“The Visit” Closes on Broadway

The Last Collaboration Between John Kander and Fred Ebb

Visit-Broadway-Musical-Chita-Rivera-Tickets-176-012818On March 26, 2015, The Visit began previews at the Lyceum Theatre. This was the last collaboration by John Kander and Fred Ebb, who were also the creators of Chicago, Cabaret, and The Scottsboro Boys. Upon its official opening night on April 23, 2015, it received firmly mixed reviews, with some critics praising the musical but others being more on the fence. Like most musicals, the show began with an open-ended run, but it has now officially closed as of June 14, 2015. The musical was one of only four shows nominated for the Tony Award for Best Musical, along with the victorious Fun Home as well as An American in Paris and Something Rotten! However, nobody really expected The Visit to win that award, as the box office grosses were dire from the beginning, never reaching beyond $250,000 in a given week. The show was also nominated for the award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, honoring the 82 year-old Chita Rivera for her starring role. However, that award went to Kelli O’Hara for The King and I. Having won no Tony Awards, and performing poorly at the box office, the producers had no choice but to close this show, which had been on its last legs for a long time.

Struggles at the Box Officechita rivera roger rees

In the final week of its run, The Visit made its highest weekly gross of $274,465, which still only represented 35.99% of its gross potential. Its lowest week took place in the week ending May 31, 2015, when the show brought in only $149,032, representing 19.54% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of $225.00, the average paid admission each week fluctuated between $34.45 and $59.50. Therefore, even in its best week there was a heavy amount of discounting to fill seats so that those audience members who had paid full price, or anything at all, for their tickets would feel that they were getting a fuller experience. The highest percentage of audience capacity was reached in the show’s first partial week of five performances, when the audience was filled up to an average of 79.5%. Still, on most weeks the audience was only 50% to 60% full. All productions have an agreement with the theatre landlord called a “stop clause,” whereby the landlord has a right to evict the production if its weekly gross is below a certain specified amount for a certain number of weeks in a row. With such low numbers, it is possible that The Visit was dangerously close to, if not in violation of, its stop clause, and perhaps the Shubert Organization allowed the show to remain in reverence to Fred Ebb, John Kander, and Chita Rivera, awaiting the Tony Award results. However, when the show received no awards, there was nothing left to hope for.

A Future Beyond Broadway

Nevertheless, a Kander and Ebb musical is still a valuable property to own the rights to, even if the Broadway run was a disappointment. As memory fades, diehard theatre fans will continue to remember the piece, and the show will likely receive productions all over the country on a range of levels. Furthermore, the music will be used for theatre auditions and the scores will be sold in published form. There is still a way for the producers to continue to make some money on their investment. Still, it only made $1,963,656 throughout the entire run, which is certainly nowhere near its entire capitalization, especially when running costs are added to the mix. Therefore, the show will certainly go down in history as a financial loss, but not a complete failure due to its Tony Award nomination for Best Musical.

“The Visit” Starts Performances on Broadway

Chita Rivera Stars in a Kander and Ebb Musical

the visit chita riveraOn March 26, 2015, The Visit began previews at the Lyceum Theatre. This musical has a book by Terrence McNally (It’s Only a Play, Mothers and Sons, Master Class). As for the score, the music is written by John Kander, and lyrics are by Fred Ebb, making this the newest musical from the all star team behind Cabaret, Chicago, The Scottsboro Boys, The Rink, and Woman of the Year. This musical, which is based on a play by Friedrich Duerrenmatt, has only been staged once before in New York: for a one night only performance on November 30, 2011 at the Ambassador Theatre (where Chicago has been playing for many years). That concert performance starred Chita Rivera in the role she is now playing in an extended Broadway run: Claire Zachannassian, a very wealthy woman. This was a benefit staging produced by the Actors Fund and the Vineyard Theatre. Rivera assembled along with other cast members from a previous production at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, where the show played for just over a month in 2008. Prior the that, it had a run in Chicago in 2001. However, it wasn’t until 2014, when the Williamstown Theatre Festival reworked the play into a one act structure, that it was finally deemed ready to come to Broadway.

A Starry Cast and Revered Creative Teamchita rivera roger rees

According to Kander and Ebb, this role was written for Chita Rivera, whose previous credits include The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Nine, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and Chicago. She plays Claire Zachannassian, the richest woman in the world who has been widowed on several occasions. The title refers to when she pays a visit to her humble hometown, and the entire town expects this to bring great prosperity to all. However, she has other plans in mind, and a sardonic and complex series of events ensue. In addition to Rivera, the role of Anton Schnell is played by Roger Rees (The Addams Family, Peter and the Starcatcher, Uncle Vanya). Other roles are played by Mary Beth Peil (Follies, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown), George Abud, and Jason Danieley (Next to Normal, Curtains). The show is directed by John Doyle (The Color Purple, A Catered Affair, Company), who was behind the reworking at Williamstown that persuaded producers to bring to show to Broadway. Furthermore, it is choreographed by Tony nominee Graciela Daniele (Ragtime, Pal Joey, The Most Happy Fella, Zorba). The musical coordinator is John Monaco, and the associate conductor is Jesse Kissel.

Struggling at the Box Office

In the three weeks that the show has been running so far, it is having difficulty at the box office. In the last reported week of box office figures, the week ending April 12, 2015, the show brought in only $224,289, which represents 29.41% of its gross potential. Over the course of the eight performances that week, the top ticket price was $225.00, but the average paid admission was only $43.19. Still, it managed to fill up only 72.0% of seats across the week. The previous two weeks were not much better, although the first partial week of five performances brought in 35.12% of the gross potential. The show will open on April 23, 2015, upon which the reviews will hopefully send many more ticket buyers to the box office.

Mystery of Edwin Drood Reveals Itself on Broadway

The Mystery of Edwin Drood officially opens at Studio 54 tonight.  Based on an unfinished Charles Dickens story, Edwin Drood takes place in Victorian London, where a romantic and mysterious tale unfolds.  In an intriguing and very theatrical nod to the fact that the story was left incomplete due to Dickens death, the musical gives the audience the opportunity to choose the ending.

Theater legend Chita Rivera stars in this production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company.  Also starring in the production is an array of Broadway veterans and promising newcomers, including Will Chase, Gregg Edelman, Jessie Mueller, Stephanie J. Block, Andy Karl, Peter Benson, Jim Walton, and Betsy Wolfe.

Written by Rupert Holmes, The Mystery of Edwin Drood premiered at Shakespeare in the Park in 1985 before going on to a Tony Award-winning Broadway run.  Holmes has even written some brand new material for this production.