Irreverent Puppet Play “Hand to God” Begins Previews

An Irreverent Comedy Makes It to the Top

hand to godOn March 14, 2015, Hand to God began previews at the Booth Theatre. It is scheduled to open on April 7, 2015, and no closing date has been announced at this time. The play was first produced in 2011 by the Ensemble Studio Theatre, and Off-Broadway bordering on Off-Off-Broadway venue situated on the west side of midtown Manhattan. It received such positive reviews and excited word of mouth that EST extended the run, and then extended the run again. Subsequently, the play was produced by an unarguably Off-Broadway theatre company, MCC Theatre, at their Lucille Lortel Theatre. Once again, the play received excellent response. Finally, after much effort on the part of the industrious lead producer Kevin McCollum (Rent, Avenue Q), the play has come to Broadway. It is very unusual for a play to travel the ladder of New York theatre hierarchy in this way, especially without swapping out its stars for Hollywood A-listers. However, this production displayed integrity from the very beginning, and it has come to Broadway with much of its original cast, starring the incredible Steven Boyer in his first Broadway leading part. Furthermore, the playwright Robert Askins, as well as the director Moritz von Stuelpnagel, are both theatre industry diehards whose work has never before been seen on Broadway. They are finally getting their shot in the spotlight.

Turning Vulnerability Into Strengthhand to god

For the show’s marketing campaign, McCollum and his fellow producers decided to take a route that others may have considered risky. However, those others would be unlikely to have decided to produce such a risky commercial bet as Hand to God. Designed by Broadway advertising company AKA, the show’s campaign was scrawled in a childish handwriting and said: “No Movie Stars. No London Transfer. No Film Adaptation,” and it concluded “…Pray For Us.” It’s true; the play has no movie stars, it has not received rave reviews from an acclaimed run in London (only Off-Broadway in New York), and it is not an adaptation from the big screen. Instead, its only merits are its irreverent brand of comedy and brilliant performances. Playing off the religious themed humor of the play, the final tagline “Pray for us” asks the audience not to buy tickets, but just to wish them well. Of course, this ad campaign will hopefully convince theatregoers to buy tickets as well. The difficulty, however, is that the price range for Broadway is often too high for those moved by such outside the box advertising. Nevertheless, the producers took the most clever route available to them, and even if the campaign doesn’t make this a sell-out hit, it will surely raise some eyebrows and help spread the word about the show.

A Dark Comedy about a Demonic Puppet

Hand to God is a dark comedy that takes place “nowish” in Texas, somewhere between the country and the city, as it is billed. Steven Boyer, who is in his 30s, plays a young boy named Jason who joins a Christian Puppet Ministry. Soon, to his astonishment, his puppet Tyrone is clearly possessed by the devil, and persuades Jason to do all kinds of naughty things. It is a while, however, before the pastor and other church members realize who is to blame. In the meantime, others get reprimanded and chaos ensues. This hilarious and off-kilter comedy will be an interesting addition to the Broadway slate this season, and hopefully the critics love it as much as they did the first two times. Though Broadway is a bigger canvas with higher pressure, the performances and comedy should be able to fill up the larger theatre with uproarious laughter.

“Constellations” Concludes Its Run

Last Performance March 15, 2015

constellations-large-643x441On March 15, 2015, Constellations played its last performance at Broadway’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Produced by the Manhattan Theatre Club, Constellations began performances on December 16, 2014 and officially opened on January 13, 2015. Upon closing, it had played 76 performances on top of 29 preview performances. The play starred Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson, both making their Broadway debuts. Constellations is a new play by Nick Payne, a British writer whose last New York production, If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet, also starred Jake Gyllenhaal, but that time Off-Broadway in a Roundabout Theatre Company production. Constellations was directed by Michael Longhurst, who also directed the Roundabout play. This two-hander play premiered in London at the Royal Court Theatre in 2012, after which it transferred to the Duke of York’s Theatre in the West End. It earned strong reviews as well as the covetous honor of Best Play in the Evening Standard Theatre Awards, marking Nick Payne as the youngest writer whose play has ever received that honor. At one point, Payne disclosed that a film adaptation was in the works, but that plan has since been shelved according to a later interview.

Moderate Performance at the Box Officeconstellations

Over the course of its run, Constellations performed fairly well but not excellently at the box office. The highest weekly gross was earned in the closing week of performances, amounting to $704,605, which represents 85.83% of the gross potential. That week, the average ticket price was $120.53, and the audience was at an average 99.9% capacity. Furthermore, in the final three weeks of performances (as well as one week in January), Constellations played nine performances, whereas it had played three weeks of only seven performances each in the first month of its run. It is unclear whether this is due to scheduling conflicts, or designed so as to allow the performers to warm up to the heavy schedule. In any case, throughout the run, the weekly gross was more often around $500,000 per week, with the average paid ticket across the run being $98.87. Furthermore, the percentage reached of gross potential each week averaged out to 67.87%. Therefore, the show could have certainly performed better at the box office, but this is also not bad for a straight play with a small cast and no brand name title recognition, although it may have been thought to fare better due to the starry cast.

Overall Extremely Positive Reviews

Despite the only moderate success at the box office, the theatre critics loved Constellations. Following its opening night on January 13, 2015, the rave reviews poured in. Ben Brantley of The New York Times found the play to be gorgeous and emotionally devastating, praising the excellent performances and writing. Other critics were wowed by the production as well, including Time Out New York, Variety, the Hollywood Reporter, and NBC New York. Therefore, this goes to show that not all plays get the box office response that they deserve, but fortunately many people were able to catch this brilliant production in its New York rendition.

David Hare’s “Skylight” Begins Previews

The Long Road from the National Theatre

Skylight-Broadway-Play-Tickets-176-012814On March 13, 2015, Skylight began previews at Broadway’s John Golden Theatre. It is scheduled to open officially on April 2, 2015, and to run for a limited engagement until June 14, 2015. The play was written by David Hare, and first premiered in 1995, when it was directed by Richard Eyre starring Michael Gambon and Lia Williams. At the time, it opened at the National Theatre’s Cottesloe Theatre, transferred to the West End, and then to Broadway, where it was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play, among other Tony nominations. It had also won the Olivier Award for Best New Play in 1996. Following the Broadway premiere, Skylight returned for another engagement in the West End, this time at the Vaudeville Theatre starring Bill Nighy and Stella Gonet in 1997. In June 2014, a revival of Skylight opened at the Wyndham’s Theatre. That revival was directed by Stephen Daldry, and starred Carey Mulligan alongside Bill Nighy, playing the same part as in 1997. In July 2014, the show was broadcast to cinemas around the world through the National Theatre’s NT Live programme. This helped it gain momentum towards its Broadway run, where it has just begun previews with the same cast as the recent West End revival.

A Promising Start at the Box Officecarey mulligan bill nighy skylight

In the three performances for which box office figures have been thus far reported, Skylight is performing fairly well, although it is not selling out at this stage. Over the course of those three shows, the box office gross was $253,369, which represents 83.59% of its gross potential. With an average paid admission of $105.31, the show’s top ticket price was $248.00, and the audience was at 100.0% capacity. This demonstrates that the show’s producers – Robert Fox and Scott Rudin – have stealthily employed discounting strategies to perfectly fill up the house while maximizing box office grosses. Of course, the expert ticket price strategist Scott Rudin would much prefer not to discount at all, a feat he has managed with an astounding number of his shows, and perhaps as word of mouth spreads, and reviews are eventually published, the production may gain enough traction so as to be able to stop discounting. After all, Carey Mulligan is a big household name, especially with her recent film starring roles such as Daisy in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. Furthermore, the NT Live exhibition of the London production has served as the best advertising a play can ask for, so hopefully ticket sales will continue to increase as the spring weather comes on more strongly.

A Small Play with a Large Message

Skylight is the first of David Hare’s plays to be set wholly in one room. Carey Mulligan plays Kyra Hollis, a schoolteacher in East London who had previously been living with a family by the name of Sargeant. The play has only three characters. At first, Kyra converses with Edward Sargeant (played by Matthew Beard), who was the son of the family she had lived with. It comes out that Kyra had had an affair with Edward’s father Tom, and she had left her living quarters with their family when Tom’s wife had discovered this adultery. Since that time, Edward’s mother has died, and he confronts Kyra about having abandoned him, as he considers to be like a sister to him. Soon, Tom shows up unannounced, and Kyra cooks an entire spaghetti dinner for him onstage. It becomes clear that the future of their relationship depends on whether they can both lay to rest their preconceived opinions of each other.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 3/15/2015

This week’s notable movements on Broadway are:

“The King and I,” “An American in Paris,” and “Skylight”

In the week ending March 15, 2015, five new shows kicked off the spring season by beginning previews. None of them were sell outs right out of the gate, but they are all appearing to be strong contenders for the season. First of all, the Lincoln Center production of The King and I began previews on March 12, 2015. In its first week of four performances, the show brought in $420,879, which represents 75.58% of the gross potential. With an average ticket price of $100.50, the theatre was at 100% capacity, showing a degree of discounting and a successful effort to fill all seats for the first performances. In addition, An American in Paris began previews with a first partial week of two performances. Over those two shows, the new Gershwin musical brought in $317,918, which represents 86.55% of its gross potential. With an average paid admission of $100.57, the theatre was at an average 98.7% capacity, showing successful use of strategic discounting. Furthermore, David Hare’s Skylight began performances this past week, playing three shows in its first partial week. In that time, the show brought in $253,369, which represents 83.59% of the show’s gross potential. Similarly, with an average paid admission of $105.31, the audience was at 100% capacity. Therefore, all three of these shows performed similarly in its first few performances, modestly discounting and successfully filling almost all seats.

“Finding Neverland” and “Hand to God”

In addition, the week ending March 15, 2015 saw two additional new shows begin previews, which are at opposing ends of the spectrum in terms of familiarity of brand name and industry power. Finding Neverland, based on the film of the same name, is produced by Harvey Weinstein, a Hollywood powerhouse producer and distributor who is venturing into Broadway producing for the first time with this new musical. With the brand power of the familiar film behind it, Weinstein is betting this show will attract an eager audience. This past week, it only had one preview so far, making it difficult to analyze how successfully the show is performing out of the gate. Still, in that one performance it brought in $159,823, which represents 85.9% of the gross potential. With an average ticket price of $105.84, the show filled 102.1% of its seats in that one performance. Finally, “Hand to God” also began performances this past week, playing also one performance. Unlike the Weinstein production, this show comes to Broadway after a successful Off-Broadway (arguably Off-Off-Broadway) run at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, where the playwright, director, and several actors all making their Broadway debuts. It may take some time for this show’s word of mouth to spread, as in the first preview it brought in only $36,122, which represents 46.02% of the show’s potential. Nevertheless, it still managed to fill 98.2% of seats due to a heavy amount of discounting.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending March 15, 2015:Broadway-Show-Ticket-Analysis-3-15-15

Show Name GrossGross Total Attn %Capacity AvgPdAdm
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $693,830 6,928 95.48% $100.15
ALADDIN $1,320,262 13,785 100.01% $95.78
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS $317,918 3,161 98.72% $100.57
BEAUTIFUL $955,472 7,004 85.33% $136.42
CABARET $834,163 6,909 96.71% $120.74
CHICAGO $623,279 7,889 91.31% $79.01
CONSTELLATIONS $704,605 5,846 99.93% $120.53
FINDING NEVERLAND $159,823 1,510 102.10% $105.84
FISH IN THE DARK $1,223,970 8,720 101.58% $140.36
HAND TO GOD $36,122 768 98.21% $47.03
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH $604,849 5,961 84.57% $101.47
HONEYMOON IN VEGAS $410,732 5,514 59.93% $74.49
IF/THEN $698,319 9,451 90.11% $73.89
IT’S ONLY A PLAY $518,653 5,843 67.82% $88.76
JERSEY BOYS $720,612 7,838 79.78% $91.94
KINKY BOOTS $1,012,351 10,051 88.23% $100.72
LES MISÉRABLES $790,406 9,950 88.27% $79.44
MAMMA MIA! $567,670 7,291 78.16% $77.86
MATILDA $949,057 11,067 96.60% $85.76
ON THE TOWN $543,130 8,099 54.02% $67.06
ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY $390,599 5,936 102.77% $65.80
SKYLIGHT $253,369 2,406 100.00% $105.31
THE AUDIENCE $1,085,327 7,591 101.44% $142.98
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,540,949 8,752 102.63% $176.07
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME $765,691 7,539 92.57% $101.56
THE HEIDI CHRONICLES $321,977 5,895 73.61% $54.62
THE KING AND I $420,879 4,188 100.00% $100.50
THE LION KING $1,824,627 13,587 99.90% $134.29
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $847,147 10,290 80.14% $82.33
WICKED $1,818,766 15,024 97.51% $121.06
Totals $22,954,552 224,793 90.25% $99.08

Broadway ticket sales raw data are provided courtesy of The Broadway League All other data, text, opinion, charts and commentary are copyright © 2015 nytix.com

“An American in Paris” Begins Performances

A Gershwin Musical Based on a Film Based on a Symphony

an american in parisIn 1928, George Gershwin wrote a symphonic poem entitled “An American in Paris” based on his travels in Paris in the 1920s. Influenced by both jazz and the blues, the musical piece was intended to show the experience of an American walking around the French capital, taking in its sights and sounds. In 1951, a film adaptation was made of this symphony starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. The film incorporates several Gershwin classics such as “I Got Rhythm,” “’S Wonderful,” and “Our Love is Here to Stay.” Directed by Vincente Minnelli from a script written by Alan Jay Lerner, the film was a major hit, winning the Academy Award for Best Picture among many other honors, and bringing in almost $7 million at the box office. Now, for the first time, An American in Paris has been adapted for the stage. Directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, the show premiered in Paris on November 22, 2014, and ran there at the Theatre du Chatelet until January 4, 2015. Now, the show has finally come to Broadway, with its first preview having taken place on March 13, 2015 at the Palace Theatre.

An All-Star Creative Teaman american in paris

The director and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon is making his Broadway directorial debut. He has choreographed once before on Broadway, for Sweet Smell of Success in 2002. However, he is widely considered one of the world’s most coveted and respected ballet choreographers. He trained at the Royal Ballet and then the New York City Ballet, and in 2001 he was honored as the City Ballet’s first choreographer in residence. In 2006, he founded his own ballet company, Morphoses. The producer Stuart Oken invited Wheeldon to direct this musical, and it took some convincing, as he had never directed actors before. However, he eventually agreed. In addition to music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin, the show has a new book by Craig Lucas (Prelude to a Kiss, The Light in the Piazza, Reckless). In addition, Bartlett Sher (South Pacific, The King and I) is a creative consultant for the show. Wheeldon and Lucas developed a 60 page treatment of the show together before the Gershwin estate agreed to let the producers continue developing the show. Unlike the film, which is set in the 1950s, Lucas and Wheeldon decided to set their An American in Paris in the time just after World War II. Furthermore, they made other changes such as making Lise, the main character, a ballet dancer, and also having her relationship with her composer friend Adam more central to the story.

An American in Paris

The story centers around a young man named Jerry Mulligan (Robert Fairchild), who has just completed his time in the World War II army. He decides to move to Paris, which has been recently liberated, to make his life as a painter. He is helped out by another ex-pat, a wealthy woman named Milo Davenport (Jill Paice) who has a past she does not want to remember. Things become complicated for Jerry when he meets Lise (Leanne Cope), a beautiful Parisian girl who works in a shop. Jerry’s friends Adam (Brandon Uranowitz), a Jewish-American composer, and Henri (Max von Essen), a French aristocrat, also have romantic interests in Lise. Only through the beauty of dance and music can this love triangle be reconciled. An American in Paris is set to open on April 12, 2015, and will continue for an open-ended run.

“The King and I” Begins Previews on Broadway

A Lincoln Center Production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Hit

the king and iOn March 12, 2015, the 2015 revival of The King and I will play its first performance at the Vivian Beaumont Lincoln Center. Opening night is scheduled for April 16, 2015. This is the fifth time this musical will have played on Broadway, the original having premiered on March 29, 1951. With music by Richard Rodgers, and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, the show is based on a novel called Anna and The King of Siam by Margaret Landon. At the time of its premiere, the musical was a huge hit and won the Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Actress (Gertrude Lawrence in the role of Anna Leonowens) and Best Featured Actor (Yul Brynner as the King of Siam). It was then revived in 1977, 1985, and 1996. The 2015 production therefore marks the fourth Broadway revival. This production is produced by Lincoln Center Theatre at their Vivian Beaumont Broadway venue. It is directed by Bartlett Sher (The Bridges of Madison County, Golden Boy, South Pacific), and the choreography is the original by Jerome Robbins, with the revival’s musical staging by Christopher Gattelli (Newsies, Godspell, South Pacific). The production stars Kelli O’Hara (Nice Work if You Can Get It, South Pacific, The Bridges of Madison County) as Anna, and Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai, Memoirs of a Geisha) making his Broadway debut as the King of Siam.

A Classic Story for a Modern Audienceken watanabe kelli o'hara

The timeless tale of Anna and the King revolves around a British schoolteacher in 1862, who is hired by the King of Siam (now Thailand) to come to Bangkok and tutor his children. The King has many wives and has other traditional customs, but he has hired Anna to help modernize his country. Still, he is very resistant to this effort, and at first there is great tension between the two. Nevertheless, Anna is persistent, and she not only succeeds in introducing some Western customs to Siam, but she and the King ultimately also fall in love. The show includes many timeless and beautiful songs such as “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” “Hello, Young Lovers,” “A Puzzlement,” “Getting to Know You,” “Something Wonderful,” and “Shall We Dance?”. This Lincoln Center production is sure to let its audiences relive the original magic of this gorgeous show, complete with the original choreography and elaborate traditional costumes.

A Déjà Vu of “South Pacific” at the Vivian Beaumont

In spring 2008, Lincoln Center mounted another Rodgers and Hammerstein classic musical at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre: South Pacific. This production shares much more than the composer and librettist in common with this revival of The King and I. First of all, the director is the same: Bartlett Sher. Secondly, the same leading lady will take center stage: Kelli O’Hara. What’s more, Sher has reunited his entire creative team from that production: set designer Michael Yeargan, musical director Ted Sperling, lighting designer Donald Holder, costume designer Catherine Zuber, and sound designer Scott Lehrer. Fortunately, South Pacific was such an enormous hit that this bodes well for The King and I. In 2008, South Pacific brought home a phenomenal seven Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical, Best Director (Bartlett Sher), Best Actor, and all four design categories: costume, set, sound, and lighting. Therefore, The King and I is sure to be a delightful and magical production, reuniting a team who know each other well. There won’t be too much “Getting to Know You” necessary at the first rehearsal.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 3/8/2015

This week’s notable movements on Broadway are:

A Stable Week on Broadway

In the week ending March 8, 2015, no new shows began previews. Furthermore, the overall weekly gross for all shows on Broadway stayed almost exactly the same. In the previous week, the entire industry brought in $18,260,267, and this week it brought in $18,202,017. Overall, that is an increase of only $58,250. Of the 25 shows that had performances this past week, 17 saw an increase in sales, though generally this increase was very slight. The biggest increase was seen by Wicked, which brought in $1,352,213, demonstrating an increase of $147,746 from the week prior. Overall, Wicked was the third highest grossing show this week, only beat out by The Book of Mormon with a weekly gross of $1,450,723 and The Lion King with a gross of $1,450,034. Other than Wicked, every other show that increased this week did so by no more than 5 digits. The closest gross between this and last week was brought in by A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which went down by only $649. Strangely, almost all of the shows performed within $50,000 of their gross the week before, demonstrating a very stable, if not lucrative, week on Broadway.

Two Top Grossing Plays Showed a Decrease in Sales

The two straight plays that have been demonstrating the most promise so far this early spring season are The Audience starring Helen Mirren, and Fish in the Dark written by and starring Larry David. Both of these shows recently opened to relatively mixed reviews, The Audience leaning toward the positive and Fish in the Dark leaning toward the negative. Perhaps the silence being broken about the quality of the shows brought down some of the allure that had made ticketbuyers go crazy for these shows, because both saw a fairly significant decrease in sales this previous week. The Audience brought in a weekly gross of $861,884, which was a decrease of $228,595 from the week before. Fish in the Dark, which is still performing excellently, brought in a weekly gross of $1,006,832, although this is a decrease of $152,705 from the week before. Nevertheless, another reason why this week was a bit low for these two shows could be accounted for by the fact that one of the week’s performances was the opening night, for which tickets are mostly complimentary for guests of the production. Therefore, the overall gross would show a decline due to one performance of lost ticket sales.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending March 8, 2015:Broadway-Show-Ticket-Analysis-3-08-15-1

Show Name GrossGross Total Attn %Capacity AvgPdAdm
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $543,966 5,830 80.35% $93.30
ALADDIN $1,148,004 13,689 99.31% $83.86
BEAUTIFUL $1,049,875 7,516 91.57% $139.69
CABARET $708,067 6,125 85.74% $115.60
CHICAGO $508,909 6,386 73.91% $79.69
CONSTELLATIONS $689,238 5,837 99.78% $118.08
FISH IN THE DARK $1,006,832 8,703 101.39% $115.69
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH $537,064 5,152 73.09% $104.24
HONEYMOON IN VEGAS $310,450 4,492 48.83% $69.11
IF/THEN $519,720 7,096 67.66% $73.24
IT’S ONLY A PLAY $480,381 5,070 58.84% $94.75
JERSEY BOYS $592,549 6,348 64.62% $93.34
KINKY BOOTS $814,313 8,228 72.23% $98.97
LES MISÉRABLES $624,346 8,493 75.35% $73.51
MAMMA MIA! $417,314 5,732 61.45% $72.80
MATILDA $714,894 8,992 78.49% $79.50
ON THE TOWN $474,989 7,266 48.47% $65.37
ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY $364,904 5,082 87.98% $71.80
THE AUDIENCE $861,884 7,532 100.65% $114.43
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,450,723 8,750 102.60% $165.80
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME $670,953 6,695 82.21% $100.22
THE HEIDI CHRONICLES $316,904 5,642 70.45% $56.17
THE LION KING $1,450,034 13,051 95.96% $111.11
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $651,741 8,427 65.63% $77.34
WICKED $1,352,213 12,457 86.08% $108.55
Totals $18,260,267 188,591 78.91% $95.05

Broadway ticket sales raw data are provided courtesy of The Broadway League All other data, text, opinion, charts and commentary are copyright © 2015 nytix.com

“The Audience” Opens on Broadway

Excellent Reviews to Match Excellent Box Office

the audienceOn March 8, 2015, The Audience opened at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Broadway. Written by Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon) and directed by Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot: the Musical, Skylight), The Audience stars Helen Mirren in the role of Queen Elizabeth II. One of the main reasons this show has been garnering so much excitement is that Mirren played this same role on screen in the 2006 British historical drama, which was also written by Peter Morgan, and for which she won the Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. The film was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score, and Best Costume Design. It also won the BAFTA Award for Best Film, while Mirren also took home the BAFTA Award for Actress in a Leading Role. For all of these reasons, the show has been accumulating much buzz since even before it began previews on February 14, 2015. Particularly noteworthy were the first few weeks of box office reports, which showed that the production brought in over 100% of the show’s gross potential in each of the three first weeks.

Review Round Uphelen mirren the audience

Overall, theatre critics found the show to be quite excellent. Nevertheless, Ben Brantley of The New York Times was more on the fence, praising Mirren’s performance but determining that the play was more a parade of statesman than a dramatic masterpiece. He also remarked that Mirren is performing her lines a bit differently than she did in London, emphasizing different aspects of the phrases in order to spice up the comedy for American audiences. David Cote from Time Out New York, on the other hand, was fully positive in his response to the play. Instead of calling the series of prime ministers a “parade” as Brantley does, Cote calls it a “pageant,” evoking more majesty and grandeur. Like Brantley, however, Cote agrees that Mirren’s transformations across the different eras were magnificent. David Rooney in The Hollywood Reporter acknowledges that the writing’s episodic nature is not its strongest point, and yet he deems the vignettes to be linked in an elegant fashion. Robert Kahn from NBC New York calls the show “exquisite,” pondering over the Queen’s “grace” and Mirren’s excellent performance. Matt Windman of AM New York gave it three stars out of four, finding the play a bit choppy but fascinating.

Excellent Box Office that May Show Signs of Tapering Off

In the first three weeks of performances, The Audience brought in over 100% of its gross potential. In the first incomplete week of two performances, that percentage was 111.21%, and the following two weeks of seven performances each brought in 102.63% and 106.74% of the gross potential, the last of these showing a weekly gross of $1,090,479. However, in the last reported week of performances, the week ending March 8, 2015, The Audience saw a decline in weekly grosses of $228,595, bringing in $861,884 which represents 84.37% of its gross potential. The most likely explanation for this is that the last of these performances was the show’s opening night, for which most tickets are complimentary for guests of the production. Therefore, it is too early to say whether the show’s box office is tapering off, or whether it has just taken a slight dip to regain its footing the following week. Presumably, the generally positive reviews can only help stimulate the box office in a positive direction. The show is presently scheduled to run until June 28, 2015.

“Fish in the Dark” Opens on Broadway

Mixed to Negative Reviews Despite Record Box Office

poster fishEven before it began previews on February 2, 2015, Fish in the Dark has been performing extraordinarily at the box office. This new play written by and starring Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm, co-creator of Seinfeld) broke the advance box office record for a straight play by bringing in $13 million prior to the first performance. Ticket buyers were therefore buying blind, as the show was not reviewed until this morning, following last night’s opening on March 5, 2015. Unfortunately for those who have already invested an average of $300 per ticket, the show was received somewhat poorly by professional critics. The most notorious and respected theatre critic, Ben Brantley of The New York Times, gave it a complete flop, and even those that responded positively to the play did so with the caveat that it was Curb Your Enthusiasm extended and for the stage, primarily interesting for pre-existing fans of David’s television accomplishments. Directed by Anna D. Shapiro (This is Our Youth, Motherf**ker with the Hat), the play stars David along with Jayne Houdyshell, Rosie Perez, Rita Wilson, Ben Shenkman, Jerry Adler, and many others in the large ensemble cast.

Rounding Up the Criticsfish in the dark

Ben Brantley of The New York Times claims to have laughed fully only one time in the entire play, faulting the show for being a glorified live witnessing of a celebrity in the flesh. Robert Kahn of NBC New York was slightly more forgiving, but still admitted the stage play felt like an overextended sitcom, mostly appropriate for diehard Larry David aficionados. Nevertheless, the charm that has earned David so many adoring fans seems to affect even high profile critics, as others gave the show positive remarks even while discussing similar opinions to Brantley. David Cote of Time Out New York grandiosely compared Fish in the Dark to an ancient Greek tragedy, praising the offensive honesty of the Seinfeld creator. David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter observed a slightly more recent ancestor to David’s stage creation, comparing him to Neil Simon and the fluffy comedy surrounding the Jewish American family. Rooney also discerned the “pure sitcom” nature of the play, but did not criticize it for this cross-genre flavor, instead proclaiming that this show is a bona fide hit no matter how the reviewers respond. As a reviewer, therefore, Rooney is basically foregoing his responsibility to remark on the quality of the show, instead kowtowing to the established record-breaking box office as indicator of “hit” status.

Well Above 100% of Gross Potential

In the four weeks that box office has been reported thus far, Fish in the Dark has performed remarkably. Furthermore, the rest of the run is reportedly almost sold out, so the reviews were truly moot, whether future committed audience members like it or not. In the most recent reported week, the week ending March 1, 2015, the show brought in $1,159,537 over the course of eight performances, which represents 115.27% of its gross potential. Over the course of previews, the show never made less than 113.39% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of $423.00, the average paid admission thus far has been around $133.00. This shows that no discounting has taken place, and instead diehard fans are paying premium and inflated prices for the chance to witness David’s Broadway debut.

John Cameron Mitchell Returned After Injury, Next Hedwig Announced

The Original Hedwig Playing His Creation on Broadway

john cameron mitchellHedwig and the Angry Inch, created by John Cameron Mitchell, premiered on Broadway on March 29, 2014. The show originally opened Off-Broadway in 1998, starring Mitchell in the title role of the gender-bending East German rock performer. He also wrote and starred in the 2001 film version. When Hedwig came to Broadway for the first time, however, the producers and Mitchell felt that he was no longer in his prime, and thus the lead role was given to Neil Patrick Harris, who won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical. After Harris departed, the role was played by Andrew Rannells (The Book of Mormon, Girls), followed by Michael C. Hall (Dexter). However, to the delight of diehard Hedwig fans, it was announced that John Cameron Mitchell himself would be stepping in to play the role after all, with his first performance on January 21, 2015. Originally, he was slated to perform for just six weeks until March 14, 2015, as a trial run to see if he had enough stamina to play the intensive part at this point in his career. Fortunately, he was brilliant as always, and fans flocked to see him, and thus he announced that he would extend his run until April 26, 2015.

Mitchell Sustained Knee Injury, Michael C. Hall Stepped Inhedwig lena hall

Unfortunately, on February 7, 2015, Mitchell injured his knee during the performance. He continued on until the end of the 7pm show, but the later 10pm show that night was cancelled. At the time, the show’s representatives tweeted that he planned to return for the next scheduled performance on the following Tuesday, and that doctors were examining him. However, they then announced that one week later, Michael C. Hall would return to the role to allow Mitchell time for his injury to heal. From February 17 to 21, therefore, Hall donned the wig once again. In the week where Mitchell performed with a knee brace, he made the best of the humorous situation. One joke, for instance, was “You’re seeing the original cast!” Furthermore, he played on the dominating relationship Hedwig has with his co-star Yitzhak by making her attend to his injury, demanding that she place a crate underneath his propped foot, while he sat on an elevated chair so that he could still be visible while seated. As planned, after a week of performances by Michael C. Hall, Mitchell returned to the stage on February 24, 2015, and he plans to continue as announced until April 26, 2015.

The Next Hedwig: Darren Criss

GQ Celebrates The Grammys With Giorgio Armani - ArrivalsFollowing Mitchell’s departure, Darren Criss (Glee) will step into the spotlight on April 29, 2015 for a run of 12 weeks through summer. Criss’ huge fanbase was evidenced by his brief turn on Broadway in 2012, when he replaced Daniel Radcliffe in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. At the time, he significantly boosted ticket sales for the three weeks he played the part. Therefore, this appears to be a good move for the show’s producers, who hope to keep it running as long as possible by bringing in a string of stars who appeal to a variety of audience members. Furthermore, the second and only other main character in the musical, Yitzhak, has been played by Lena Hall since the start of the revival. Hall wonrebecca naomi jones the Tony Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical, and has been the Yitzhak to all four Hedwigs so far: Harris, Rannells, Hall, and Mitchell. However, she has recently announced that her last performance in the role will be April 4, 2015. The new Yitzhak will be played by Rebecca Naomi Jones (American Idiot, Passing Strange), who will step in on April 14, 2015. In the interim week, the role will be played by understudy Shannon Conley. Therefore, Jones will play opposite John Cameron Mitchell for less than two weeks, before partnering with Darren Criss to continue the tradition of Hedwig on Broadway.