“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.

“Cabaret” Concludes Its Run

Last Performance March 29 at Studio 54

cabaret Roundabout Theatre on BroadwayOn March 29, 2015, the Roundabout revival of Cabaret shuttered its doors at Studio 54, one of Roundabout Theatre Company’s Broadway venues. The revival has been playing since it began previews on March 21, 2014, ensuring that the show stayed on just past the one year mark. This production of Cabaret was based off an earlier production from 1993, also directed by Sam Mendes and co-directed by Rob Marshall, with choreography by Rob Marshall. Furthermore, Alan Cumming reprised his renowned role as the Emcee from that production, and he stayed with this revival for the entire run. It therefore makes sense that the production would choose to close upon the end of his contract, rather than rehearsing a replacement who would probably not fare as well as the box office. Instead, the focus has been on ensuring that his co-star, the leading lady playing Sally Bowles, would attract enough ticket buying attention. When the show began last year, Michelle Williams played the role of Sally. She received mixed reviews, and was able to attract some but not wildly outstanding box office attention. Michelle played that role until November 9, 2014. Throughout her stint, the highest weekly gross was $839,690, which took place in the week ending August 3, 2014.

Emma Stone as Sally Bowlesemma stone cabaret

Beginning November 11, 2014, Emma Stone stepped into the role of Sally Bowles, which she continued in until February 15, 2015. She ended up extended her run two weeks longer than originally planned. Emma Stone received excellent notices, and furthermore she brought the box office higher than it had been ever before in the run. The weekly gross box office record while she was in the lead was $1,051,850, which took place in the week ending January 4, 2015. That was one of two weeks in which the show made it into the millionaire’s club, the other being the week ending December 28, 2014. The combination of the high tourist Christmas season, along with Emma Stone, was a winning mix. Emma Stone was riding high off of her excellent reviews in the movie Birdman, where she played the daughter of a Broadway actor, with the movie primarily taking place backstage in a Broadway theatre. It was therefore fitting when she stepped into the role of Sally Bowles soon thereafter.

Sienna Miller as Sally Bowles

sienna millerTo complete the rest of Alan Cumming’s run, from February 17, 2015 until the last performance on March 29, 2015, Sienna Miller stepped into the role of Sally. Miller had been on Broadway once before, as the title role in After Miss Julie in 2009. Though she didn’t receive excellent reviews then, she has certainly captivated the attention of America through her screen performances in such recent hits as Foxcatcher and American Sniper. Miller, though not as successful as Stone, also did fairly well at the box office. She reached a high note in the final week, with a weekly gross of $935,989, although the credit is not due entirely to her of course, as a show generally picks up its ticket sales in the final week before closing. All in all, this revival of Cabaret can be considered a success, but the musical is such a classic that it almost supersedes the concept of success and failure. Whether or not the Tony committee chooses to recognize a revival of a revival, there will always be an audience delighted to see Cabaret.

“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.

The New Revival of Kander and Ebb’s ‘Cabaret’ Begins Previews

Willkommen. Bienvenue. Welcome.
These three words – or rather, this one word in these three languages – is deliciously familiar to Broadway fans far and wide.

cabaret Roundabout Theatre on Broadway It is therefore with great anticipation that audiences welcome the new revival of Cabaret to Broadway, which begins performances tonight: March, 21, 2014.  These are the lyrics that begin the opening number of John Kander and Fred Ebb’s musical masterpiece, sung by the ultimate provocateur, the Master of Ceremonies.  This role, in a turn of events generally unusual for Broadway but not for this show, is revived along with the musical itself.  Alan Cumming, the beloved Scottish actor most recently seen on Broadway in his one-man adaption of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, will reprise the Emcee role, which he also played in 1998 when the musical last appeared on Broadway.

The 2014 revival is produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company at one of their two Broadway houses: Studio 54 on West 54th Street.  This marks the show’s third Broadway revival.  It originally premiered in 1966, when it ran for 1,186 performances (including previews) and was nominated for 11 Tony Awards, winning 8 (including Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Performance by a Featured Actor – Joel Grey as the Master of Ceremonies, and Best Director – Harold Prince).  Cabaret’s first Broadway revival took place in 1987, with Harold Prince once again directing and with Joel Grey reprising his role as the Emcee.  The second revival played 2,377 performances, becoming the third-longest running Broadway revival in history, and featured Alan Cumming as the Emcee, a role he had debuted in the 1993 London revival.

When Alan Cumming first played the Emcee, he significantly altered the interpretation from that portrayed by Joel Grey.  Grey had embodied the consummate asexual entertainer, but Cumming took on the role in a highly sexualized fashion.  Still, both interpretations were so inimitable that each actor was asked to reprise his role for the following revival.  Furthermore, following in Harold Prince’s tradition of the director reprising his position for this show, Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall, who co-directed the last revival, will also direct the 2014 production.

Starring alongside Cumming in this revival is Michelle Williams in her Broadway debut, playing the role of Sally Bowles: the 19 year-old English cabaret performer who falls in love with a young American writer.  Williams rose to fame in the late 90s on the WB’s teen television drama Dawson’s Creek.  She was then nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Brokeback Mountain, and also garnered acclaim for her performances in I’m Not There, Synecdoche New York, Shutter Island, and Blue Valentine.  The musical also features Tony Award nominees Linda Emond (Death of a Salesman, Life x 3) as Fraulein Schneider, and Danny Burstein (Follies, Golden Boy, South Pacific, The Drowsy Chaperone) as Herr Schultz.

The musical officially opens on April 24, 2014.  Though the last revival ran for 6 years, this is slated to be a 24-week limited engagement, with the closing date scheduled for August 31, 2014.