“It’s Only a Play” Opens on Broadway

Ticket Sales Anticipate Reviews

it's only a playOn October 9, 2014, It’s Only a Play opened at Broadway’s Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, after having played 48 preview performances since the first on August 28, 2014. Generally, an opening night is vital for a show to gain traction after reviews hit the press, but in this case, the reviews were all but unnecessary. The show is already almost completely sold out until the end of its run, currently scheduled for January 4, 2015. In every single week that the show has been running, it has brought in over 100% of its gross box office potential, due to premium ticket sales on top of outstanding regular priced sales. Discounts are not part of the equation in this case. In the first partial 5-performance week ending August 31, 2014, the show earned 112.45% of its gross potential. In the full 8-performance weeks following, the show has unfailingly passed the million dollar mark on each occasion. In order, from the week ending September 7, 2014 until the most recently reported week ending October 12, 2014, the weekly grosses were: $1,163,626, $1,230,603, $1,277,059, $1,261,025, $1,248,660, and $1,173,896. The reason for this outstanding box office performance can be summarized in two words: star power.

Chock Full of Stars

With regards to attracting ticketbuyers, the most important names associated with this production are its actors. First of all, the it's only a play castproduction reunites Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick who made Broadway history with their performances in 2001’s The Producers. Beyond the combination of this power duo, each has individually earned a remarkable series of accolades, including two Tony Awards a piece: Lane earned the Best Actor honor for The Producers and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Broderick earned the same for Brighton Beach Memoirs and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. They are joined by Stockard Channing, who came to fame with the film Grease, and earned a Tony Award for A Day in the Death of Joe Egg. In addition, F. Murray Abraham won an Academy Award for 1985’s Amadeus and is a seasoned veteran of stage and screen. Furthermore, the cast includes Rupert Grint making his Broadway debut, and yet he may hold the honor of having been seen by the most eyeballs due to his starring as Ron in the Harry Potter franchise. On top of the stellar cast, rounded out by Megan Mullaly and Micah Stock, the playwright Terrence McNally has had a remarkable 21 productions of his plays on Broadway, and the director Jack O’Brien has helmed at least 26 shows on Broadway (winning three Tony Awards with an additional seven nominations), also serving as the artistic director of the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego from 1981 to 2007.

Critical Appreciation, with Some Reservation

In general, the reviews are positive though some are mixed. In particular, Ben Brantley of The New York Times saw through the starry exterior and reviewed the play on its merits. He remarked how McNally revised the script to be more up-to-date. As the play, originally written in 1982, has some antiquated references, newer stars such as James Franco, Rosie O’Donnell, and Denzel Washington were swapped in for their written predecessors. Most notably, the respected theatre critic Frank Rich was swapped out for none other than Brantley himself. He responded to this fact with sufficient grace and only mild resentment, explaining that the entire premise of the play was to throw mud at famous names, whether those of critics or actors. In any case, he was fully aware that his review would not be affecting ticket sales, which are already more victorious than any written assessment of the play’s merits could expect to be.

“Of Mice and Men” Opens on Broadway

John Steinbeck’s 1937 play Of Mice and Men, based on his 1937 novella of the same name, is presently being revived on Broadway for the second time.  On April 16, 2014, Anna D. Shapiro’s production of this classic story of two displaced migrant workers during the Great Depression opened at the Longacre Theatre.  This production has received a great deal of press, primarily because it stars James Franco, the ever-increasingly famous (with bouts of infamy) multi-hyphenate actor, writer, director, producer, author, teacher, and poet.  He stars alongside Chris O’Dowd and Leighton Meester, both also stars of the screen making their Broadway debuts.  As such, it has been selling considerably well at the box office, averaging around 96% capacity with an average ticket price of $101.76.  Therefore, though the production received mixed to positive reviews following its opening, this is unlikely to sway ticket-buyers who are more drawn by the star factor of the face on the marquis than by promises of quality.


Ben Brantley of The New York Times is by far New York’s most influential Broadway theatre critic.  Producers flaunt positive quotes with his byline, and they live in fear of his negative responses to their shows.  In an era where people are reading fewer newspapers than ever before, New York City has become a one-paper town, where Brantley rules the theatre section.  James Franco, though new to the Broadway scene, has clearly picked up on the sensitivity of this one man’s opinion to his show’s fate, and in the fashion of any egomaniac on a quest for world domination, he decided to publicly flaunt his distaste for Brantley’s less than positive review.  Of course, Franco’s medium of choice for this proclamation was none other than Instagram.  (Lest we forget, this is the same place that Franco made an utter fool of himself two weeks ago for blatantly hitting on a Scottish 17 year-old whom he had met outside of the Of Mice and Men stage door.)  After Brantley published a critical review of Franco’s stage demeanor and level of acting effort, Franco posted to Instagram a link to the positive Variety review, then commenting that Brantley is a “little bitch” whom the theatre community hates for good reason, as he is an “idiot”.  Though he has since taken down this post, it only further illustrates Franco’s lack of grace and dangerously swollen ego.

Other reviewers were more positive in their reviews of the play.  Variety, Time Out New York, NBC, and the Hollywood Reporter all praised the revival and Ms. Shapiro’s direction.  The Los Angeles Times, on the other hand, was more in line with Brantley.  Charles McNulty reviewed Franco as being in “CliffsNotes mode,” which is not surprising as he is flying to L.A. to teach a class on his one day off, while also working on his innumerable other projects, when most other Broadway stars would be focused on their stage performance.  Perhaps this is the beginning of the end for Franco’s success in merely dialing it in.  However, it is more likely that the greater world will continue to swoon for his celebrity, excusing his madness and even finding it endearing, and allowing him to take credit for wild success when his biggest achievement seems to be just showing up.  It is time we acknowledge that James Franco has become a brand.  We generally look for a soul in our Broadway performers, and it seems Franco’s has long been buried by his ever-growing success.

Of Mice and Men is scheduled to run until July 27, 2014.