47% $114.01
LES MISÉRABLES $1,075,812 10,372 92.02% $103.72
MAMMA MIA! $699,139 8,137 87.23% $85.92
MATILDA $1,139,392 11,533 100.67% $98.79
MOTHERS AND SONS $253,788 3,903 60.83% $65.02
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL $1,061,896 10,705 88.79% $99.20
NEWSIES $799,894 9,400 99.16% $85.10
OF MICE AND MEN $855,987 8,410 97.97% $101.78
ONCE $487,451 6,046 71.36% $80.62
PIPPIN $635,836 7,058 89.12% $90.09
ROCK OF AGES $341,945 4,080 87.48% $83.81
ROCKY $719,363 8,194 67.56% $87.79
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,641,677 8,752 102.63% $187.58
THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN $502,457 5,677 66.13% $88.51
THE LION KING $2,098,868 13,602 100.01% $154.31
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $1,030,511 11,828 92.12% $87.12
THE REALISTIC JONESES $419,041 5,210 74.68% $80.43
VIOLET $342,877 4,295 73.14% $79.83
WICKED $2,027,347 15,424 100.00% $131.44
Totals: $29,753,590 283,503 86.84% $100.22

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

“After Midnight” To Close on June 29

Tony Nomination Not Enough To Sustain Sales

Though it was nominated for this year’s Tony Award for Best Musical, After Midnight has just announced that it will play its final performance on June 29, 2014.  This date also marks the conclusion of guest star Patti LaBelle’s run in the show.  Having begun performances on October 18, 2013, it opened on November 3, 2013.  It will close having played 18 preview performances and 271 regular performances, after only eight months.  The producers were attempting to close for only a temporary hiatus over the July 4th holiday weekend, as they already had extremely high profile guest stars lined up for upcoming slots, including Gladys Knight and Natalie Cole.  However, it turned out to be impossible for all the unions to agree on this temporary shutdown, and therefore the show was forced to terminate its Broadway run.  However, a national tour is in the works.

After Midnight Broadway MusicalWith selected text by Langston Hughes, conceived by frequent producer Jack Viertel, and directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, the musical starred Fantasia Barrino with guest stars including Patti LaBelle, Toni Braxton, and Vanessa Williams.  Taking place in the Jazz Age, this musical revue celebrates Duke Ellington’s years at the Cotton Club performed by a band of 17 musicians hand-picked by Wynton Marsalis.  Not only did the show receive a Tony Award nomination, but it was further honored by having its director, Warren Carlyle, choreograph Hugh Jackman’s opening number at the Awards.  However, of the seven nominations which it received, it left with only one win: that for Carlyle for Best Choreographer.  It also took home the Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Choreography and Outstanding Revue, and it also won four 2014 Astaire Awards and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Choreography.

Lackluster Sales Throughout Its Run

Despite this awards recognition, its box office performance was at best mediocre.  Its highest ever weekly gross was $714,663, which was still only 71.80% of its gross potential, but it generally grossed between $500 to $650,000 each week.  The top ticket for this musical was $197.00, which is low compared to most other shows’ premium ticket prices.  Its capitalization was low for a musical of this scale, only $7 million; however, it will still close at a loss.  Though it was a major coup for the show to receive a Tony Awards nomination for Best Musical, the lackluster sales did not greatly improve in the weeks leading up to the ceremony.  Though it is impossible to know whether a win for Best Musical would have greatly increased sales or allowed the show to remain open, it is clear that losing that award was the final blow to persuade producers the run could not go on.

A National Tour Is In The Works

In any event, the show was one of the most highly reviewed shows of the 2013-2014 season, and there are likely many theatregoers from around the country who are disappointed they will not have the chance to see it on their New York vacations.  However, with a national tour almost certainly to take place, these audiences will fortunately have their chance to see the show after all.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 6/15/2014

This week’s notable movements on Broadway are:

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 6/15/2014

“All The Way” Gaining Momentum

All the Way is the Tony Award winning Best Play of 2014, and that success is showing at the box office.  It helps that the star of the show is Bryan Cranston, one of America’s most celebrated actors for such performances as his leading role as Walter White on the television show Breaking Bad.  Written by Robert Schenkkan and directed by Bill Rauch, this play has been doing excellently at the box office since it began performances on February 10, 2014.  It has been hovering over the $1 million mark, with a steady increase since the awards season has begun.  But after this play has shown well above others in several awards ceremonies, national word has spread.  In the week ending June 15, 2014, the show grossed $1,229,459, which was an increase of $288,909, the highest increase of any show this week.  With an average paid ticket of $128.90, the show reached 89.86% of its gross potential.  This is a very high number specifically for a play, putting it in competition against some of the top earning musicals.

“Holler if Ya Hear Me” Still Struggling

This Tupac Shakur inspired musical opened at an unusual time, too late for Tony Award consideration and when the summer season is beginning, when many tourists go for lighter musical fare.  Though a musical, this show deals with themes that may be traditionally less desirable in the warmer season.  Though the show will open later this week and is still in previews, it is still abnormally low that it only grossed $163,586 in a week of eight performances.  With an average paid admission of $24.35, the show only made 18.32% of its gross potential, by far the lowest of any show this past week.  The second lowest show in terms of reaching its gross potential, Mothers and Sons, just announced that it will be closing at the end of next week.  With a weekly gross of $156,116, it only grossed 20.34% of its gross potential.

Other Shows Having Difficulties

There are other shows that are earned less than half of their gross potential, many of which are produced by not for profit theatre institutions.  Casa Valentina, produced by Manhattan Theatre Club at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, only earned 43.73% of its gross potential, though it was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play, which it did not win.  Furthermore, Violet, a musical produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company, only grossed 44.42% of its potential.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending June 16, 2014:


Show Name GrossGross TotalAttn %Cap AvgPdAdm
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $851,262.00 6,984 96.25% $121.89
A RAISIN IN THE SUN $1,290,437.00 8,368 100.00% $154.21
ACT ONE $370,426.00 5,162 79.37% $71.76
AFTER MIDNIGHT $567,577.50 6,624 79.92% $85.69
ALADDIN $1,332,136.50 13,788 100.03% $96.62
ALL THE WAY $1,229,459.00 9,538 83.84% $128.90
BEAUTIFUL $1,170,050.00 8,266 100.71% $141.55
BULLETS OVER BROADWAY $773,110.00 8,616 66.07% $89.73
CABARET $731,191.75 6,584 92.16% $111.06
CASA VALENTINA $256,272.00 3,837 74.48% $66.79
CHICAGO $492,950.45 6,079 70.36% $81.09
CINDERELLA $760,204.45 10,301 73.54% $73.80
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH $1,071,625.12 7,216 102.37% $148.51
HOLLER IF YA HEAR ME $163,585.50 6,719 77.19% $24.35
IF/THEN $802,082.00 8,642 82.40% $92.81
JERSEY BOYS $820,917.90 8,439 85.90% $97.28
KINKY BOOTS $1,372,011.00 10,909 95.76% $125.77
LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL $457,174.00 3,876 94.72% $117.95
LES MISÉRABLES $1,038,248.77 10,138 89.94% $102.41
MAMMA MIA! $629,849.20 7,501 80.41% $83.97
MATILDA $1,047,221.70 11,219 97.93% $93.34
MOTHERS AND SONS $156,116.00 2,818 43.92% $55.40
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL $991,943.50 9,948 82.51% $99.71
NEWSIES $770,523.70 9,067 95.64% $84.98
OF MICE AND MEN $806,630.19 8,124 94.64% $99.29
ONCE $438,505.51 5,557 65.59% $78.91
PIPPIN $565,734.00 6,487 81.91% $87.21
ROCK OF AGES $280,008.25 3,589 76.95% $78.02
ROCKY $761,451.00 8,629 71.15% $88.24
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,604,506.92 8,752 102.63% $183.33
THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN $515,389.00 5,776 67.29% $89.23
THE LION KING $2,043,643.00 13,596 99.97% $150.31
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $984,108.99 11,686 91.01% $84.21
THE REALISTIC JONESES $442,301.71 5,021 71.98% $88.09
VIOLET $342,638.00 4,248 72.34% $80.66
WICKED $1,969,827.00 15,271 99.01% $128.99
Totals: $29,901,118.61 287,375 84.44% $99.61

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

“A Raisin in the Sun” Concludes Performances

An Unequivocal Success

Kenny Leon’s acclaimed revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun played its final performance at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre last night: Sunday, June 15, 2014.  Starring Denzel Washington as Walter Lee Younger, this production took home three Tony Awards last weekend: those for Best Revival of a Play, Best Director of a Play (Kenny Leon), and Best Featured Actress in a Play (Sophie Okonedo).  This was the most wins for any straight play at this year’s Tony Awards, and the show was also nominated for an additional two acting awards: those for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play (LaTanya Richardson Jackson), and Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play (Anika Noni Rose).  Though Denzel Washington was not nominated, Kenny Leon, in accepting his Tony Award, made it clear he believed this was a snub.  After all, Washington received unqualified praise for his performance, and he furthermore won the Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play for 2010’s Fences, also directed by Leon.

Successful Recoupment of Capitalization

The run was by all measures successful, as the producers announced last week that the play managed to recoup its entire a raisin in the sun castcapitalization, which is reported to be $4.25 million.  This is a very large cost for a straight play with a limited engagement, but the investment, as well as the profit potential, was significantly upped due to the star casting of Denzel Washington, whose innumerable fans reliably flock to the theatre for the opportunity to see him in live performance.  The recoupment is especially impressive given the briefness of the play’s run, which totaled only 85 performances in addition to 27 preview performances since it began on March 8, 2014 (the official opening was April 3, 2014).  This achievement was only possible due to the high demand for tickets, which allowed premium pricing and very limited discounting.  The entire run was sold out, the average ticket price each week was generally over $140, and the top ticket price for premium seats was $348.  In general, the weekly gross reached around 110% of its potential (due to premium pricing), and each weekly gross was almost without exception over $1.1 million.

Solidifying Its Place In History

This is the third time A Raisin in the Sun has played on Broadway.  The premiere was in 1959, marking the first time a play written by a black woman was seen on Broadway.  The first revival was in 2004, also directed by Kenny Leon.  Though that production won two Tony Awards (Best Actress for Phylicia Rashad, and Best Featured Actress for Audra McDonald), it did not win the award for Best Revival (though it was nominated), nor was Kenny Leon nominated for the award he would win in 2014: Best Director.  Critics discussed how this production was a significantly more mature achievement than Leon’s first attempt, which may justify the difference in awards reception.  This production also had the honor of being attended by the President of the United States, Barack Obama, and his family.  On Friday, April 11, 2014, West 47th Street was swarming was security guards, as the first family made its way to the theatre.  Barack and Michelle Obama also had attended a revival of August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone in 2009, and Michelle had taken her daughters to the musicals Memphis and The Addams Family.

All in all, this production was a crowning achievement for its producers, who make up a great selection of the producing society of Broadway, including Scott Rudin, Roger Berlind, Jon Platt, Scott Delman, Roy Furman, Stephanie McClelland, Ruth Hendel, Sonia Friedman, and Daryl Roth.  In this light, it was actually a success for the Broadway community as a whole, pumping much needed blood into the life of quality-driven productions on Broadway.

Broadway in Bryant Park Concert Series to Launch July 10

106.7 LITE FM Partners with New York Theatre

For fourteen consecutive years, the radio station 106.7 LITE FM has held an annual lunchtime summer concert series in Manhattan’s Bryant Park featuring the casts of Broadway shows.  The series will begin on Thursday, July 10, 2014, and will continue for six consecutive Thursday until its final event on August 14, 2014.  The Bryant Park stage is located at 6th Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets in midtown Manhattan.  The performances will begin at 12:30pm, arranged to be convenient for lunchtime entertainment, as many full-time workers in the area take their lunch break in the park on the many green tables and chairs set up around the field.  In addition, the shows are broadcast live on the radio, 106.7 LITE FM.

Bryant Park people on grass big stage with 106.7 lite fm Broadway in Bryant Park

Rocky, Wicked, If/Then, Pippin, Chicago, Les Misérables

The first three events are co-hosted by an Off-Broadway show, and all are hosted by a LITE FM personality.  On July 10, the host will be Delilah, and the show will be co-hosted by Off-Broadway’s Buyer and Cellar, running in the West Village at the Barrow Street Theatre.  The four musicals featured on that first show will be Rocky, Wicked, If/Then, and Stomp.  The last of these is an Off-Broadway show, but still a long running musical hit.  Interestingly, this show features both Wicked, which launched Idina Menzel to undeniable fame, and If/Then, in which she currently stars.  On July 17, the 106.7 LITE FM host will be Helen Little, and the show will be co-hosted by the show Perfect Crime.  This show will feature the Broadway shows Pippin, Chicago, and Les Misérables, as well as the Off-Broadway shows Atomic and iLuminate.

Phantom of the Opera, Cinderella, Bullets over Broadway, Rock of Ages, Once, Holler if Ya Hear Me, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

106.7 lite fm new york skylineaFor the third week in the series, on July 24, the 106.7 LITE FM host will be Christine Nagy, and the show will be co-hosted by the Off-Broadway show Sistas the Musical.  The event will feature the Broadway shows Phantom of the Opera, Cinderella, and Bullets over Broadway as well as the Off-Broadway shows Avenue Q (once a Broadway hit, now running at New World Stages), and Piece of my Heart (not to be confused with the recent Broadway show A Night With Janis Joplin, this is a musical about the life of Bert Berns).  On July 31, the event continues led by 106.7 LITE FM host Bob Bronson, and featuring the four Broadway shows Rock of Ages, Once, Holler if Ya Hear Me (the new Tupac Shakur musical), and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which just won the 2014 Tony Award for Best Musical.

Jersey Boys, After Midnight, Matilda, Mamma Mia!, Motown the Musical, On the Town

The penultimate event in the series will take place on August 7, hosted by Rich Kaminski.  The event will feature two Broadway shows – Jersey Boys and After Midnight – as well as the Off-Broadway shows Heathers and 50 Shades! The Musical.  Finally, on August 14, the series will come to a close hosted by Delilah, and featuring four Broadway shows: Matilda, Mamma Mia!, Motown the Musical, and On the Town, which will soon be running at the newly named Lyric Theatre (the former Foxwoods Theatre, where Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark was most recently running).  In general, this series is a marketing event aiming to lure more radio listeners to become theatregoers, while also offering a treat to New Yorkers in the bliss of summertime.

Who Chooses The Tony Award Nominees?

Voters and Nominators

The Tony Awards are an immensely important event for the theatre community, distinguishing the top honors for shows and artists, making and sometimes breaking careers. Presently, there are approximately 700 Tony Voters – that is, people to whom free tickets are allotted for all Broadway shows in a given year, and who then get to place their vote for each category. It is expected that voters will attend all nominated productions so that they are able to make informed decisions. This group of individuals is made up of members of the Broadway League, which includes many Broadway producers, in addition to members of the governing boards of the Actors Equity Association, the Dramatists Guild, as well as unions and organizations of directors, choreographers, scenic designers, theatre press agents, and theatre casting agents.

A Larger Group of Nominators Chosen for the 2014-5 Season

Though 700 people ultimately get to vote for the awards, it is alarming how few individuals get to decide who is nominated in the tony awards statuefirst place – that is, the Tony Nominating Committee. In past years, this has included only about 30 people, made up of theatre professionals. This small group decided, for example, that Denzel Washington would not be nominated for Best Actor this year for his role in A Raisin in the Sun, and that Bullets over Broadway would not be in the running for Best Musical. These people see all new Broadway productions and then meet shortly after the Tony eligibility deadline to determine the nominations using secret ballots. For the 2014-5 season, a new group of Tony Nominators was just announced. Perhaps due to criticism about how small that select group has been in past years, this year it will consist of 50 individuals.

Who Are These Esteemed Individuals?

The range of theatre professionals included in this group is impressive. It includes, for instance, the leadership of certain New York not-for-profit theatre institutions including Arin Arbus, the Associate Artistic Director of Theatre for a New Audience; Douglas Aibel, the Artistic Director of the Vineyard Theatre; Christian Parker, the Associate Artistic Director of the Atlantic Theater Company; Arlene Shuler, the President and CEO of New York City Center; and Preston Whiteway, the Executive Director of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. It also includes individuals affiliates with university arts programs, including Mark Brokaw, the Artistic Director of the Yale Institute for Musical Theatre (also a prominent director); Mary Schmidt Campbell, the Dean of Tisch School of the Arts at NYU; Kent Gash, the Founding Director of NYU Tisch School of the Arts’ New Studio on Broadway; and Ravi S. Rajan, the Dean of the School of the Arts at SUNY Purchase. This year’s group also includes journalists such as John Darnton, the former Cultural Editor of The New York Times; Corby Kummer, a Senior Editor at the Atlantic Magazine; and Jim McLaughlin, the Former Producer at CBS News/ TV Features.

mary louise parkerThe 2014-5 Nominating Committee also includes actors such as Harvey Evans, Cheyenne Jackson, Dick Latessa, John Leguizamo, Marsha Mason, Debra Monk and Mary-Louise Parker. There are designers such as Paul Gallo (lighting designer), Wendall K. Harrington (projection designer), Ann Hould-Ward (costume designer), Roger Morgan (lighting and theatre designer), Wynn Thomas (production designer), and Robin Wagner (scenic designer). There are other prominent creatives including Scott Schwartz (director), Jack Hofsiss (director), Susan Birkenhead (lyricist), Adam Guettel (composer/lyricist), Sara Lukinson (TV writer and documentary film producer), Patricia Marx (American humorist and writer), Donald Byrd (choreographer), and Liza Gennaro (choreographer). There are former or retired producers including Ira Bernstein and Barry Brown, and other arts organization leadership such as Ben Cameron (Doris Duke Charitable Foundation), Veronica Claypool (Full Circle Management Group), Paul Cremo (Metropolitan Opera), Jacqueline Davis (New York Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center), Jenny Gersten (Friends of the High Line), Philip Himberg (Sundance Institute Theatre Program), Reynold Levy (former president of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts), and Linda Shelton (Joyce Theater Foundation).

With an increased number of nominators, the race will hopefully be more equitable this year. However, there will always be more qualified individuals and shows than there are nominee slots, and these individuals will surely need to make some tough decisions.

“Mothers and Sons” To Close on June 22

Terrence McNally’s New Play Stars Tyne Daly

Mothers and Sons, a new play by Terrence McNally, has been running at Broadway’s Golden Theatre since February 23, 2014.  Starring Tyne Daly, a frequent McNally collaborator, this play opened on March 24, 2014 to fairly positive reviews.  The production was directed by Sheryl Kaller (Next Fall), produced by Tom Kirdahy and Roy Furman, and the cast also featured Bobby Steggert, Grayson Taylor, and Frederick Weller.  The play received two Tony Award nominations: Best Play, and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for Tyne Daly.  However, soon after the Tony Awards played out and Mothers and Sons did not win any honors, the announcement was made that the show will close on June 22, 2013, having played 104 performances and 33 previews.

Mothers and Sons Broadway Show tyne daly

Mothers and Sons Broadway Show

Next Season, McNally Returns with “It’s Only a Play”

McNally is one of the few living playwrights whose work has proved the test of time, with his new plays still consistently being produced on Broadway, irrespective of their star power or recognizable brand titles.  Mothers and Sons is McNally’s 20th Broadway show, marking the 50 year anniversary of his work being shown on Broadway.  This is by no means the end of his streak, however, as next season his play It’s Only a Play will be revived starring Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Stockard Channing, F. Murray Abraham, Megan Mullally, and Micah Stock.  Directed by Jack O’Brien, that new production will begin previews in the fall at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, with an opening night set for October 9, 2014.  That is sure to be an exciting production, as it will reunite Lane and Broderick who co-starred in the celebrated 2001 Broadway hit The Producers, not to mention the rest of its stupendous cast and creative team.

Financial Woes

Mothers and Sons has been struggling financially for some time, never earning much more than 30% of its gross potential since it began performances.  With an average ticket price around $65, the production has been offering heavy discounts throughout its run.  In the week ending June 8, 2014, the show only grossed $197,920, which is only 25.79% of its gross potential, and it filled up to only 43.9% of its audience capacity.  It must have been holding out for the Tony Awards, and when it did not win any, it cut its losses and announced closing.

Critical Performance

Like many of McNally’s plays, Mothers and Sons deals with concepts of homosexuality and AIDS.  It is the story of Katharine Gerard (played by Tyne Daly), who lost her son to AIDS 20 years ago, and now decides to visit her son’s partner Cal (Frederick Weller), who has since married a man named Will (Bobby Steggert).  Ben Brantley of The New York Times was lukewarm in his review, opining that the play’s intellectual debate overshadowed its emotional effects.  Still, he commended Tyne Daly’s performance and the production for the unstated sorrow beneath the words.  Other reviewers, such as NBC New York, Time Out New York, and the Associated Press, all gave more positive reviews.  Still, the play was unable to compete in this difficult marketplace against much more crowd-pleasing titles.  Perhaps the next McNally show will fare better.