“Honeymoon in Vegas” Begins Previews on Broadway

A Jason Robert Brown Tuner, Derived from a Movie

honeymoon in vegasOn November 18, 2014, Honeymoon in Vegas began previews at the Nederlander Theatre. With music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown (Parade, The Bridges of Madison County), a book by Andrew Bergman (who wrote and directed the film), and based on the 1992 film of the same name starring Nicolas Cage, James Caan, and Sarah Jessica Parker, the Broadway production of Honeymoon in Vegas is directed by Gary Griffin (The Apple Tree, The Color Purple) and choreographed by Denis Jones (Legally Blonde, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels). The musical premiered at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey in September 2013, where it received positive reviews and ran for just over a month before transferring to Broadway just over a year later. The lead role of Tommy Korman is played by Tony Danza, and the other principal roles are played by Rob McClure (title role in Chaplin), Brynn O’Malley (Annie, Sunday in the Park with George), Nancy Opel (Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Memphis), and Matthew Saldivar (Act One, Peter and the Starcatcher).

A Tale of Wrought Love

Tony Danza

Tony Danza

Honeymoon in Vegas follows a young protagonist named Jack Singer (McClure), who is dating a young lady named Betsy (O’Malley), and although he has an established fear of marriage going back to a promise he made to her mother on her deathbed, Betsy has other plans. Meanwhile, a mafia man named Tommy Korman (Danza) takes notice of Betsy, and finds a strong resemblance between her and his recently passed wife. This makes him a renewed believer in the power of love, so he begins to form a plot of his own. Conveniently, Jack ends up in major debt to Korman during a poker game, and so he demands that in order to erase the debt, he will need to spend a weekend with Jack’s beloved Betsy – he agrees when they promise not to sleep together. Korman pulls out all the stops, taking Betsy to his vacation home in Hawaii. When Jack catches word that Korman plans to marry Betsy back in Vegas, he desperately tries to get there to stop it, only to get waylaid in a series of airports. Finally, however, Betsy escapes from Korman, and she and Jack end up happily ever after, married in a small chapel in Vegas with flying Elvises as their wedding guests.

Off to a Slow Start at the Box Office

You’d think that producers would realize theatregoers are getting tired of straight movie to musical adaptations, choosing a cheesy comedy and staging it with some song and dance. Though that combination can sometimes work, in recent years it has begun to show a serious decline in interest from the ticket-buying public. In the two weeks of reported box office figures thus far (one with only seven performances and one with the full eight), the musical has only managed to bring in $366,136 and $351,277 respectively. That means that with an entire extra performance the second week, the show still managed to lose $14,859 between the two weeks. With a top ticket price of $223.00, the average ticket price stayed fairly constant at around $69.00 each week. Therefore, despite a heavy amount of discounting, the show is still having difficult gaining any traction. The producers seemed to anticipate a difficult exit out of the gates, because it has allotted an entire eight weeks of previews, with its opening night scheduled for January 15, 2015. Perhaps they know the reviews will not be great, and they are trying to score some holiday tourist ticket-buyers before they can be dissuaded by the critics.

“You Can’t Take It With You” Begins Previews

A Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman Collaboration

you can't take it with youOn August 26, 2014, You Can’t Take It With You began previews at Broadway’s Longacre Theatre.  It will have its official opening on September 28, 2014, and is presently scheduled to run for a limited engagement until January 4, 2015.  Written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman in 1936, You Can’t Take It With You is a comedic play in three acts.  Upon its premiere, the play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1937.  Furthermore, a successful 1938 film adaptation directed by Frank Capra won the Academy Awards for Best Picture as well as Best Director.  A revival of the play was mounted in 1983; this will be the play’s second revival.  Directed by Scott Ellis (Twelve Angry Men, The Mystery of Edwin Drood), the show will star James Earl Jones (Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, Fences) as Martin Vanderhof, along with Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids, “Charmed”) making her Broadway debut in the role of Alice.  Further cast members include Annaleigh Ashford (Kinky Boots), Elizabeth Ashley (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), and Kristine Nielsen (Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike).

In the Season Following “Act One”

This production will also feature original music written by Jason Robert Brown, a well-known composer for Parade, The Last Five Years, and The Bridges of Madison County.  It is produced by Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel, who first announced the production in 2010, but it was postponed several times until this fall.  Fortunately, the decided production dates are timely, as last season Lincoln Center debuted a play called Act One written and directed by James Lapine, which dealt with the long collaborative relationship between Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman.  In that production, Tony Shalhoub (“Monk”) played George S. Kaufman as well as Moss Hart as an older man.  Santino Fontano (Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella) played Moss Hart as a younger man.  That show will have whet the appetite of many audience members who are now eager to see a production of work by that great collaborative duo.  Now they will have a chance.

A Wacky Family Headed by James Earl Jones

The story of You Can’t Take It With You involves a wacky family called the Sycamores.  James Earl Jones plays the patriarch Grandpa james earl jonesVanderhof, and the rest of the family includes those who collect snakes, consider themselves revolutionaries, dance ballet, and build skyrockets.  The play takes place as the youngest daughter Alice (played by Rose Byrne) brings her fiancé (played by Fran Kranz, recently seen on Broadway in Death of a Salesman) and his parents over to meet her family, and hilarity incurs.  The play features a large cast, which will make its financial success difficult to achieve, but fortunately it features such a great team that it may very well succeed.  As for the non-human members of the cast, the producers have just announced that they have partnered with the Humane Society of New York to adopt the kittens that are used in the show.  As the kittens outgrow their roles, the production will help ensure that they find a happy family to adopt them.

“The Bridges of Madison County” to Close on May 18

Based on the 1992 best-selling novel by Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County is a musical with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown (Parade, Songs for a New World), a book by Marsha Norman (‘night, Mother), and directed by Bartlett Sher.  Though the show was a highly anticipated transfer from the Williamstown Theatre Festival where it ran in summer 2013, it will unfortunately close on May 18, 2014 after consistently moderate sales.  The musical opened at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on February 20, 2014 after 37 preview performances, and it will have run 100 regular performances by the time it shutters its doors.

The musical was not helped by its schedule, hbridges of madison county musical kelli o'hara steven pasqualeaving opened in the midst of a very cold winter.  Furthermore, it received mixed reviews from critics, despite considerable appreciation for the performances of its two stars.  Kelli O’Hara, who has received Tony Award nominations for her roles in The Light in the Piazza, The Pajama Game, South Pacific, and Nice Work if You Can Get It, starred alongside Steven Pasquale, who is known for his television roles on Rescue Me and Six Feet UnderThe Bridges of Madison County received four Tony Award nominations in 2014, including those for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Kelli O’Hara), Best Original Score (Jason Robert Brown), Best Orchestrations (Jason Robert Brown), and Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Donald Holder).  Despite this appreciation from the theatre community, it did not manage to attract enough ticket-buyers to keep it afloat.

Financially, the show’s highest weekly gross was $476,374, but it generally grossed around $350,000 per week.  This is hardly enough to sustain a musical, even though its capitalization was a modest $8.5 million.  In general, it only amassed enough sales to reach 30 to 40 percent of its gross potential in a given week.  Since early March, it has been on a steady decline, and this past week it grossed $64,998 less than the week before.

The novel is one of the bestselling books of the 20th century, having sold 50 million copies worldwide.  It is the story of an Italianbridges of madison county kelli o'hara steven pasquale bed scene woman named Francesca who lives in Madison County, Iowa in the 1960s.  The story takes off when she starts an affair with a National Geographic photographer focused on covered bridges in the area, and it follows the couple for several years afterward.  In addition to this musical adaptation, the novel was made into a film in 1995 directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Eastwood and Meryl Streep.

This is a very competitive season for new musicals.  In addition to the four that were nominated for the Tony Award for Best Musical – A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Aladdin, After Midnight, and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical – this season also saw the premiere of Bullets over Broadway, If/Then, and Rocky the Musical, as well as the Broadway premiere of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Violet (though these two shows have had Off-Broadway runs in the past).  In addition to the slew of musical revivals and plays both new and revived, it was particularly difficult for a new musical to find its audience, even one with such name recognition as The Bridges of Madison County.

Broadway Stars Join For Anti-Defamation League Concert

Side By Side Against HateOn November 25, a concert event titled “The Anti-Defamation League & Broadway: Side By Side Against Hate for 100 Years” will bring together several Broadway performers at the Hudson Theatre in the New York City theater district. The event will be held at 8pm.

Written by playwright Jonathan Tolins (Buyer & Cellar, Twilight of the Golds) and directed by Ted Sperling, the event commemorates the League’s 100 year history of fighting hate and bigotry through a selection of Broadway songs.

Eden Espinosa, Robert Cuccioli, Lillias White, Carolee Carmello, André De Shields, Randy Graff, Michael McElroy, Stephen DeRosa, Jesse Manocherian, Jason Robert Brown, and The Mark Stuart Dance Company are among those scheduled to participate in The Anti-Defamation League & Broadway concert.

Broadway writer Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof, Fiorello!, and She Loves Me) will be specially honored during the evening with a Lifetime Achievement Award (celebrating his 90th birthday, Harnick will even perform a duet with Randy Graff). Producer Harriet Newman Leve will be honored with a Distinguished Leadership Award and Adam Blanshay will be given a Future of Broadway Award.

Tickets for this benefit concert start at $75 and go as high as $1,000. Purchase online at adl.org/broadway100.

Bridges of Madison County Coming to Broadway in 2014

The Bridges of Madison CountyRobert James Waller’s best-selling 1992 novel The Bridges of Madison County, which later became a movie starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood, will soon step onto the Broadway stage. Adapted by bookwriter Marsha Norman and composer/lyricist Jason Robert Brown, The Bridges of Madison County musical will start performances at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on January 13, 2014.

Directed by Bartlett Sher, the production will have a pre-Broadway premiere this August at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Steven Pasquale and Elena Shaddow will star in the Williamstown run, but casting for Broadway has not yet been announced.

A romantic favorite when it came out in book stores, The Bridges of Madison County is about a very brief love affair between a lonely Iowa housewife and a traveling National Geographic photographer. The novel was on the New York Times bestseller list for over three years.