Super Bowl XLVIII Negatively Impacts Broadway Ticket Sales, Despite Positive Expectations

superbowl 48 trophyOn Sunday, February 2, 2014, the Seattle Seahawks crushed the Denver Broncos, 43-8, winning the National Football League championship at the Super Bowl XLVIII. The game was held just over the Hudson River from New York City at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

As it turns out, the Broncos were not the only ones who could have used a better defense.  Though Broadway shows across the board adjusted performance schedules and made promotional efforts to engage the influx of sports fans flocking to the city, theatre ticket sales were at a disappointing low, with weekly box office grosses dropping $2.4 million and with 15,000 fewer tickets sold compared to the previous 7-day period.

Total ticket sales were only $16,714,694 in the week leading up to the Super Bowl, though they reached $19,122,428 in the preceding week.  The only shows to reach full audience capacity were The Book of Mormon and the double-bill Mark Rylance-led Shakespeare productions of Twelfth Night and Richard III.  Even long-running hits such as The Lion King saw a big drop in sales, decreasing 10 percent since the week before.  Although the total weekly gross for all productions was comparable to the total gross in Super Bowl week last year, there are presently four more shows running than this time last year.

In recent history, Broadway producers have seen non-weather related ticket sales slumps, the most recent during the Republican National Convention in 2004, when ticket sales dropped 22%. This time the slump was so severe, that the New York City Mayor may rethink efforts to bring other events to the area, like the Olympics, the World Cup or even the Stanley Cup. It may increase hotel receipts, but do little for the rest of the NYC economy.

superbowl-tobaggan-run

In honor of the football event, New York City and the Super Bowl Host Committee joined forces to carry out an unprecedented shutdown of 13 blocks in Midtown Manhattan.  As a result, traffic was restricted in the heart of Times Square on Broadway between 34th Street and 47th Street for the four days leading up to the game.  The officially dubbed “Super Bowl Boulevard” hosted a slew of events ranging from a toboggan run to an outdoor stage featuring performances by, among others, the Broadway casts of Rock of Ages and Jersey Boys.  Other shows – including Rocky, Pippin, Motown, Chicago, Mamma Mia! and Newsies – gave special performances in nearby Bryant Park.  Still, it appears the excitement of the game overpowered the convenience of the theatre district welcoming the flood of visitors with open arms. The “Super Bowl Boulevard” festivities felt crushed in the small space on Broadway, especially given that the Javits Center, on the West Side of Manhattan was the original location earmarked , but another event grabbed the booking.

Broadway producers, anticipating the conflict, made significant efforts to take advantage of the tourist traffic.  Broadway Week, an annual 2-for-1 ticket promotion, happened to coincide with the shutdowns, and every running production (with the exception of the confident hit The Book of Mormon) participated in the discount program – most likely aiming to attract Super Bowl theatregoers.  Furthermore, the Broadway League (calling themselves “the theatrical equivalent of the NFL”) released a press statement welcoming Super Bowl XLVIII to Times Square, providing a user-friendly map for pedestrians to navigate their way to the theatres, and announcing alternate curtain times to accommodate football aficionados.

Rock of Ages

One show, Rock of Ages, made multiple efforts to attract football fans.  The 1980s rock jukebox musical has traditionally done very well with the adult male demographic, which is unusual for Broadway musicals.  It therefore makes sense that they would take this opportunity to gain added exposure among sports fans.  In addition to performing a half hour set onstage at Super Bowl Boulevard on Thursday afternoon prior to the game, the cast made the journey to MetLife Stadium on game day, performing two sets outside the gates prior to kickoff.  In an even greater feat, the producers convinced three NFL stars to join the cast onstage at Broadway’s Helen Hayes Theatre, playing bartenders in four brief scenes for a temporary stint.  However, Rock of Ages was no exception in terms of poor box office performance; their gross was $60,000 less than the previous week.

Overall, despite positive expectations that the event might help rally the crowds to Broadway, the performance week was disappointingly low.  Presumably, the grosses might have been even worse had it not been for the Broadway League’s efforts to woo the scant few Super Bowl fans that actually did go to a show.  It is likely that the Super Bowl fans also booked all the hotel rooms in New York City, which meant that the normal tourists didn’t have anywhere to stay. Super Bowl Boulevard also served to distract the remaining tourists from going to the theatre, merely adding to the multitude of entertainment options available in Times Square.  Still, some of these marketing efforts may prove fruitful in the long run, having possibly increased national awareness of the current Broadway slate.

Newsies Still Packs Them In, a Year After Jeremy Jordan Departed

Newsies Broadway Musical

Newsies Broadway Musical

Encouraged by the New York newsboy strike of 1899, Disney’s cathartic production of Newsies the Musical first premiered at the Paper Mill Playhouse in the fall of 2011, quickly moving on to the Nederlander Theatre on Broadway in the spring of 2012.  Whether it is because the show has been running on Broadway for an extensive period of time or the show wrestles without an attention reeling name like Jeremy Jordan, this Disney musical has not been living up to its full potential this year, compared to the last. (Jeremy Jordan left Newsies on Sept 4 2012 to pursue his dream of TV fame in the musical drama TV series Smash which aired on NBC and ended its 2nd, and final, season on May 26, 2013)

When Newsies first opened on Broadway in the March of 2012, they were averaging 100.8% in ticket sales and were grossing an average of $937,788.92, in comparison to January of 2013. Up until now they have been averaging 95.6% in ticket sales and are grossing an average of $847,072.23, with a 97% of theatre seats sold on average every night.  Looking at this data, there was not a colossal loss, possibly because in the beginnings of this production, people were so anxious about this musical being an adaptation to the popular 1992 film, starring Christian Bale. Compared to the movie, the musical is much longer and more care and precision have been placed into it.

Recasting has always been a difficult task to execute and even though the show has fared critically in monetary terms, Jeremy Jordan’s replacement, Corey Cott, has been fairly up to par. The emotional build up for every number is not nearly as tantamount to what Jeremy set the standards for, but Corey manages to pull off an astounding performance with a voice similar to Jeremy’s, making up for many of the weak moments to the female lead’s, Kara Lindsay’s, singing. Albeit the humorous, witty journalistic jokes and snappy, energetic attitude, Kara lacks this sort of resilience and strength, for the most part; coming off seemingly reserved and as if she is holding herself back, teetering along the lines of the melody and not quite hitting all of her notes. (Maybe this is due to the exhausting eight-shows-a-week schedule.)

Aside from the exciting dance numbers and character developments, there is exceptional use of the limited space on stage. The construction of the set, along with the essence of New York, is captured quite perfectly. A gate at the top of each moving staircase so that they can connect or detach from each other exacerbates the excitement of the chase-run scenes. The backdrop is tastefully modern, displaying shifting scenery or showing words from a typewriter whenever Kara’s character speaks what she is so furiously typing. Any seat in the house could clearly see what was going on, although being in the front few aisles definitely opens up your eyes to the deliberate sweat dripping and spit flying everywhere.

Even though Disney’s target market is for families of all ages, female fans of the Christian Bale movie of the same name, the audience demographic at this show seems to skew to an older, more mature crowd who may find solace in this hopeful musical because of the very pertinent modern day financial and social struggles.

With tattered corduroys and newsboy cap wearing orphan boys selling newspapers, desperate to make a living out on the cutthroat streets of New York, Newsies pulls at the heartstrings, bringing to mind the toil of making a living on Broadway, or simply the everyday strife that everybody trudges through. With no foul language or anything particularly scandalous to worry about, overall, this show is quite uplifting, entertaining, and sublime for families.

Flashdance’s Broadway Debut Delayed

Flashdance Broadway MusicalOriginally scheduled to hit Broadway this August, Flashdance the Musical has been postponed. The production is now scheduled to arrive on the Great White Way at a yet-to-be-determined date later in the 2013-2014 season. This is the third time Flashdance has delayed its Broadway arrival.

Based on the well-known 1980s film of the same name, Flashdance is about a woman steelworker who also works as an exotic dancer, but has dreams of joining a prestigious dance company. The movie’s soundtrack featured pop hits like “Maniac,” “Gloria,” and “I Love Rock & Roll,” which are all featured in the stage version.

Flashdance the Musical had its London premiere in 2010. The production then went through rewrites and is currently in the midst of a U.S. national tour.

Henry Winkler and Cheyenne Jackson in “The Performers” – Broadway Show Review

Henry Winkler, Alicia Silverstone, Cheyenne Jackson, Daniel Breaker, Ari Graynor and Jenni Barber in the Performers on Broadway

The Performers on Broadway – Sara Krulwich

If you anticipate that Henry Winkler’s “Fonz” from Happy Days and Alicia Silverstone’s “Cher” from Clueless will turn up onstage at the Longacre Theatre for the Broadway production of The Performers, you may be disappointed.  But who does turn up are a wonderful ensemble of actors performing a funny yet poignant romantic comedy about two couples from very different backgrounds, both with relationship problems, thrust together against the unique backdrop of the Adult Film Awards in a Las Vegas hotel.

Cheyenne Jackson plays successful porn star Mandrew, who loves his work and is hoping to win this year’s coveted adult film award for best actor. He is married to a porn actress, Peeps, played by Ari Graynor, who is a needy, simple-minded, but lovable companion in dire need of a life rudder, which Jackson provides perfectly. Alicia Silverstone plays Sara, a plain schoolteacher who has lost her passion for her fiance Lee (Daniel Breaker), the only person she has ever slept with. Added into the mix is Winkler as Chuck Wood, Mandrew’s porn star adversary (who is also up for the same award), and porn actress Sundown LeMay, played by Jenni Barber, who manages to create amusing havoc along the way.

Although Mandrew anticipates winning a number of honors at the Adult Film Awards, the gods may have other plans for him as he circumnavigates his relationship with Peeps, tries to recapture his friendship with his high school friends Sara and Lee (who happen to be in town to write a piece about him for the New York Post), and attempts to defeat the aging Chuck Wood for the most coveted award.

With David West Read’s writing and Evan Cabnet’s direction, this hilarious play takes us on a comedic trip through the trials and tribulations of an adult film couple’s relationship when it crashes into a couple at the other end of the sexual spectrum. The comedy reminds us that adult film stars are not that different from the rest of us after all, albeit with their preference for close-up bukake action face shots.

Cheyenne Jackson provides an amazing performance and captures a handsome but dimwitted Adonis working in a industry that he loves. When out of his element, Mandrew becomes confused and often draws on his only frame of reference, the porn industry, delivering hysterically funny responses with perfect timing. Jackson’s performance is an ideal balance of funny and touching. Opposite Jackson, Ari Graynor plays a very similar character to the one she recently played in her movie For a Good Time, Call…  She delivers a sound performance as Peeps in this show, but it remains to be seen if she has the acting chops for anything outside the ditzy, confused simpleton. There were signs of hope when her character began to develop beyond the two-dimensional, but it appears that Cabnet’s direction may have stopped her character development in its tracks.

Silverstone’s whiny Clueless line delivery does creep into a few scenes as she fleshes out the plain, sexually bored teacher opposite Daniel Breaker’s Lee.  The infamous Howard Stern has often been quoted as saying that, “Actors who can only shine as retarded or drunk characters aren’t often strong enough actors to capture the nuances of real, more subtle, less caricature characters.”  This may be true of Silverstone’s performance. The only time in this show where Silverstone really only comes into her own is when she is playing the falling down drunk version of Sara and yells at Chuck Wood to “Get me a coffee, bitch!”

Daniel Breaker does, however, shine as the hapless reporter trying to keep his marriage together during a difficult, often turbulent time. His portrayal of Lee is developed perfectly as his character becomes better educated in the world of sex, something that Lee is clearly unfamiliar with and demonstrates to great comedic effect.

It appears that playwright David West Read hasn’t seen too many porn movies, nor actually met any porn actors, because his caricature of the talent is so far off the mark. With an “everyone in the industry is a moron” approach, it’s more pandering than a gross mis-characterization, but often straying into extreme stereotypes that don’t add any funny to the scenes and with so many missed opportunities. The show’s dialogue may give some insight into Read’s exposure to porn when Sara indicates that she knows about the porn industry from reading a paper during her work on her master’s degree. Methinks that David West Read is referring to himself.

Jenni Barber’s stage talent is virtually untapped in this show, with her portrayal of a one-dimensional dumb blonde porn actress, the epitome of the Hollywood bimbo. One key final scene with Winkler is squandered to tepid sexual humor, when Read could have written just one line, just one line in the whole show, that would have established that, maybe, Sundown LeMay was the genius and we were the bimbos.

The small disappointment in The Performers is Winkler as Chuck Wood. It appears that Winkler, a veritable national treasure, can only play two characters: The Fonz and Henry Winkler. It is Henry Winkler who shows up for this show, and although it is a great honor to be in his presence, he fails to bring any depth to Chuck Wood, an over-the-hill porn star who knows that his career is over and his demise is near, but cannot quite quit before he crashes into the wall, because porn is all he has. Winkler has some great opportunities with his scenes and delivers on a key monologue that contains heart and humor, but his performance overall ultimately falls flat as does his interaction with the other actors.

The Performers is a funny romantic comedy farce, with lots of heart, but ultimately a little disappointing. We anticipate it may go straight-to-video — right after the money shot.

Go Ahead And Grab The Only Free Seat on Broadway

For decades, the legendary Times Square — one of the most vibrant, well-known locations on the planet — was surprisingly inhospitable to people who just wanted to sit back and take in the ambiance of this tourist haven. With two major thoroughfares, 7th Avenue and Broadway, crossing right through the heart of Times Square, pedestrians had to crowd onto the narrow sidewalks, constantly stopping foot traffic to take photos of the neon mecca.

But today, Broadway is now closed to vehicular traffic between 41st and 47th streets, creating a large pedestrian walkway where people can wander around and be dazzled by the lights and pose for pictures with loved ones. It has also opened up marketing opportunities for Broadway shows, which sometimes send out performers in costume to hawk their shows to potential ticket buyers. For Broadway fans, the walkway was a particularly welcome change, since previously there was nowhere to go in the Broadway theater district to kill time if you arrived early for a show. Now there are tables, chairs, and benches situated all along Broadway, giving you a good place to sit for awhile.

The seating options also make it possible to get a quick bite before the show starts. Of course there are plenty of restaurants to choose from in the Broadway theater district, but they get crowded in the hours before showtime, and unless you arrive with time to spare, you might have to bolt before you even get a chance to finish your main course. For those who have only have 20 or 30 minutes to satisfy their stomachs, you can pick up a slice of pizza or some fast food, or even get a meal from one of the food trucks now conveniently parked right there on Broadway, and sit and eat your pre-show dinner. Dining in the middle of the street may not seem too glamorous, but the view is spectacular.

Book of Mormon Regular Tickets Price Blows By Broadway’s $150 Ticket Milestone

Book of Mormon Tickets Increase

Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s The Book of Mormon recently crossed the great ticket price divide by increasing its regular-priced orchestra and front mezzanine tickets to $155.
The Premium ticket prices remain unchanged at $300 – $350.
This now makes Book Of Mormon the most expensive ticket on Broadway in history.

Clearly this move is a response to the strong ticket sales and the continued love-fest of ticket broker speculation towards the sold-out show. The last time a milestone like this was broken was back in 2002 when Wicked blew by the $100 mark and never went back, much to the chagrin of Broadway fans.

The Book of Mormon may be suffering from irrational exuberance and may run the risk of overselling its position and with over 40% of all its tickets being sold to ticket brokers, Book of Mormon could suffer a painful crash in ticket sales if ticket speculation cools abruptly when ‘the next big thing’ materializes, since ticket brokers and speculators are notoriously fickle and have no brand loyalty other than to what is ‘hot’ and selling well. The scheduled regional tour of The Book of Mormon could dilute the aftermarket ticket value of the show and become a catalyst to force the ticket brokers to ‘short’ their ticket inventory and flood the market, possibly resulting in empty seats in the theater — giving the appearance that the show is on the wane, even though 100% of the tickets have actually been sold.  Once the public’s “perception” is that a show is on the wane, it could change the Book of Mormon ticket ticket landscape dramatically – All Broadway shows like a soft landing in sales, ticket crashes are bad for business, affecting audience, producers and ticket brokers.

Historically speaking, there are many other Broadway show examples that have suffered through this process of over-hyped ticket speculation by brokers, only to crash out quickly.  But more recent examples like Jersey Boys didn’t quite dampen to the extent anticipated and the show sales buoyed after the other major city fixed shows opened and the regional tour began.

The higher ticket cost for The Book of Mormon does, however, provide the Broadway show producers more of the profit, reduces the ticket brokers’ profit, and allows the show to break even more quickly.

Having said that, Broadway shows still provide a great value proposition when compared with other entertainment choices in NYC. With a 3D movie now costing $20 person, the live entertainment of a Broadway show is like having a live performance up close and personal, with a noteworthy Broadway (or Hollywood) actor in your living room, for around $100.

Broadway Flea Market Takes Over Shubert Alley Today

Broadway Flea MarketOne of the most unique Broadway events of the year comes to Shubert Alley this Sunday, from 10am to approximately 6pm, and that is the annual Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction. A fundraiser for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the flea market features two streets full of tables where the cast, crew, and staff of Broadway shows and theater-related organizations hawk their wares. These items include standard fare such as show posters, old Playbills, and merchandise like mugs and t-shirts. More coveted items include autographed memorabilia, props and costumes actually used onstage, and even baked goods made by cast members of Broadway shows. (Tip: Get there as soon as the flea market begins in the morning to get a shot at nabbing the best stuff.) A large number of Broadway and television celebrities will also be signing autographs throughout the day, but be prepared to wait in line for a little while. The highlight of the event occurs in the mid-afternoon when some of the flea market’s most impressive items are auctioned off. The auctions typically include things like rare autographed posters, dinners with celebrities, and walk-ons for TV shows and Broadway shows. Shubert Alley is located in Times Square, between 44th and 45th streets, between 7th and 8th avenues.