Annette Bening joins John Lithgow in “King Lear”

The Storied Past of Shakespeare in the Park

Ever since 1961, when theatrical impresario Joseph Papp famously convinced New York City parks commissioner Robert Moses to build an outdoor amphitheater in Central Park, the Public Theater has produced the annual New York Shakespeare Festival, also known as Shakespeare in the Park, at the Delacorte Theatre.  Renowned for its unusual combination of free tickets for all, as well as highly acclaimed productions often starring household names, this outdoor festival is a rare treat for New York theatregoers.  This year, the Festival has two productions: Much Ado about Nothing and King Lear.  Though the Festival does not always feature exclusively Shakespeare, it generally has two productions in the series, and this year they are both by the Bard.  The last time that King Lear was a production of this Festival was in 1973.  Much Ado about Nothing, on the other hand, has been staged at the Delacorte three times before, most recently in 2004.

shakespeare in the park delacorte theatreJohn Lithgow Headlines King Lear

It was announced several weeks ago that King Lear, which begins performances on July 22, 2014 and runs until August 17, 2014, will star John Lithgow in the title role.  Lithgow was last seen in Shakespeare in the Park in 1975, when he played Laertes in Hamlet.  He is also well known for his work on television shows such as 3rd Rock from the Sun and Dexter, andhisfilm performances in such movies as Shrek, The World According to Garp, and Terms of Endearment.  Furthermore, he has been seen on Broadway in plays including The Columnist, M. Butterfly, Requiem for a Heavyweight, and the 2008 revival of All My Sons.  At the same time as this lead casting announcement, it was publicized that King Lear will be directed by Daniel Sullivan, who has overseen several productions at Shakespeare in the Park including The Comedy of Errors, Twelfth Night, and The Merchant of Venice, as well as Broadway shows such as Glengarry Glen Ross and The Snow Geese.

Annette Bening Joins The Cast

Recently, an exciting piece of casting news was announced for King Lear.  Annette Bening, who was last seen on Broadway in annette bening1987 in Coastal Disturbances, will play Lear’s eldest daughter Goneril.  Bening has been nominated for four Academy Awards: for her roles in The Grifters, Being Julia, American Beauty, and The Kids Are All Right.  She has also won Golden Globe Awards for her performances in Being Julia and The Kids Are All Right.  Though she has not been since on the New York stage in over 20 years, her career originated in the theatre.  She studied at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, where she played roles including Lady Macbeth.  She also has been seen onstage at the Denver Center Theatre Company, and she has recently performed at Los Angeles’ Geffen Playhouse.  She also received a Tony Award nomination for her role in the Broadway production of Coastal Disturbances.  The other two sisters in King Lear will be played by Jessica Hecht (Regan) and Jessica Collins (Cordelia).

King Lear Follows Much Ado About Nothing in Park Season

As for the first of the two productions in Shakespeare in the Park – Much Ado about Nothing – it will star Lily Rabe as Beatrice and Hamish Linklater as Benedick, and it will be directed by Jack O’Brien (The Nance, The Coast of Utopia, Macbeth).  Much Ado about Nothing will begin performances at the Delacorte on June 3, 2014 and will run for five weeks.

Broadway Revival of “Titanic” Postponed

Titanic the Musical First Premiered on Broadway in 1997

Titanic, a musical rendition of the story of the RMS Titanic disaster, premiered on Broadway in April 1997, with a book by Peter Stone, music and lyrics by Maury Yeston, directed by Richard Jones, and choreographed by Lynne Taylor-Corbett.  Though one could easily presume that this musical followed in the recently popular tradition of movie to musical adaptations, this musical was in fact not an adaptation of James Cameron’s immensely popular film.  That movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in career defining roles, was released in December 1997, months after the Broadway musical was already running.  The film release did help propel interest in the disaster story, and subsequently the musical had at least 80% attendance throughout much of 1998.  However, interest in the musical soon began to dwindle, and the show closed in March 1999, after about 2 years.  Still, the show was considered to be quite successful, as it won all five 1997 Tony Awards for which it was nominated: Best Musical, Best Score, Best Book, Best Scenic Design, and Best Orchestrations.

titanic cd coverRevival Has Been Postponed Due to Lack of Theatre Availability

This Tony Award winning Best Musical has therefore been on the minds of theatrical producers for revival for some time.  In January of this year, it was announced that the revival had finally been set, under the guidance of producers Barry and Fran Weissler, as well as David Mirvish.  The show was to be directed by Thom Sutherland, who staged a well-received production of the musical at London’s Southwark Playhouse in 2013.  The plan was for an out-of-town Broadway pre-run to be mounted at Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre from July 22nd to August 31st, and then for a Broadway engagement to follow in fall 2014 at a theatre yet to be decided.  However, it was just announced that both the Toronto production and the Broadway revival have been postponed, due to the lack of a suitable available theatre.  Although this is an issue specific to the New York production, the financing for the out-of-town tryout was reliant on the Broadway run, and thus both have been cancelled.

Theatre Availability A Common Issue For Producers

It is a common issue for theatre producers to have difficulty finding an adequate theatre for an intended production.  It is not only important for a theatre to be available, but it is crucial that a theatre of the right size be vacant in order to attract enough audience members to make the recoupment of the show’s capitalization possible in a feasible amount of time.  Because many theatres suitable for large-scale musicals such as Titanic are taken up by long-running shows that have no intention of closing anytime soon, such as The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Mamma Mia!, and The Book of Mormon, this leaves very few options for new musicals or musical revivals to find their ideal home.  This also creates a competitive environment wherein producers are actually eager for other shows to close, so that their show can come to Broadway as planned.  Many of the theatres that are frequently available are more suitable for straight plays, as those tend to have limited engagements, especially as their profitability often relies on the presence of A-list Hollywood stars whose busy schedule only allows for 12 to 20 week runs.  The frequent turnover of play-sized theatres, therefore, leaves few remaining for musicals to inhabit.

Revival Still Forthcoming

It is not clear when the revival of Titanic will find its way to Broadway.  In a press release, the producers have stated that they are committed to bringing this show to Broadway as soon as scheduling allows.  Even for Broadway stalwarts such as the Weisslers, who are also the producing team behind Chicago, Pippin, and many more hit shows, theatre availability can be a serious problem preventing their projects from hitting the stage, even when the creative team and producers are ready to go.

barry and fran weissler namco producers

Barry and Fran Weissler, Producers

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 5/18/2014

This week’s notable movements on Broadway are:

“THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY” ENDS ON A HIGH NOTE

The Bridges of Madison County concluded its run on Sunday, May 18, 2014 due to slow ticket sales.  However, the announcement of its closing appears to have attracted last minute ticket buyers who wanted to see the show while they still had a chance.  The show reached its highest gross of its four-month run this past week, earning $590,791, which was an increase of $197,805 from the previous week.  Its second highest grossing week was the week ending March 16, 2014, where it grossed $476,374.  In this past week, the average ticket price was $73.71, which was almost the highest it has been (with the exception of two weeks), proving that audience members were willing to spend a lot of money for the opportunity to see this show.  This proves that slow ticket sales do not necessarily denote a lack of interest in a show; it may just mean that with so much competition on Broadway, a show may not get seen if it doesn’t break through to first or second priority, especially for tourists on vacation.  Furthermore, as successful musicals tend to be long-running, ticket buyers may have expected this show to be around for a while, and when closing was announced, they took advantage of the limited time to buy a ticket.

“ALL THE WAY” HITTING IT BIG

This past week, Robert Schenkkan’s play All the Way grossed $1,045,860, which was an increase of $217,564 from the previous week.  Starring Bryan Cranston as Lyndon B. Johnson, this play just won the Drama League Award for Best Play.  Perhaps the press about this win explains the upsurge in ticket buying, or perhaps interest in this popular show just happened to crescendo this past week, but in any case, this illustrates that All the Way is a strong contender for the Tony Award for Best Play, which will be announced in just a few more weeks.  Its competitors for that honor are Casa Valentina, Outside Mullingar, Act One, and Mothers and SonsOutside Mullingar has already closed, and the other three plays saw modest to no increase in ticket sales this past week.  If financial data has anything to do with awards recognition, then All the Way may just make it “all the way” to the big win.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending May 18, 2014:

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 5-18-2014

Show GrossGross Total Attn %Cap AvgPdAdm
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $656,020 7,261 100.07% $90.35
A RAISIN IN THE SUN $1,183,010 8,368 100.00% $141.37
ACT ONE $454,330 6,349 73.21% $71.56
AFTER MIDNIGHT $555,630 7,096 85.62% $78.30
ALADDIN $1,137,093 13,788 100.03% $82.47
ALL THE WAY $1,045,860 9,059 106.18% $115.45
BEAUTIFUL $1,063,319 8,272 100.78% $128.54
BULLETS OVER BROADWAY $925,374 10,071 77.23% $91.88
CABARET $735,777 6,817 96.07% $107.93
CASA VALENTINA $272,793 4,174 81.02% $65.36
CHICAGO $536,505 6,231 72.12% $86.10
CINDERELLA $713,599 9,420 67.25% $75.75
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH $983,206 7,214 102.34% $136.29
IF/THEN $812,712 8,547 81.49% $95.09
JERSEY BOYS $776,136 7,808 79.48% $99.40
KINKY BOOTS $1,514,754 11,307 99.25% $133.97
LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL $540,517 4,696 98.37% $115.10
LES MISÉRABLES $1,123,088 10,698 94.91% $104.98
MAMMA MIA! $667,885 7,784 83.45% $85.80
MATILDA $930,186 10,404 90.82% $89.41
MOTHERS AND SONS $198,925 2,815 43.87% $70.67
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL $1,124,866 10,854 90.03% $103.64
NEWSIES $588,306 8,084 85.27% $72.77
OF MICE AND MEN $875,771 8,463 98.59% $103.48
ONCE $490,998 5,781 68.24% $84.93
PIPPIN $598,091 6,684 84.39% $89.48
ROCK OF AGES $330,603 4,045 86.73% $81.73
ROCKY $742,525 9,098 75.02% $81.61
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,673,283 8,752 102.63% $191.19
THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY $590,791 8,015 98.32% $73.71
THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN $563,894 6,514 75.89% $86.57
THE LION KING $1,896,455 13,530 99.49% $140.17
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $962,919 11,656 90.78% $82.61
THE REALISTIC JONESES $590,378 6,360 91.17% $92.83
VIOLET $403,042 5,226 89.00% $77.12
WICKED $1,755,218 15,036 97.48% $116.73
Totals: $30,013,854 296,277 87.96% $98.45

 

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

Drama League Winners Announced

drama leagueThe 80th Annual Drama League Awards Ceremony took place today, May 16, 2014.  The luncheon was held in the Broadway Ballroom at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square.  Though the Drama League Awards are not considered to be as high an honor as the Tony Awards, it is definitely an immense distinction to earn a Drama League Award, and they are often thought to point to the direction that the Tony Awards may be leaning.  Led by executive director Gabriel Shanks, the Drama League Awards are the oldest theatrical honors in America, having been given since 1922, and formally awarded since 1935.  The Tony Awards, on the other hand, were founded in 1947.  They are distinguished from all other major awards because they are chosen by audience members, specifically the thousands of individuals who make up the Drama League membership from all around the country.

And now for the winners!  The award for Distinguished Production of a Musical was given to A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which is also nominated for the equivalent Tony category, and which has been nominated for the greatest number of Tony Awards: 10.  This adds momentum to the Tony campaign for this new musical, whose competitors for thea gentleman's guide to love and murder a new musical comedy Tony category of Best Musical are Aladdin, After Midnight, and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.  The award for Distinguished Production of a Play was given to All the Way by Robert Schenkkan.  Starring Bryan Cranston as Lyndon Johnson, the play is a historical drama recounting the era of civil rights struggles in the 1960s.  The Distinguished Revival of a Musical was chosen to be Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and the Distinguished Revival of Play was determined to be The Glass Menagerie.  The Drama League only gives one Distinguished Performance Award, which was awarded to Neil Patrick Harris for his performance in the title role of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Furthermore, Barbara Cook was given an award for Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre.  At the age of 86, Cook was last seen on Broadway in 2010 for Sondheim on Sondheim, and she is well known for her roles in such shows as Plain and Fancy, Candide, and The Music Man.  In addition, the award for Unique Contribution to the Theatre was given to John Gore of Key Brand Entertainment and Broadway Across America.  Gore founded Key Brand Entertainment in 2004, and acquired Broadway Across America in 2008, as well as the e-commerce theatre website Broadway.com.  As a theatre producer, Gore’s Broadway credits include Bullets over Broadway, Betrayal, Jerusalem, Passing Strange, One Man Two Guv’nors, The Mountaintop, and many more.  Finally, the Founders Award for Excellence in Directing was given to John Tiffany, who directed The Glass Menagerie this season.  Of Scottish origin, Tiffany has only three Broadway credits, the first of which was Once, winner of the 2012 Tony Award for Best Musical and a long-running hit.  He also directed Alan Cumming’s one man show Macbeth last year.

Broadway Fall 2014 Line-Up Falling into Place

This fall looks to be an exciting one on Broadway!  Let’s face it – every new season is pretty exciting.  But with the Tony Awards still a month away to commend the brilliant plays and musicals of the 2013-2014 season, announcements are already being made for shows to open next fall.

It was recently announced that Hugh Jackman will be returning to Broadway this fall in Jez Butterworth’s play The River.  Jez Butterworth’s work was last seen on Broadway with the 2011 production of Jerusalem starring Mark Rylance, directed by Ian Rickson, and prohugh jackmanduced by London-based powerhouse theatre production company Sonia Friedman Productions.  Sonia Friedman will be shepherding a Butterworth play once again, after having watched over its production at the Royal Court Theatre, where Jerusalem also premiered.  The partnership between Ian Rickson and Jez Butterworth also holds strong, as Rickson is on board to direct this play.  The River is about a loner on a remote island and the two women in his life, who will be played by British actresses Laura Donnelly and Cush Jumbo.  The River will begin performances at the Circle in the Square Theatre on October 31, 2014.  A favorite of the Great White Way, Hugh Jackman sold out his 2011 one-man show Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway, and he will host the Tony Awards this year for the fourth time.

In addition to the proven partnership between director Ian Rickson and playwright Jez Butterworth, another fall show will see the recurrence of a proven Broadway partnership, this time between two beloved actors.  Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, who famously co-starred in 2001’s The Producers, will join forces this fall for a Terrence McNally play called It’s Only a Play, directed by Jack O’Brien.  Like The Producers, It’s Only a Play is also a comedy based in the world of show biz.  Having premiered at the Manhattan Theater Club in 1986, It’s Only a Play is the story of a nervous playwright (Broderick) at the opening night party for a play he has written, and his interactions with his backstabbing friend (Lane).  Produced by Tom Kirdahy, who is married to Terrence McNally, the play will begin performances in September at a theatre yet to be announced.

Producer Scott Rudin also has a starry play up his sleeve for this fall.  This Is Our Youth, written by Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me, Margaret, The Starry Messenger) first premiemichael cera kieran culkinred Off-Broadway in a production by The New Group in 1996.  The play centers on three aimless teenagers in New York City, and this Broadway production will star Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin, and Tavi Gevinson.  Directed by Anna D. Shapiro (Motherf**ker with the Hat), the show will have an out-of-town pre-Broadway run at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago over the summer, and it will then transfer to Broadway’s Cort Theatre with performances beginning August 18, 2014.  Michael Cera and Kieran Culkin also appeared in their same roles in an Australian production of this play in 2012, directed by Mark Brokaw.

Further fall productions that have been announced include Simon Stephens’ play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, which is a transfer from London’s National Theatre via the West End.  The play will occupy the Ethel Barrymore Theatre with previews beginning September 15, 2014.  In addition, The Country House by Donald Margulies will star Blythe Danner at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, with previews beginning September 9, 2014 in a Manhattan Theatre Club production.  Finally, it has also been announced that a production of Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing will play at the American Airlines Theatre in a Roundabout Theatre Company production, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ewan McGregor, and Cynthia Nixon, and directed by Sam Gold.  This is just the tip of the iceberg, however, as many more exciting shows are sure to be announced for the Broadway fall season in the coming months.

“Kinky Boots” Takes an Unusual Hiatus

Kinky Boots has been playing at the Al Hirschfield Theatre on Broadway since it began previews on March 3, 2013.  With a book by Harvey Fierstein (La Cage aux Folles, Newsies, Casa Valentina), a score by the singer songwriter Cyndi Lauper, and directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell (Legally Blonde: the Musical, The Rocky Horror Show revival), the musical is based on the 2005 film of the same name and inspired by a true story.  Kinky Boots is the sensationalized tale of a young man struggling to keep his father’s boot factory afloat in England, only to resuscitate it as a maker of boots for drag queens.  In addition to winning the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2013, it also took home the Tony Awards for Best Score, Best Actor (Billy Porter), Best Sound Design of a Musical, Best Choreography (Jerry Mitchell), and Best Orchestrations (Stephen Oremus), with an additional seven nominations.  Needless to say, the show is a hit, consistently playing to well over a million dollar grosses.

In a generally unprecedented move, Kinky Boots took a brief hiatus this past week.  Between May 8, 2014 and May 13, 2014, the show went dark, but the theatre did not.  Univision, the American Spanish language television station that boasts one of the largest audiences of SpKinky boots broadwayanish speaking television viewers in the world, rented out the Al Hirschfield Theatre over this period, during the time that the show would have played a full week of eight performances.  The only reason this was possible was because of Univision’s monetary power, as they not only paid for the theatre rental, but additionally paid the producers and theatre owners for the lost revenue in ticket sales over the eight performances in the 1,437 seat venue.  Furthermore, they also compensated the actors and stage crew, who were paid for their vacation as if they had been playing a regular performance week.  Exactly what Univision used this space for is unclear, but press statements affirm that the network used the theatre for upfront presentations.

In anticipation of this dark period, the producers of Kinky Boots – Daryl Roth and Hal Luftig – adjusted the performance schedule in weeks leading up to the break.  As a result, the weekly gross reports show an extraordinary decline for Kinky Boots.  In the week ending May 11, 2014, the show only grossed $668,658.  Though this may not be that low for other shows, even for other musicals, that represented a loss for Kinky Boots of $808,892 from the week before, when it earned $1,477,550.  The highest weekly gross that the show has earned thus far is $2,247,240, when it played nine performances in the week ending December 29, 2013.  As for eight performance weeks, its weekly gross record is $1,912,568 from the week ending December 1, 2013, when it made an extraordinary 124.61% of its gross potential.  Nonetheless, the show has still been grossing well above one million dollars throughout all of 2014 so far, and it looks to continue to be a favorite pick among visitors to New York City.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 5/11/2014

This week’s notable movements on Broadway are:

TICKET SALES PICKING UP WITH THE WARM WEATHER
As opposed to the previous two weeks, which showed very slow ticket sales, this past week demonstrated an increase in ticket buying for Broadway.  The largest increase was the new revival of Cabaret, which was up $155,270 from the previous week, reaching an all-time weekly high of $783,761.  Furthermore, After Midnight increased by $135,410, grossing $658,463 in the week ending May 11, 2014.  This show, which was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Musical, has grossed as much as $714,663 in past weeks, but this past week is the best the show has done in months.  Still, that gross only took the show to 66.15% of its gross capacity.

Other shows that saw an increase in sales this past week include Cinderella, which went up by $106,356, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which increased by $83,180, and the Daniel Radcliffe led play The Cripple of Inishmaan, which went up by $77,998.  Furthermore, The Bridges of Madison County increased by $106,038 after having announced that the show will close on May 18, 2014.  There is one more week of performances for this show to recoup a little more of its investment, but it will surely close at a financial loss.

KINKY BOOTS PLAYED ONLY A HALF WEEK OF PERFORMANCES
At first glance, the weekly gross of $668,658 appears to be an outrageous low for the 2013 Tony Award winning Best Musical Kinky Boots.  The musical has not earned less than $1,173,857 any week of the entire year 2014 so far, and that was on a frigidly cold week in early February.  This past week, it earned $808,892 less than the week before.  However, further examination of the data shows that Kinky Boots still earned 93.08% of its gross potential, as it only played 4 performances in the week ending May 11, 2014.  The reason for this is that it decided to take a short vacation.  From May 8 to May 13, 2014, the Al Hirschfield Theatre went dark, which is very unusual for a Broadway show to do during its run.  The only reason this is possible is because Univision, the international television network, is utilizing the theatre for upfront presentations throughout this period.  How did they convince the Nederlander Organization, who owns the theatre, to allow this?  In addition to paying for rental, Univision is paying for all eight performances that will be missed during that week.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending May 11, 2014: Broadway Show Ticket Analysis w/e 5-11-14

Show GrossGross Total Attn %Cap AvgPdAdm
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $663,459 7,065 97.37% $93.91
A RAISIN IN THE SUN $1,184,774 8,368 100.00% $141.58
ACT ONE $433,912 5,867 67.65% $73.96
AFTER MIDNIGHT $658,463 7,493 90.41% $87.88
ALADDIN $1,171,988 13,782 99.99% $85.04
ALL THE WAY $828,296 7,120 83.45% $116.33
BEAUTIFUL $1,087,702 8,259 100.62% $131.70
BULLETS OVER BROADWAY $952,840 10,481 80.38% $90.91
CABARET $783,761 7,083 99.82% $110.65
CASA VALENTINA $249,728 4,409 85.58% $56.64
CHICAGO $597,445 7,244 83.84% $82.47
CINDERELLA $742,072 9,536 68.08% $77.82
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH $971,988 7,210 102.28% $134.81
IF/THEN $1,001,802 9,408 89.70% $106.48
JERSEY BOYS $744,831 7,436 75.69% $100.17
KINKY BOOTS $668,658 5,524 96.98% $121.05
LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL $528,025 4,664 97.70% $113.21
LES MISÉRABLES $1,049,079 10,028 88.96% $104.61
MAMMA MIA! $696,527 7,881 84.49% $88.38
MATILDA $915,544 10,217 89.18% $89.61
MOTHERS AND SONS $203,679 3,194 49.78% $63.77
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL $1,159,405 11,032 91.51% $105.09
NEWSIES $592,716 8,132 85.78% $72.89
OF MICE AND MEN $852,668 8,156 95.01% $104.54
ONCE $469,441 5,369 63.37% $87.44
PIPPIN $615,001 6,784 85.66% $90.65
ROCK OF AGES $310,326 3,701 79.35% $83.85
ROCKY $741,927 8,795 72.52% $84.36
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,667,542 8,752 102.63% $190.53
THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY $392,986 6,221 76.31% $63.17
THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN $571,593 6,309 73.50% $90.60
THE LION KING $1,693,549 11,904 100.03% $142.27
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $882,551 10,886 84.78% $81.07
THE REALISTIC JONESES $569,042 6,046 86.67% $94.12
VIOLET $360,843 5,014 85.39% $71.97
WICKED $1,736,317 14,711 96.88% $118.03
Totals: $28,750,477 284,081 86.43% $98.65

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

‘America’s Got Talent’ Faces Tough Time Filling Seats In NYC

For the May 2014 taping of season 9 of the NBC behemoth TV show, America’s Got Talent (AGT), Mariah Carey’s hubby, Nick Cannon and the various judges Howard Stern, Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum and Mel B are certainly a big draw for audiences to see the show in NYC, but producers have created confusion in the choice of varied tape dates and locations for the taping’s, leading to a shortage of audience members.

For what’s billed as “Judgment Week “, normally the AGT show would be sold out, but right now there are many empty seats to be had over the next few days and many “priority seating” options are left empty, which is quite rare. The timings of the taping’s are also pretty awful with two taping’s a day at 9 AM and 2:15 PM maintaining a rigorous and demanding taping schedule. Many New Yorker’s just aren’t getting up for this. It is expected that in order to keep the morning audience there for the afternoon that they will feed them lunch as a bribe, a classic Hollywood trick.

The latest taping location is at Pier 92/94 on the West Side Highway, which is normally a  trade show and special event venue that houses the Westminster dog show and various other corporate trade shows. It’s weird to see AGT relegated to such a meager environment, especially given the high quality of the previous taping locations . Pier 92/94 bills itself in the “heart of midtown”, but in reality it is located on the outskirts of Midtown Manhattan at 55th Street and the West Side Highway, with no subway and little public transportation going there, that doesn’t help audience members who want to see the show, and have to battle rush-hour traffic to get there. No doubt the celebrities on the show, will be able to use Howard Stern’s “Ronnie Mund” AKA ” Ronnie the limo driver” to take them out there, in the quiet comfort of his customized Audi A8 complete with a working AC petcock.

AGT americas got talent show datesIt’s widely know that the reason AGT is shot in NYC is due to Howard Stern’s demanding schedule with The Howard Stern Show at Sirius XM radio so it remains to be seen if this format of moving around NYC in search of shooting locations will work over time or Howard will get bored and move onto new TV projects. It seems like just only a few moments ago the show was stationed in the theater at Madison Square Garden and before that it was at the Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark NJ. It is not clear where the live shows will be taped in the summer of 2014, but given the constant go-around NYC, it could be pretty much anywhere in the tri-state area.

What also doesn’t help is that the show isn’t on our TV screens right now, so there is little interest in the public minds – out of sight, out of mind. All the footage from these current shows is recorded and then edited down to the bare minimum, so the feel of this kind of show is labored and somewhat less compelling than a “Live” show, where it seems like anything could happen. Audiences in Hollywood would often be paid to attend these kinds of shows, but the New York ones have to be run more cheaply as the cost of shooting these shows in NYC is about double the Californian rate. The taped show also take a lot longer to shoot, often two and a half hours, with re-shoots and lighting adjustments galore,  which makes the audience restless and often bored. So bored  in fact that they don’t come back, especially given the amount of boos that Nick Cannon received recently at Madison Square Garden, when he came to see the NY Knicks play. His AGT TV producers thought it would be a great idea to shoot an AGT promo at the game and for him to appear on the MSG Jumbotron and then do a trick shot (Throwing the ball behind his head, while someone else throws a ball into the basket) His appearance on the Jumbotron was met with loud crowd boos and then his failed trick shot added to the crowd torment and they started getting mean. After a 2nd, but successful, attempt Nick Cannon finally sat down and then left the stadium just ten minutes later as he appears to have little interest in the Knicks. New Yorker’s generally do not like Nick Cannon and clearly Knicks fans positively dislike him, and now he knows it  if he didn’t know already. NBC’s AGT producers are well known producers of “fakeality” TV Shows and are to expected to still use the negative footage recorded at MSG, remove the loud boos, overdub the audio and edit out the fans rude hand gestures and make it appear that Mr Cannon was in fact the darling of The Garden.

We look forward to see the live shows of AGT come back to NYC in July and it will be interesting to see if the public interest in seeing this show returns, but given the current nomadic spin on shooting locations, the show could end up in Danbury, Connecticut. The home of all the other NBC universal shows. If only Howard Stern would agree to the move.

For your information, the official address of this shooting location at Pier 92/94 is 711 12th Avenue, New York, NY 10019.

“The Bridges of Madison County” to Close on May 18

Based on the 1992 best-selling novel by Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County is a musical with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown (Parade, Songs for a New World), a book by Marsha Norman (‘night, Mother), and directed by Bartlett Sher.  Though the show was a highly anticipated transfer from the Williamstown Theatre Festival where it ran in summer 2013, it will unfortunately close on May 18, 2014 after consistently moderate sales.  The musical opened at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on February 20, 2014 after 37 preview performances, and it will have run 100 regular performances by the time it shutters its doors.

The musical was not helped by its schedule, hbridges of madison county musical kelli o'hara steven pasqualeaving opened in the midst of a very cold winter.  Furthermore, it received mixed reviews from critics, despite considerable appreciation for the performances of its two stars.  Kelli O’Hara, who has received Tony Award nominations for her roles in The Light in the Piazza, The Pajama Game, South Pacific, and Nice Work if You Can Get It, starred alongside Steven Pasquale, who is known for his television roles on Rescue Me and Six Feet UnderThe Bridges of Madison County received four Tony Award nominations in 2014, including those for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Kelli O’Hara), Best Original Score (Jason Robert Brown), Best Orchestrations (Jason Robert Brown), and Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Donald Holder).  Despite this appreciation from the theatre community, it did not manage to attract enough ticket-buyers to keep it afloat.

Financially, the show’s highest weekly gross was $476,374, but it generally grossed around $350,000 per week.  This is hardly enough to sustain a musical, even though its capitalization was a modest $8.5 million.  In general, it only amassed enough sales to reach 30 to 40 percent of its gross potential in a given week.  Since early March, it has been on a steady decline, and this past week it grossed $64,998 less than the week before.

The novel is one of the bestselling books of the 20th century, having sold 50 million copies worldwide.  It is the story of an Italianbridges of madison county kelli o'hara steven pasquale bed scene woman named Francesca who lives in Madison County, Iowa in the 1960s.  The story takes off when she starts an affair with a National Geographic photographer focused on covered bridges in the area, and it follows the couple for several years afterward.  In addition to this musical adaptation, the novel was made into a film in 1995 directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Eastwood and Meryl Streep.

This is a very competitive season for new musicals.  In addition to the four that were nominated for the Tony Award for Best Musical – A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Aladdin, After Midnight, and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical – this season also saw the premiere of Bullets over Broadway, If/Then, and Rocky the Musical, as well as the Broadway premiere of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Violet (though these two shows have had Off-Broadway runs in the past).  In addition to the slew of musical revivals and plays both new and revived, it was particularly difficult for a new musical to find its audience, even one with such name recognition as The Bridges of Madison County.

“Bullets Over Broadway” Opens at the St. James Theatre

Bullets over Broadway, the new musical based off the 1994 film of the same name, opened on April 10, 2014 at Broadway’s St. James Theatre.  With a book by Woody Allen based on the screenplay he wrote along with Douglas McGrath, the musical is directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman.  The story is a fitting one for Broadway, as it tells of a young playwright in 1929 named David Shayne who is desperately trying to get his first Broadway production.  In order to secure financing for the play, he agrees to hire the girlfriend of a gangster, in exchange for that gangster backing the production.  The actress’ gangster escort turns out to be a genius contributor to revising the play, but soon David is pretending that those ideas are his own.  Bad turns to worse, as David begins cheating on his girlfriend with the alcoholic leading lady, and the leading man, who is also a compulsive eater, begins to eye the gangster’s girlfriend.

The cast is led by actor-writer Zach Braff (Garden State, Scrubs) as David Shayne.  Though this is Braff’s Broadway debut, he is a familiar face on the Off-Broadway scene, not only as an actor but also as playwright; his play All New People played at New York’s Second Stage Theatre in 2011.  The cast bullets over broadway the musicalof Bullets over Broadway also includes Marin Mazzie as the leading lady Helen Sinclair, Helene Yorke as the gangster’s girlfriend Olive, and Nick Cordero as her escort Cheech.  Of all these actors, however, only Nick Cordero received a Tony nomination, for the category of Best Featured Actor in a Musical.

In total, the musical received six Tony Award nominations, also including those for Best Book of a Musical for Woody Allen, Best Scenic Design for Santo Loquasto, Best Costume Design for William Ivey Long, Best Choreography for Susan Stroman, and Best Orchestrations for Doug Besterman.  This may be considered a disappointment compared to what some theatre industry watchers were expecting, as the musical failed to be nominated in any of the major categories, such as Best New Musical, Best Director, or Best Score.  Furthermore, it is interesting to note that Woody Allen, for his first ever Tony nomination, will be competing against Douglas McGrath, who wrote the book for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, and who also co-wrote the screenplay for the film Bullets over Broadway.

However, the biggest disappointment is that the musical received fairly negative reviews.  Ben Brantley of The New York Times called it “occasionally funny but mostly just loud.”  Ending his review on a perhaps prophetic note, Brantley then suggested that the authenticity-seeking Cheech take over direction of the musical, and the Tony nominating committee seemed to agrbullets over broadway dance numberee that this performance was one of the best things going for the show.  Furthermore, Marilyn Stasio of Variety remarked how the script was surprisingly few on laughs, and that several of the big dance numbers fall flat, most notably “The Hot Dog Song.”  The Hollywood Reporter also disliked the show, comparing it to a “watered-down champagne cocktail.”  Only NBC New York seemed to like it, even going so far as to call it the best new musical on Broadway this season.  Too bad the Tony committee did not agree.

Financially, the show has been staying afloat, if not exceedingly well.  In the week ending April 27, 2014, it grossed $956,227, and it did even a little bit better in the week preceding that.  In the first few weeks of performances, it did numbers in the 700 to 800,000 dollar range, which is still fairly decent.  Its audience capacity has been flitting between 86 to 92 percent, with an average ticket price around 70 or 80 dollars, which shows a normal amount of discounting for a show still trying to hit its stride.  All in all, the name value of this title will certainly help it find its audience, and the star power of Zach Braff shouldn’t hurt.  Still, with mediocre reviews and minimal Tony recognition, this musical may not ever become the hit that its producers hoped it would.