Based Off the 1992 Film of the Same Name
On January 15, 2015, Honeymoon in Vegas had its opening night at Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre. It had been running in previews since November 18, 2014, which is an unusually long preview period of 66 performances. This fact would normally imply a lack of confidence about the quality of the material, allowing the creative team and cast an extra month to develop the show in front of live audiences prior to the critical reviews hitting the presses. However, the reviews are in, and they are largely positive. Most notably, Ben Brantley of The New York Times, who is known as the toughest and most important critic of the most important paper in this one-paper town, loved the show. This musical is based off the 1992 film of the same name, which wasn’t exactly a hit nor was it exactly a cult success. In any case, someone sometime ago decided it would make a good musical, and they got top theatrical composer Jason Robert Brown (Parade, The Last Five Years, The Bridges of Madison County) to sign on to the job. With a book by Andrew Bergman (who wrote and directed the film), the musical starred Tony Danza (who received raves for his leading performance), as well as Rob McClure (Chaplin) opposite Brynn O’Malley (Annie).
When the musical played its pre-Broadway tryout run at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey in the fall of 2013, New York critics gave it positive reviews which encouraged the producers to make the leap over the Hudson river to the cut-throat Broadway turf. Fortunately, the most important critic – Ben Brantley of The New York Times – stood behind his praise. When the same critic voices in on a pre-Broadway run and then the Broadway run, it can go either way, but usually they are tempted to stick to their guns, and in this case that benefitted Honeymoon in Vegas wildly. Other critics followed suit – both David Cote from Time Out New York and Robert Kahn from NBC New York loved the show as well. Cote harked to the unbeatable position of Jason Robert Brown in Broadway composing royalty, and was equally a fan of the concept of seedy Las Vegas being represented with so much glitz on Broadway. Kahn was a huge fan of Tony Danza’s performance as the tough talking gangster Tommy Korman, and calls Brown’s score jackpot-winning. However, other reviewers were less laudatory. Marilyn Stasio from Variety was on the fence, enjoying the catchy songs and witty lyrics along with the savvy visuals, but ultimately could not get over the mindlessness of it. Similarly, David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter felt that the show was ultimately slight, though he granted that the musical was better than he was expecting.
Will the Box Office Turn Around?
It’s difficult to say whether the financial figures will respond to these positive reviews, especially as the show has already been running for two months with lackluster box office performance. In the last reported week – the week ending January 18, 2015, the show saw a slight upturn but still only brought in a weekly gross of $440,476, which represents only 43.11% of the gross potential. With an average paid ticket of $57.51, the producers are clearly heavily discounting, which may have already damaged the brand value of the show such that it cannot recover, even with such positive reviews. However, there is hope with this renewed burst of lifeblood for the show, and optimism is riding high that it might stick around for a while on Broadway, adding a burst of hot Las Vegas silliness to the cold New York winter.