“Lady Day” Recoups on Broadway

Continual Extensions, and a Financial Hit

microphoneLady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, the play with music starring Audra McDonald as Billie Holiday, has recouped its investment and will conclude its run having earned a substantial profit. Running at the modest sized Circle in the Square Theater since March 25, 2014, with its official opening on April 13, 2014, this production has been extended three times, and is now slated to run until September 21, 2014 (with a hiatus between September 1st to 7th). With a budget of $2.6 million, the play was performing only mediocrely at the box office until June, when Audra McDonald took home the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play. Since then, the show has taken in between 80 and 90% of its gross potential each week. The weekly grosses are lower than many other shows due to the small seating capacity of the theatre, but audience demand nevertheless allowed the show to enter profits.

Audra McDonald Draws in the Audiences

The critical response to the show was mixed, but reviewers unanimously lauded McDonald’s performance as Holiday at the end Actress singer Audra McDonald red carpet event black dressof her career. The plot piles in the more tragic elements of Holiday’s life, and some reviewers felt that this storytelling was contrived. However, McDonald – a favorite with theatregoers, Tony voters, and critics – was praised for her ability to tone down her magnificent voice to communicate the sadder period of Holiday’s career, and yet she still managed to convey a rich and expressive tone. The production, directed by Lonny Price, was nominated for one more Tony Award beyond McDonald’s, that for Best Sound Design of a Play (Steve Canyon Kennedy), which it did not win. The Tony committee deemed that the show was eligible for the award of Best Revival of a Play, which was controversial both because the play had never been done on Broadway, and because it is full of music. However, the committee felt it was best categorized as a play with music.

The Play’s History

Lady Day was written by Lanie Robertson with its original premiere in 1986 at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. The play also ran Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre in 1986, running for 281 performances. The Broadway production, produced by Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel, was originally scheduled for a 10-week limited engagement, but awards recognition and audience support allowed the show to continually announce extensions. With many weeks now left to go, the show will conclude its run significantly in the black.

Recoupment on Broadway This Season

Several other shows have announced recoupment this season. Most recently, Of Mice and Men starring James Franco ended its run having passed the line into profits. A Raisin in the Sun starring Denzel Washington, which won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play, also made back its investment, while also performing excellently both critically and in terms of awards. Furthermore, All the Way starring Bryan Cranston recouped its investment, having won the Tony Award for Best Play. Finally, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which is still running indefinitely after having won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical, has already announced recoupment. This goes to show that in general, Tony Awards make a huge difference at the box office, especially for the four major awards (Best Play, Best Musical, Best Revival of a Play, and Best Revival of a Musical), as well as the Best Performance categories.

“Of Mice and Men” Concludes Its Run

A Magnificent Financial Success

Of Mice and Men with James Franco and Chris O'DowdThis year’s revival of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, starring James Franco, Chris O’Dowd, and Leighton Meester, concluded performances this past Sunday, July 27, 2014. Having begun performances on March 19, 2014 at the Longacre Theatre, the play officially opened on April 16, 2014. Directed by Anna D. Shapiro (Motherf**ker with the Hat), this production received moderate to positive reviews, but it succeeded in becoming a record-breaking financial hit. With a budget of $3.8 million, the play recouped its capitalization in just 12 weeks of its 19 week run. With sales doing well but not extraordinarily throughout the bulk of the run, Of Mice and Men saw a huge upsurge in box office in its final week of performances, earning $1,038,106 over the course of 8 performances. With just over 100 seats, the Longacre Theatre has never seen a gross this high; in fact, it marks the first time a show in this theatre has broken the million dollar mark.

National Theatre Live

The production also locked down another notable achievement in its final weeks. The National Theatre Live series produced by the National Theatre in London, which films live performances to be screened to 500 movie theaters around the world, has chosen Of Mice and Men as the first ever Broadway production to be filmed for its series. In fact, this is the first time a non-British production has been chosen for this prestigious scheme allowing it to be seen so accessibly worldwide. So far, the National Theatre Live series has filmed and screened 40 productions. After the final public performance on Sunday, July 27, 2014, instead of loading out of the theatre on Monday, the crew loaded in the equipment of the National Theatre. On Tuesday, July 29, 2014, the cast performed the play once more to be filmed, this time for a select group of invited guests. Although this would generally break many union requirements, the show’s producers have come to agreement with all the relevant unions.

The Cult of James Franco

The play earned two Tony Award nominations – those for Best Leading Actor for Chris O’Dowd and for Japhy Weideman for james francoLighting Design – but it won neither. A notable snub was that James Franco was not nominated for an award, although the press surrounding the show is overwhelming in his regard. This is possibly because the theatre community resented Franco’s entitled egotism, which he displayed prominently on social media following a negative review by the most respected New York Times theatre critic, Ben Brantley. In any event, the show’s reviews did not seem to deter ticket buyers, as those who wanted to see the show would not be put off by some niche bad theatre press. After all, James Franco’s influence is gigantic and increasingly so, as he continues to expand into more and more domains. During the period in which he was performing in this Broadway show eight times a week, which is usually enough to occupy any actor, he also directed an Off-Broadway show at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre called The Long Shrift, not to mention his numerous other commitments ranging from teaching acting in Los Angeles, to running his film production outfit Rabbit Bandini, to performing and directing in numerous film projects. In this light, the cult of James Franco does not seem to be slowing its pace anytime soon, and Broadway is another box he can tick on his infinite list of achievements.

Broadway Dims Its Lights for Elaine Stritch

On Thursday, July 17, 2014, Elaine Stritch, the notorious and viscerally talented star of stage and cabaret, died at the age of 89. The following evening at 7:45pm, every Broadway marquis dimmed its lights in her honor for one minute. This is a long Broadway tradition only given to truly eternal contributors to the world of Broadway, and Elaine Stritch is certainly one of them.

elaine stritch

A Long and Lauded Career

Stritch first performed on Broadway in 1946, playing the role of Pamela Brewster in a play called Loco. Her first major recognition came from her performance as Melba Snyder in the 1952 revival of the musical Pal Joey, when she famously performed a song called “Zip!”. She earned her first Tony Award in 1956, earning the honor of Best Featured Actress in a Play for her role as a waitress named Grace Hoylard in William Inge’s Bus Stop. Her next Tony Award came in 1962, when she won the award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Mimi Paragon in Noël Coward’s Sail Away. Perhaps the role for which she is best remembered, however, is Joanne in Stephen Sondheim’s Company. Not only did she win the 1971 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance, but her rendition of “Ladies Who Lunch” will always be definitive. She also won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance in 1996.

elaine stritch at libertyCabaret Performance and Documentary

More recently, Stritch performed a one-woman show entitled Elaine Stritch: At Liberty, which premiered Off-Broadway at the Public Theater in 2001, then transferring to Broadway in 2002. This show earned the Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event. Directed by George C. Wolfe and with a book by John Lahr (or rather the technical credits are Constructed by John Lahr, and Reconstructed by Elaine Stritch), the cabaret show then toured to London’s Old Vic Theatre, and it was also filmed for a TV documentary. Furthermore, Stritch was the subject of a 2014 documentary film entitled Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, which received a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and includes interviews with her friends such as Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey, James Gandolfini, Cherry Jones, Nathan Lane, Harold Prince, John Turturro, and George C. Wolfe.

Personal Life

Stritch was candid about her long struggle with alcoholism. In the beginning of her career, this gave her credit as a woman who could challenge a man at anything, even drinking, but as the years progressed she admitted it as a problem, and supposed it as a cause for her later onset of diabetes. She began to drink at age 14 in order to overcome stage fright, but her drinking got worse after her husband’s passing. As recounted in her cabaret show, Stritch has had romances over the years with Marlon Brando, elaine stritchGig Young, and Ben Gazzara, and was married for a short time to John Bay, until his death in 1982.

In the final years of her life, she retired to her home state of Michigan. She died in her sleep in her home in Birmingham at the age of 89. Upon news of her passing, not only did Broadway dim their lights, but countless obituaries surfaced from many individuals – some very renowned – who loved her very dearly.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 7/27/2014

This week’s notable movements on Broadway are:

“Of Mice and Men” Breaks a Million in its Final Week

The revival of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men played its final performance on Sunday, July 27, 2014.  Starring James Franco, Chris O’Dowd, and Leighton Meester, the show attracted a fair amount of press attention upon its premiere; however the reviews were mixed, with the celebrity appeal and inherent value of the classic play superseding actual praise for the production.  Nevertheless, in its final week, audiences flocked to catch Franco in his last moments onstage.  The weekly gross last week was $1,038,106, which was the first week the show broke through the million dollar mark.  It was also the first time it earned over 100% of its gross capacity, coming in at 109.97%.  The average ticket price was also at a high of $121.06.  The show even beat out some major musicals including this year’s Tony Award winning show A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.  These sales were likely helped by the recent announcement that this production will be the first Broadway show ever to be recorded and screened live as part of the National Theatre Live screening series.

“Violet” Gasping for Air

This Roundabout musical starring Sutton Foster has already announced its closing date: August 10, 2014.  In its final weeks, it is at the bottom of the Broadway barrel.  This past week, it grossed only $357,776, which was only 46.38% of its gross potential.  This is quite low, especially for a musical.  However, because it is produced by a not-for-profit theatre institution, this musical does not face the same commercial pressures as most Broadway shows that are fronted by private funds.  With a top ticket price of $142.00, the show’s average ticket price this week was $73.74.  Still, though Violet earned the title of lowest grossing show this week, it was beat out by one show in terms of lowest percentage earned of its gross potential. Bullets over Broadway, which has also announced its closing date of August 24, 2014, grossed a higher amount of $663,950 this past week.  However, because it is in a larger theatre with a greater earning capacity, it managed to bring in only 43.80% of its gross potential.  This musical, unlike Violet, is not backed by a not-for-profit theatre institution.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending July 27, 2014:Broadway-Show-Ticket-Analysis-7-27-14

Show GrossGross TotalAttn %Cap AvgPdAdm
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $944,778 7,330 101.02% $128.89
ALADDIN $1,512,464 13,775 99.93% $109.80
BEAUTIFUL $1,315,468 8,272 100.78% $159.03
BULLETS OVER BROADWAY $663,950 8,985 68.90% $73.90
CABARET $834,470 6,790 95.04% $122.90
CHICAGO $626,904 7,598 87.94% $82.51
CINDERELLA $824,605 11,262 80.40% $73.22
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH $1,068,441 7,212 102.31% $148.15
IF/THEN $822,516 9,283 88.51% $88.60
JERSEY BOYS $902,008 9,085 92.48% $99.29
KINKY BOOTS $1,305,460 10,997 96.53% $118.71
LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL $556,537 4,654 97.49% $119.58
LES MISÉRABLES $1,081,661 10,886 96.58% $99.36
MAMMA MIA! $788,598 8,863 95.02% $88.98
MATILDA $1,196,994 11,540 100.73% $103.73
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL $991,495 10,220 84.77% $97.02
NEWSIES $896,763 9,461 99.80% $94.79
OF MICE AND MEN $1,038,106 8,575 99.90% $121.06
ONCE $472,176 6,218 73.39% $75.94
PIPPIN $676,450 7,673 96.88% $88.16
ROCK OF AGES $360,045 4,148 88.94% $86.80
ROCKY $701,805 9,278 76.50% $75.64
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,640,549 8,752 102.63% $187.45
THE LION KING $2,304,798 13,604 100.03% $169.42
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $1,140,517 12,634 98.40% $90.27
VIOLET $357,776 4,852 82.63% $73.74
WICKED $2,012,891 15,423 99.99% $130.51
Totals: $27,038,224 247,370 92.87% $107.68

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

“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” Recoups on Broadway

An Astounding Success

hedwig and the angry inch neil patrick harris titleJohn Cameron Mitchell’s glam rock musical about a German transvestite has turned a profit on Broadway.  Starring Neil Patrick Harris, Hedwig and the Angry Inch began its Broadway premiere at the Belasco Theatre on March 29, 2014, with its official opening on April 22, 2014.  Though this is the first time the show has been in a Broadway theatre, it was considered a revival for purposes of Tony consideration because it premiered Off-Broadway and has had many productions around the world, as well as a feature film adaptation.  In that regard, the show scored big at the Tony’s.  It was nominated for eight awards, winning four: Best Revival of a Musical, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (Neil Patrick Harris), Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (Lena Hall), and Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Kevin Adams).

Neil Patrick Harris to be Replaced by Andrew Rannells after August 17th

Though the production was originally slated to have a limited engagement concluding on August 17, 2014, the show has announced that it will remain open due to robust ticket sales.  Instead, the star performer will be replaced by Andrew Rannells, who made a name for himself by starring as Elder Price in the original Broadway cast of The Book of Mormon, and who is also a
regular cast member on HBO’s “Girls.”  Though the excellent box office performance was due in part to the star power of Neil Patrick Harris, the show has now laid firm ground for continued success, and Rannells will certainly shine in the lead part.  The big question is whether the profits will continue to be as astounding with Rannells in the part.

A Financial Slam Dunkneil patrick harris in performance as hedwig in hedwig and the angry inch

The show recouped in a magnificently efficient 15 weeks.  Though the budget was exceedingly low for a musical at only $5 million, the critical and commercial was better than anyone could have expected.  The recoupment occurred in the week ending July 13, 2014.  In that week, the musical grossed $1,072,311, which was 128.51% of its gross potential.  In the week ending July 20, 2014, the show did even better, reaping in $1,088,660, which was 130.47% of its gross potential.  Though that was the highest gross potential percentage for the production to date, it has consistently been well over 100%, with only 2 weeks near the start of the run when the show made less than 100% of its gross potential.  The top ticket price is $248, which is lower than some, and the average ticket price has always been over $100, generally closer to $150 in recent weeks.  This demonstrates extreme demand for the show, as discounting is not at all necessary, and audience members are vying for limited seating availability.

Shubert Organization Plans to Purchase New World Stages

Just One Block From Broadway

new world stagesThe Shubert Organization, the most powerful Broadway landlord which presently owns 17 of the 40 Broadway theatres, has disclosed that it plans to purchase New World Stages, an Off-Broadway theatre “mall” on West 50th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues.  New World Stages comprises five venues ranging in size from 199 to 499 seats, and has become a home for retired Broadway shows looking to extend their runs in smaller, more affordable venues, as well as for try-outs of new shows that are looking to avoid the high production and labor costs required by Broadway union contracts.  Presently running at the complex is Avenue Q, which transferred there seamlessly following its Broadway run and is still enjoying success, as well as Heathers, a new musical based on the film of the same name which has never been on Broadway.  Other shows running at the space include The Gazillion Bubble Show, Stalking the Bogeyman, and iLuminate.  Past Broadway transfers to the space include Million Dollar Quartet and Peter and the Starcatcher.

Presently Owned by “Rocky” Producers Stage Entertainment

In its current form, New World Stages opened in 2004 when Dodger Theatricals spent $23 million to convert a flopped discount movie house into the theatre mall, complete with 5 venues as well as three bars and ample restroom space.  The complex is presently owned by Joop van den Ende, the Dutch billionaire whose international production entity Stage Entertainment was behind the Broadway shows Sister Act and Rocky, and is presently developing a musical adaptation of the 1997 animated film AnastasiaRocky will close on August 17, 2014 at a significant financial loss, but this is unrelated as Stage Entertainment began exploring this sale over a year ago in an effort to focus their attention on developing and producing Broadway shows, rather than serving as part-time landlord for an Off-Broadway house.  The Shubert sale has not been finalized, but it has been confirmed by Shubert CEO Phil Smith and is expected to occur within a year for an amount of seven figures.

Joop van den Ende of Stage Entertainment

Joop van den Ende of Stage Entertainment

A New Angle on Off-Broadway for the Shuberts

The Shubert Organization has entered the realm of Off-Broadway before, but never to outstanding success.  In the early 1990s, it partnered with producer-manager Ben Sprecher (who was also behind the infamous Rebecca) to convert a former East Village porno house into the Variety Arts Theatre.  However, that venture flopped in 2005 and the property was torn down.  A greater but still not astounding success was the Shubert’s effort to build their own Off-Broadway house, the 499-seat Little Shubert Theatre on West 42nd Street.  Despite the success of neighboring Off-Broadway institutions such as Playwrights Horizons, the Signature Theatre, and the New Group performing at the Acorn on Theatre Row, the Little Shubert has had difficulty attracting quality content.  Nevertheless, this purchase of New World Stages would be a different kind of Off-Broadway venture for the Shuberts, particularly because of the venue’s already established reputation for serving as a kind of retirement home for Broadway shows that still have some life in them.  By applying the company’s already established management structure to this new theatre, the Shubert Organization will be able to streamline costs and broker seamless transitions for shows that may benefit from the opportunity to downsize.

“The Cripple of Inishmaan” Concludes Its Run

Daniel Radcliffe Takes His Final Bow

The Cripple of Inishmaan Daniel RadcliffeThis year’s revival of Martin McDonagh’s Irish dark comedy The Cripple of Inishmaan played its final Broadway performance at the Cort Theatre on Sunday, July 20, 2014.  The production was directed by Michael Grandage and starred Daniel Radcliffe, the British Harry Potter star who has recently performed on Broadway in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Equus.  The play’s American premiere was in 1998 at the Public Theater, and it also enjoyed a 2008 revival by the Atlantic Theater Company.  Though this was the show’s first time on Broadway, it was considered a revival for purposes of Tony consideration.  At the 2014 Tony ceremony, the production received six Tony Award nominations: Best Revival of a Play, Best Direction of a Play (Michael Grandage), Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play (Sarah Greene), Best Sound Design of a Play (Alex Baranowski), Best Lighting Design of a Play (Paule Constable), and Best Scenic Design of a Play (Christopher Oram).

A Critical But Not Commercial Success

Beginning performances on April 12, 2014, The Cripple of Inishmaan officially opened on April 20, 2014.  Over the course of its 114 performances, the show performed adequately but not excellently at the box office.  In its final week of performances, the show saw an upsurge in ticket sales, concluding with a weekly gross of $740,711, which represented 76.35% of the show’s gross potential that week.  Unfortunately, that was the highest weekly gross of any week throughout the show’s run.  Though Radcliffe’s last two Broadway outings played to more fanfare and commercial success, this may prove that even such undeniable star power may not attract audiences to a little known Irish straight play with a puzzling title.  It is to Radcliffe’s credit, however, that he seems to be selecting his roles not based on their spectacle or pizzazz but rather for his genuine interest in their artistic merit.

Daniel Radcliffe, The Gentleman

Though this production was a financial wash, it was a critical smash.  Critics loved the revival, with Ben Brantley of The New York daniel radcliffe selfie what ifTimes calling the production “splendid,” and the ensemble “first-class.”  Though this production was not a commercial success, it did not slow down Radcliffe’s career for a second.  On Monday, July 21, 2014, the night after closing The Cripple of Inishmaan, he flew to Toronto to premiere his new film at the Scotiabank Theatre, What If co-starring Zoe Kazan.  Furthermore, the good-natured movie star took the time to take selfies with his fans outside stage door following the final performance, demonstrating his impressive ability to remain genuinely kind-hearted and appreciative of his devotees, despite his immense fame.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 7/20/2014

This week’s notable movements on Broadway are:

“The Cripple of Inishmaan” Ends on a High Note

The Daniel Radcliffe led revival of The Cripple of Inishmaan concluded performances this Sunday, July 20, 2014.  Throughout its run, box office sales were somewhat of a disappointment, hovering around $500,000 for the weekly gross.  However, in the final week of its run, fans did turn out to catch the Harry Potter star in his final performances.  In that week, the gross was a record for the show at $740,711, which was 76.35% of its gross potential.  Prior to this past week, the highest percentage for gross potential for any full performance week was 66.37%.  With an average ticket price of $88.63, the show was filled up to an average 97.4% capacity in the week ending July 20, 2014.

“Holler If Ya Hear Me” Also Ramps It Up, But Still at the Bottom of the Pack

Also closing on Sunday, July 20, 2014 was the Tupac Shakur inspired musical Holler if Ya Hear Me.  Unlike The Cripple of Inishmaan, this show closed much earlier than expected.  Still, in its final week, sales did increase, with a weekly gross of $266,984.  Still, that was only 29.11% of its gross potential.  Only running since June 2, 2014, this musical’s highest weekly gross prior to its final week was $170,652, which was only 21.19% of its gross potential.  This past week, the average ticket price was still only $39.51, and despite such heavy discounting, it only filled up to an average audience capacity of 76.0%.

Overall An Excellent Week For Broadway

This past week, almost every single show had a higher weekly gross than it did the week before.  The only one exception was the Idina Menzel musical If/Then, which had a weekly gross decrease of $27,115.  On the other hand, the entire industry was in the black, with an overall increase of $2,232,430.  The highest increase was seen by The Lion King, which grossed the highest of any show on Broadway at $2,431,017, which was an incredible $279,608 higher than its previous week’s gross.  Just behind was The Book of Mormon, which grossed $1,817,551, showing an increase of $196,277 from the week prior.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending July 20, 2014:

Broadway-Show-Ticket-Analysis-7-20-14

Show GrossGross TotalAttn %Cap AvgPdAdm
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $957,145 7,345 101.23% $130.31
ALADDIN $1,542,832 13,781 99.98% $111.95
BEAUTIFUL $1,300,153 8,270 100.76% $157.21
BULLETS OVER BROADWAY $686,693 8,725 66.91% $78.70
CABARET $831,305 6,831 95.62% $121.70
CHICAGO $601,245 7,517 87.00% $79.98
CINDERELLA $747,181 10,225 72.99% $73.07
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH $1,088,660 7,214 102.34% $150.91
HOLLER IF YA HEAR ME $266,984 6,758 76.04% $39.51
IF/THEN $773,533 8,680 82.76% $89.12
JERSEY BOYS $873,784 8,687 88.43% $100.59
KINKY BOOTS $1,314,190 11,042 96.93% $119.02
LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL $556,091 4,629 96.96% $120.13
LES MISÉRABLES $1,072,101 10,798 95.79% $99.29
MAMMA MIA! $774,592 8,766 93.98% $88.36
MATILDA $1,167,031 11,544 100.77% $101.09
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL $983,055 10,290 85.35% $95.53
NEWSIES $862,977 9,359 98.72% $92.21
OF MICE AND MEN $929,343 8,566 99.79% $108.49
ONCE $499,598 6,690 78.97% $74.68
PIPPIN $626,694 7,296 92.12% $85.90
ROCK OF AGES $340,633 4,066 87.18% $83.78
ROCKY $674,063 8,333 68.71% $80.89
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,817,551 9,846 102.63% $184.60
THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN $740,711 8,357 97.36% $88.63
THE LION KING $2,431,017 15,155 99.05% $160.41
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $1,114,417 12,368 96.32% $90.10
VIOLET $327,327 4,696 79.97% $69.70
WICKED $1,966,367 15,375 99.68% $127.89
Totals: $27,867,272 261,209 91.18% $103.58

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

“Holler If Ya Hear Me” Closes Early On Broadway

holler if ya hear meAmbitious to Begin With

Holler If Ya Hear Me, the Tupac Shakur inspired musical that has been running on Broadway since June 2, 2014, closes today on Broadway – July 20, 2014 – after just 17 preview performances and 38 regular performances.  In the first place, the producers were taking a gamble because they elected to open a new musical at the start of the summer season, just after the excitement had died down after the Tony Awards.  This was certainly not the exception to prove the rule that it is a better bet to open at the height of the fall or spring seasons.  Second of all, the subject matter of the musical and the hip hop genre are unusual for Broadway.  Though Tupac Shakur is a huge household name, his audience doesn’t exactly correspond with the usual Broadway demographic.  It is admirable for producers to aim to reinvent the Broadway demographic, but it doesn’t just happen automatically.  Unfortunately, despite noble attempts at marketing and promotional efforts, this production did not crack the code for expanding the Broadway audience.

A Financial Failure

It is very possible that, given more time to reach its audience, the show could have sustained itself financially and reached a plateau where it was inching towards profitability.  However, the economics of Broadway dictate a very high floor for running costs, and in fact the theatre landlord can invoke a stop clause to force any production out of its house that is not making a certain minimum gross each week.  In the first six weeks of its run, Holler If Ya Hear Me did not gross over $163,586 in any week.  That number was only 18.32% of the show’s potential gross.  With a comparatively modest budget of $8 million, the show would still require a much higher gross in order to remain open.  The producers were forced to discount significantly, and therefore the average ticket price was generally around $30 to $35, which is exceedingly low for Broadway.  The lead producer Eric L. Gold admitted in Variety that he made a “rookie mistake” in misunderstanding the capital required to sustain a Broadway show.

Kenny Leon’s Latest Show

Holler If Ya Hear Me is the newest show directed by Kenny Leon, the exceedingly prolific director of African American content on holler if ya hear me castBroadway.  However, Mr. Leon has just as many hits as misses, with his repertoire including the vastly successful 2014 revival of A Raisin in the Sun and 2010’s Fences both starring Denzel Washington, as well as the flops Stick Fly and his 2004 revival of A Raisin in the SunHoller If Ya Hear Me has book by Todd Kreidler, who has worked with Leon before in an assistant directing capacity, and music orchestrated from Tupac Shakur’s repertoire.  The musical’s cast included Saul Williams making his Broadway debut, as well as New York theatre regular Tonya Pinkins.  The show opened on June 19, 2014 to fairly negative reviews, which did not sustain the already floundering musical.  Though closure was not immediately announced, the general critical consensus was that this musical would not last long.

Cedric the Entertainer Quits “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” Upon Its Move to Connecticut

cedric-who-wants-to-be-a-millionaireTerry Crews Is The New Host

The wildly successful game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? has been running since 1999.  For the past year, it has been hosted by Cedric the Entertainer, the American actor and comedian.  However, this stint as host will not continue past the 2013 to 2014 season.  Upon the show’s decision to move its production headquarters to Stamford, Connecticut (about one hour from New York City), he decided that he could not fit the hosting gig into his busy schedule.  As Cedric is simultaneously involved in many television and film projects, he often needs to travel around the country, and the distance between Stamford and New York City made the difference in his ability to commit to the role.  In early May 2014, Disney-ABC (which distributes the show) announced that the new host will be Former NFL Player Terry Crews, also known for his role on the Fox sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

A Long-Running Hit Show

The format of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? involves choosing an audience member by asking the whole audience a game question, and then offering a maximum prize of $1,000,000 to that person who must correctly answer a series of multiple choice questions.  The questions are of increasing complexity, and the contestant is allowed to use a series of lifelines to help them, including Ask the Audience, Phone a Friend, 50:50 (eliminating half the answers), Plus One (bringing up a friend to help answer), and Crystal Ball (showing the money value of a round one question).  In the show’s original format, it was aired by ABC and hosted by Regis Philbin.  Starting in 2002, it became syndicated and was hosted by Meredith Vieira.  Meredith had a very successful run, continuing as host until 2013, when she left to focus on other projects in her career.  Upon her departure, Cedric the Entertainer took over the position.  Little did anyone suspect that he would only last for one year.

A Win For Connecticut

From 1999 to 2012, the game show was taped at ABC’s Television Center East studio in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, on West 67th Street.  In 2013, the show was moved to NEP Broadcasting’s Metropolis Studios, located further uptown in East Harlem at East 106th Street.  Millionaire’s decision to move its facilities to Connecticut’s Gold Coast will create 150 more jobs in the area.  Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy has been working to rebuild the state’s television and digital media industry, and this is a major success in that regard.  Since 2006, the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development has issued $365 million in tax credits, which amounts to $1.2 billion dollars of expenditures in film, television, and media production.  This Digital Media and Motion Picture Tax Credit Program may be a major reason why Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? chose to move its production to Stamford, Connecticut.  Another example of a major network taking advantage of this credit program is ESPN, which opened Digital Center 2, a state-of-the-art digital production center for its SportsCenter franchise in July 2014.

The Escalating Career of Terry Crews

Over the course of his football career, Terry Crews played for the Los Angeles Rams, the San Diego Chargers, the Washington terry crews who wants to be a millionaireRedskins, and the Philadelphia Eagles.  Since transitioning into the entertainment industry, he has become very well known for his roles on Arrested Development, The Newsroom, Everybody Hates Chris, Are We There Yet?, as well as a series of Old Spice commercials.  Over the past few months, several networks have been competing to get Crews on board for a long-term commitment.  The taping schedule of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? will be arranged so as not to conflict with his schedule for Brooklyn Nine Nine.  Once that comedy concludes its run, ABC hinted they may give Crews an even bigger hosting job than Millionaire.