“An Act of God” Wraps Up Its Run

Jim Parsons Plays Final Performance on August 2, 2015

an act of godOn May 7, 2015, An Act of God began previews at Roundabout Theatre Company’s Studio 54 theatre, although the show is not a Roundabout production. An Act of God is written by David Javerbaum, directed by Joe Mantello, and stars Jim Parsons in the role of God. The producers include Jeffrey Finn and the Shubert Organization. The official opening night then took place on May 28, 2015. The show opened just too late to be considered for Tony Awards nominations this past year, although it will be eligible for the following year’s awards. However, the Tony committee generally has a fairly short term memory, with even shows that ran in the fall season given less notice than those from the spring season. Therefore, with this show opening and closing all within the summer of 2015, it may be difficult for the Tony committee to remember it as a competitive show for the nominations in June of 2016. In any case, An Act of God was a hit, at least from a financial perspective. On July 15, 2015, it was announced that the show had recouped its initial capitalization of $2.9 million, and is now running in profits. In addition, the show received fairly positive reviews after its opening on May 28th. Therefore, from almost all perspectives, the show is a critical and commercial hit.

Excellent Box Office from Day Oneact-of-god-broadway-jim-parsons

In the first partial week of performances for An Act of God, the show brought in 93.01% of its gross potential. Those numbers dipped slightly throughout the following weeks of preview performances, but in the weeks following the show’s opening, the numbers were back up in the range of 85 to 90% of the show’s gross potential. In the last reported week of box office figures, the week ending July 26, 2015, the show finally broke through the 100% mark of its gross potential, and in addition it brought in over $1 million at the box office for the first time. That week, the weekly gross was $1,011,538, which represents 100.37% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of $349.00, the average paid admission was $130.47, also the highest average ticket sale in any week yet. In addition, the average audience capacity reached a peak of 96.3% average across the eight performances. With just one week left of box office figures to report, chances are these numbers will continue to creep upwards as ticket buyers realize this is their last chance to see Jim Parsons live on Broadway in the estimable role of God.

Jim Parsons: A Big Box Office Name on Broadway

If An Act of God demonstrated anything about the type of show that sells well on Broadway, it can be gleaned that Jim Parsons is a big box office name. The other factors involved in the production leave nothing particularly remarkable to conclude, such as the small cast led principally by one actor (often a difficult sell on Broadway), the playwright being a well regarded name within TV circles but one whose name doesn’t mean much to most Broadway ticket buyers, and a show that opened after it would be eligible for Tony Awards consideration. Jim Parsons also had a great chance to shine in his last lead performance at Studio 54, that time in the Roundabout Theatre Company production of Harvey. His only other performance on Broadway to date was a supporting role in The Normal Heart, where the lead role was played by Joe Mantello, who is also the director of An Act of God. When Parsons played that same role in the HBO film version of The Normal Heart, he was nominated for an Emmy Award. All in all, Parsons has won the hearts of America, and we are sure to see him again on Broadway as soon as he has a break in his busy television and film schedule.

“An Act of God” Opens on Broadway

Jim Parsons as Our Holy Father

an act of godOn May 28, 2015, An Act of God opened at Studio 54, a Roundabout Theatre Company Broadway venue. It had been running in previews since May 7, 2015. Presently, it is scheduled for a limited engagement to close on August 2, 2015. Although much of the excitement in the Broadway community these days regards the Tony Awards, which will happen this upcoming weekend, An Act of God made the unusual choice to open just after the cut off for Awards consideration. Therefore, like God in heaven above, the play is above all the awards hubbub, and it thrives independent of any commendation or lack there of from the Tony nominating committee and voters. The play stars Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory,” Harvey, The Normal Heart) as God, and the cast also includes archangels Michael, played by Christopher Fitzgerald, and Gabriel, played by Tim Kazurinsky. The play is directed by Joe Mantello, who appeared as an actor alongside Jim Parsons in The Normal Heart, and whose directing credits include Airline Highway, Casa Valentina, and 9 to 5. The play is written by David Javerbaum, the producer of “The Late Late Show with James Corden” and previous writer and producer of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” It is based off his book “The Last Testament: A Memoir by God.”

Generally Positive Reviewsan act of god

Most all critics gave the play a standing ovation. Charles Isherwood at The New York Times found Parsons to be an adorable and funny version of God, and that the play is divinely funny itself. David Cote from Time Out New York found this play to be so good that it went beyond comfort, instead rattling the audience’s complacencies. Frank Scheck from The Hollywood Reporter found Parsons to be surprisingly authoritative as the Great Almighty, and enjoyed the play greatly. Jesse Green from Vulture loved how the play moved with great ease between camp and profundity. Only Marilyn Stasio from Variety was more on the fence, deciding it was a waste of time to review a play by God, but she did praise Parsons’ performance as a source of light.

Box Office Started Well, Now Just Okay

When the show began previews on May 7, 2015, the first week of box office looked divine. Over the course of its first four performances, An Act of God brought in $477,703, which represented 93.01% of its gross potential. However, in the three full weeks since, the show has decreased each week in its weekly grosses. This past week, the week ending May 31, 2015, the show brought in $693,379, which represents only 68.80% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of $349.00, the average paid admission was $93.92. This is a decrease from the previous week, when the average paid admission was $109.95. Therefore, the production is offering more discounts that they did the previous week. However, it seems to have worked, as the average audience capacity increased to 91.7%, up from 82.5% the week before. After these post opening reviews, interest should increase, and once the Tony Awards buzz wears down, An Act of God has the potential to have a successful summer.

“Airline Highway” to Close Early

Manhattan Theatre Club Production Shutters One Week Early

airline highwayOn April 1, 2015, Airline Highway began previews at the Manhattan Theatre Club’s Broadway venue, the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. It officially opened on April 23, 2015. At that time, it was scheduled to conclude performances on June 14, 2015. However, it has been announced that the show will close one week early, playing its final performance on June 7, 2015. Though the play received mixed reviews, it has been performing dismally at the box office the entire run. Perhaps surprisingly, the show received four Tony Award nominations in a season when many productions received zero (those snubbed include Finding Neverland, The River, It Shoulda Been You, Living on Love, and several more). Airline Highway received nominations for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play for K. Todd Freeman, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play for Julie White, Best Costume Design of a Play for David Zinn, and Best Lighting Design of a Play for Japhy Weideman. Nevertheless, the show will close the same day as the Tony Awards, the producers figuring that even four wins (however unlikely) would not save the flailing production.

Mixed Post Opening Reviewsairline highway

When the play opened on April 23, 2015, critics had a mixed set of opinions. Charles Isherwood of The New York Times was in favor of this production, the first by a woman to be produced on a Broadway by MTC for some time. He found the play to be compassionate but unvarnished, with some excellent performances such as that by Julie White. Robert Kahn of NBC New York was also a fan of the show, finding the story of these misfits in New Orleans to be ultimately uplifting. However, other critics were more on the fence. For instance, Adam Feldman from Time Out New York found the show to have a jazzy vigor, but he finds that the plot doesn’t ultimately go anywhere of interest. Similarly, Terry Teachout of The Wall Street Journal was in favor of Lisa D’Amour’s play being chosen for production as she is such a young writer, but he finds the play to be wholly derivative. On the far negative end of the spectrum, David Rooney from The Hollywood Reporter found the play to be rambling, uninteresting, and deficient of any action, despite the noble efforts of the cast and creative team.

Struggling Box Office from Day One

Despite some positive reviews, the show never made greater than 36.84% of its gross potential in any given week. In the last reported week of box office figures, the week ending May 31, 2015, the show brought in $160,888, which represents 32.84% of its gross potential. The average paid admission was only $46.19, showing a significant amount of discounting as well as complimentary tickets being given out, but the audience capacity still only made it to an average of 69.4%. Even though the Manhattan Theatre Club has more of a luxury to sustain a suffering production than purely commercial productions, given their not for profit status as an institution, even they had to draw the line somewhere. The decision to close only one week early allowed them to save face and still go out with four Tony nominations, but they must have decided they would cut some minor losses to cancel the final eight performances.

“An Act of God” Begins Previews

Jim Parsons Stars in this Satirical Play

an act of godOn May 7, 2015, An Act of God began previews at Studio 54, produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company. In choosing to opening after the late April cut-off for Tony consideration, Roundabout was not positioning this show to succeed on the renown achieved by awards. Though it will be eligible for next year’s awards, it is generally the case that shows which have long ago shuttered before Tony consideration are often neglected or slighted. For example, Jez Butterworth’s highly commended play The River, which starred Hugh Jackman, broke box office records, and closed this fall after a limited engagement, did not receive any Tony nominations for this year’s awards. In any case, the show is sure to be an exciting one among audience members, if only for its lead actor, the beloved comedic star Jim Parsons. Parsons first came to fame from his television roles such as on “The Big Bang Theory,” and has since warmed many hearts on Broadway in Harvey and The Normal Heart. Though this play is not exactly a one-man show, as two other actors are billed in the cast, it is principally a showcase for Parsons’ comedic talents, as he plays none other than God. The play is written by David Javerbaum, based on his book The Last Testament: A Memoir by God. Javerbaum is also well known for being head writer and executive producer of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and soon to be the same on The Late Late Show with James Corden.

The Mysteries of Existence and Other Laughsan act of god

An Act of God professes to be a means for God to communicate his answers to the great questions such as the mysteries of existence. Satirical in nature, Jim Parsons speaks in a formalized godly voice to shed light on these profundities regarding existence and life on earth. The show is directed by Joe Mantello, who worked with Jim Parson as an actor in The Normal Heart, and who has directed many Broadway shows including Airline Highway, The Last Ship, and Casa Valentina. The two other roles are Michael, played by Christopher Fitzgerald (The Merchant of Venice, Chicago), and Gabriel, played by Tim Kazurinksy (“Saturday Night Live,” Police Academy films). The scenic design is by Scott Pask, the costumes are by David Zinn, the lighting design is by Hugh Vanstone, sound design is by Fitz Patton, and projection design is by Peter Nigrini. When David Javerbaum launched his book, he also coined the twitter handle @TheTweetOfGod. Now on Broadway, this twitter campaign is adapted for the stage show, making comments from the mouth of God in reference to the Broadway play.

A Divine Box Office Launch

In the first partial week of performances, in which An Act of God had four shows, the play brought in $477,703 at the box office, which represents 93.01% of its gross potential. This is an excellent feat for a new play with a small cast, especially amidst all the Tony excitement for other nominated shows. The following week, when the show had a full week of eight performances, it brought in $738,682, which is a slight decrease in percentage reached of gross potential, amounting to 73.3%. Still, the average paid ticket was $113.84, demonstrating that people are interested in paying top dollar for this hilarious and unusual show on Broadway. The show opens on May 28, 2015, and is currently scheduled to close on August 2, 2015.

“Airline Highway” Begins Broadway Performances

MTC Produces a Broadway Play by a Female Writer

airline highwayThe Manhattan Theatre Club has been receiving a lot of criticism for their failure to produce a play on Broadway by a female playwright over the past two years. For the first time, they broke that streak with the production of Lisa D’Amour’s Airline Highway, which began previews at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on April 1, 2015. The show opened on April 23, 2015, and is scheduled to run until June 14, 2015. Lisa D’Amour is a renowned playwright, but this is the first time her work has been seen on Broadway. Her other plays include Nita & Zita, for which she received an Obie Award in 2003, Terrible Things, for which she received MAP Fund award in 2008, and Ten Thousand Things, for which she received the award for Best New Play from the Austin Critics’ Circle in 2002. Her play Detroit was scheduled to be produced on Broadway, but it was instead produced Off-Broadway by Playwrights Horizons in 2012-2013. This is therefore a great achievement for her work to finally be seen by a wider audience. Airline Highway is directed by Joe Mantello, whose many Broadway directing credits include An Act of God, The Last Ship, Casa Valentina, I’ll Eat You Last: A Conversation with Sue Mengers, and The Other Place.

A Gathering in a Run Down New Orleans Motelairline highway

Airline Highway takes place in New Orleans, where Lisa D’Amour was formerly a Carnival Queen. She utilizes her firsthand knowledge of the crazy range of characters in that town to craft this play. The concept of the play is an all-night party that the friends throw for their friend in honor of her death, before she has died. This pal is Miss Ruby, who lays upstairs on her deathbed, and then eventually makes it down to the parking lot party, with her bed in tow. She was a kind of maternal figure to all these tragic souls, and they are celebrating her life with a preemptive funeral. The other characters include Sissy Na Na, a wise and learned transvestite who will take on the matriarchal role once Miss Ruby has passed. We also meet the motel manager, a man who does odd jobs at the motel, and a variety of hippies and outcasts who form a tight knit community.

Difficulty Catching Hold at the Box Office

This little known play by a little known writer is having a tough time making tracks at the box office. In the last reported week of box office figures, the week ending April 26, 2015, the show only brought in $126,468, which represents 23.44% of its gross potential. In the week prior, the show reached its peak thus far with a weekly gross of $144,334, which represents 24.49% of the show’s gross potential. The average paid ticket has ranged between $29.08 and $37.42, showing a heavy amount of discounting. And yet they are still not managing to completely fill up the audience, as this last week had an average audience capacity of 86.7%. The peak in terms of audience capacity was the week before, at an average of 90.8%. Because this play is produced by Manhattan Theatre Club, it will likely survive this difficult string of box office losses, but it will still not be easy to last until June if sales don’t pick up.

Sting Joins the Cast of “The Last Ship”

Hoping to Prevent “The Last Ship” from Sinking

the last shipThe sexiest thing about the production of the floundering new musical The Last Ship has always been its composer and lyricist, Sting – who has been nominated for the Grammy Awards 38 times, and has won for 11 of them. He has been inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame, has also won 25 American Music Awards, and has also acted in films ranging from Quadrophenia in 1979 to The Adventures of Baron Munchausen in 1988, and 20 Feet from Stardom in 2013. However, since it began previews on September 29, 2014, The Last Ship has not been performing well at the box office. It has never earned more than $575,155 in one week, and it has never made more than 51.62% of its weekly gross potential.

A Last-Ditch Effort to Save the Last Shipsting last ship

Starting December 9, 2014, however, Sting decided to make a last-ditch effort to save his beloved musical tale of the last ship built by an English seafaring town. He entered the cast in the role of Jackie White, a foreman of the shipyard. Though he is not the main role, he is on stage about 40% of the time, and he sings tunes such as one that has been particularly beloved with fans “Island of Souls.” The show takes place in his hometown and is semi-autobiographical. It is unclear whether the role of Jackie White is the autobiographical part, but it is most likely that Sting’s personal experience overlaps more with the protagonist Gideon Fletcher played by Michael Esper, but that at this age it was more appropriate for Sting to take on the role of White.

An Extension to Six Weeks

Though it was first announced that Sting would be in the show for four weeks only, from December 9, 2014 to January 10, 2015, it has recently been announced that Sting will stay on an additional two weeks until January 24, 2015. Perhaps he was just getting into his groove, and wanted to stick around for a bit longer, or perhaps the replacement they found had a scheduling conflict. Sting stepped in to replace Jimmy Nail as Jackie White; Nail is a British actor for whom this is his Broadway debut. It is most likely that Nail will come back in following Sting’s departure, allowing Nail to still be paid as an understudy, but Sting performing the role with an endnote that is somewhat flexible.

“The Last Ship” Opens on Broadway

Sting’s First Broadway Effort

the last shipOn October 26, 2014, The Last Ship opened at Broadway’s Neil Simon Theatre. It had been running in previews since September 29, 2014. With music and lyrics by 16-time Grammy Award winner Sting, the musical has a book by John Logan (Red, I’ll Eat You Last) and Brian Yorkey (Next to Normal, If/Then). Furthermore, the show is directed by Joe Mantello (Casa Valentina, Other Desert Cities) and choreographed by Steven Hoggett (Once, Rocky). The show tells the story of the citizens of an English seafaring town whose shipping business is on its last legs. The protagonist, a man named Gideon Fletcher, left home as a young man to seek greater adventures, but returns to find that his father’s business is failing and his one true love has pledged herself to another. The denizens come together in a grand collaborative effort to build one last ship, representing the dream that they have shared and their passion to keep it alive despite the hardships they are facing. Sting crafted this musical following his own experience growing up in Newcastle, and it shares a name with his eleventh album, The Last Ship, which came out in September 2013. This is the first time Sting has written a show for the stage.

The Reviews Are In

The reviews are in, and critics are mixed in their appreciation of the show. Charles Isherwood of The New York Times deemed it the last shipambitious and earnest, but couldn’t help but criticize it for being unfocused. There are two conflicting storylines – the romantic subplot and the main story of the seafaring town’s struggle – and they never come together in a coherent or satisfying way. He lauded the score for being one of the best composed by a Broadway outsider (that is, a singer-songwriter or otherwise established musician trying his or her hand on Broadway), which is a kind of underwhelming compliment. And though he appreciated the performances of the talented actors, he acknowledged the show is disadvantaged by its somber themes in comparison to the peppier shows competing for ticketbuyers’ attention. David Cote of Time Out New York, on the other hand, was more positive in his review. He called the show fervent and glorious, and yet he still admitted the book was lacking in comparison to the score. Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press appreciated the testosterone level of the show, and was enervated by the score and the story both. David Rooney of the Hollywood Reporter praised the show for returning to the concept of the original Broadway musical, with true soul in its roots, although he was still on the fence about the show’s overall success.

Struggling at the Box Office

Though more than a week has passed since these reviews came out, theatregoers do not seem to be encouraged to purchase tickets due to their increased awareness of the show’s existence. In the week ending November 2, 2014, the show grossed $495,069, which was actually a decrease of $51,845 from the week before and the show’s lowest weekly gross to date. This represents only 39.82% of the show’s gross potential, with an average paid ticket price of $78.17. Perhaps the show needs to discount more, but that will only take it so far. With mixed reviews, less than upbeat themes, and a highly competitive Broadway season full of Hollywood stars and compelling musical brands, The Last Ship may have a hard time staying afloat for very much longer.

“The Last Ship” Begins Previews on Broadway

Sting’s Debut as a Musical Theatre Composer

the last shipThe 16-time Grammy Award winning musician Sting has written his first musical: The Last Ship. Set in an English seafaring town called Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, the musical is based off some of Sting’s own childhood experiences. The protagonist is a young man named Gideon Fletcher, who grew up in this shipping town but dreams of a different life for himself. Though he is expected to follow in his father’s footsteps, he decides to leave home and take a trip around the world. 14 years later, he returns home to discover that the industry is in dire straits, and meanwhile that his childhood sweetheart has found another man to be her fiancé. Gideon, along with the men of the town, endeavors to build one last ship, proving to themselves and to the world that they have power within them.

The Show’s Pre-Broadway Life

The first recorded instance of the show being performed was an early try-out in Newcastle, England at the Live Theatre. More recently, the show was given a pre-Broadway run at Chicago’s Bank of America Theatre from June 10, 2014 until July 13, 2014. Previews have now begun at Broadway’s Neil Simon Theatre, with the first performance having taken place on September 29, 2014. Opening night is scheduled for October 26, 2014. Reviews in Chicago were less than ecstatic. The book was written by John Logan (Red, I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers) and Brian Yorkey (Next to Normal, If/Then), but despite the pedigree of these writers, many found the libretto to be implausible, and the story to be dreary. Fans have come to expect that a musical will be somewhat upbeat, and perhaps the story of this struggling English shipping town is not America’s cup of tea.

Cast and Creative Team



In addition to the book by John Logan and Brian Yorkey, and the music and lyrics by Sting, the show is directed by Joe Mantello (Casa Valentina, Other Desert Cities, Glengarry Glen Ross) and choreographed by Steven Hoggett (Once, Rocky, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time). Though this is Sting’s first musical, he has previously ventured out of traditional songwriting territory when co-writing the score for the 2000 Disney animated film The Emperor’s New Groove. Furthermore, Sting released a musical album in 2013 entitled The Last Ship, which features music from the musical, or originally intended for it. He had not released an album prior to that since 2003 with Sacred Love, and credits the show for motivating him to craft a new slew of songs. The cast features Broadway favorites including Michael Esper (The Lyons, American Idiot) and Aaron Lazar (A Little Night Music, The Light in the Piazza), as well as West End star Rachel Tucker making her Broadway debut. Further cast members include Jimmy Nail, Fred Applegate, Sally Ann Triplett, and Collin Kelly-Sordelet.

“Casa Valentina” Begins Previews on Broadway

Tonight at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, previews will commence for the Manhattan Theatre Club production of Casa Valentina, a world premiere play written by four-time Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein.  Directed by two-time Tony Award winner Joe Mantello, the play will run for a limited engagement between April 1, 2014 and June 15, 2014, with the official opening night taking place on April 23, 2014.  Fierstein, who has seen enormous success in penning the book for musicals including Kinky Boots, Newsies, and La Cage aux Folles, has not had a straight play produced in almost thirty years.  Well, none of Harvey Fierstein’s content is ever “straight,” per say.

casa-susanna is the basis for the Casa Valentina Broadway Show

casa-susanna is the basis for the Casa Valentina Broadway Show

Casa Valentina is based on the true story of a group of New York men in the 1960s – white collar professionals with families – who vacationed in the Catskill Mountains during the summers.  Unlike most vacationers in that period, however, these men had a particular quirk: they dressed up as women.  Beyond assuming female wardrobe to a meticulous degree of detail, they also adopted the personalities of their female counterparts during the vacation.  While transvestitism has proliferated in our culture in many forms since that time, these men were truly transgressive, and yet they were still firmly embedded in conventional heterosexual culture in the course of their everyday lives.  The play introduces us to these unique individuals, and then follows them as they are confronted with a difficult choice: the opportunity to become an official organization, effectively outing their precious secret.

casa-susanna is the basis for the Casa Valentina Broadway Show

Just as interesting as the plot of the play, however, is the background of how this true story became uncovered.  Some time ago, a pair of antique collectors discovered a large collection of old photographs at a New York flea market.  When they realized that the gorgeous women depicted in the photographs were in fact men, which was not immediately obvious, they decided to publish them in a book entitled Casa Susanna.  The pictures alone tell the heartbreaking story of these conflicted souls.  However, what is exceedingly interesting is that none of the press releases about this new Broadway play refer to the original source material.

After purchasing the rights to this book of photographs, the producers Colin Callender, Robert Cole, and Frederick Zollo commissioned Harvey Fierstein to write a play based on the images.  To mitigate their risk in bringing an untried play directly to Broadway, they partnered with the Manhattan Theatre Club, and agreed to be credited as granting the production “by special arrangement.”  It is curious that the producers decided not only to change the name of the play to Casa Valentina from the original title of Casa Susanna, but also to neglect to mention the book of photographs in any press release.  Perhaps the reason was to protect the appearance of originality for Harvey Fierstein, and calling this a “world premiere” by Fierstein certainly implies that it was his idea in the first place, which it was not.

casa-susanna is the basis for the Casa Valentina Broadway Show

Of course, none of this background information would affect the quality of the play itself, which is to be seen in the coming weeks as previews unfold.  What does bode well is the extraordinary cast of Broadway stalwarts and up-and-comers, including Reed Birney, John Cullum, Gabriel Ebert, Larry Pine, and Patrick Page.  Under the skilled direction of Joe Mantello, and surely featuring Harvey Fierstein’s signature wit, this play could be a very exciting addition to the Broadway season.  Indeed, it would be a true achievement if Fierstein’s concocted narrative comes close to representing the understated yet superb beauty of the mysterious found photographs, which the producers of this play clearly do not want the audience to discover.