“Something Rotten!” Begins Previews

A New Musical from the Director of “The Book of Mormon”

something rottenOn March 23, 2015, Something Rotten! began previews at the St. James Theatre. This is a new musical with a book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell, and music and lyrics by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick. The musical is directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, who also directed and choreographed The Book of Mormon, Aladdin, Elf, and The Drowsy Chaperone. The musical will officially open on April 22, 2015, and is scheduled for an open ended run. The musical deals with two brothers named Nigel Bottom and Nick Bottom, who are desperately attempting to write a hit play, but they keep being overshadowed by some guy named William Shakespeare. In this effort, they accidentally invent the first ever musical! Like the protagonists, the show was conceived by a pair of brothers: Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick. Though they are both Broadway newbies, they have had a great deal of success in other realms. Wayne Kirkpatrick is a songwriter based in Nashville whose hit songs have been sung by the likes of Amy Grant, Trisha Yearwood, Eric Clapton, and Garth Brooks. Meanwhile, Karey Kirkpatrick is based in Los Angeles, where he is a writer and director of such films as James and the Giant Peach, Chicken Run, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

A Heavy Hitting Broadway Cast and Creative TeamCasey Nicholaw

The lead roles of the musical writing brothers are played by John Cariani (Fiddler on the Roof) and Brian d’Arcy James (Macbeth, Time Stands Still, Next to Normal, Shrek the Musical). The role of William Shakespeare is played by Christian Borle (Peter and the Starcatcher, Legally Blonde, Mary Poppins). Additional roles are played by Brooks Ashmanskas (Bullets over Broadway, Promises, Promises, Present Laughter), Heidi Blickenstaff (The Addams Family, [title of show], The Little Mermaid), Brad Oscar (Big Fish, Nice Work if You Can Get It), and Kate Reinders (Good Vibrations, Wicked, Gypsy). In addition to the extremely successful director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw, Something Rotten! also has a very experienced creative team. The scenic design is by Scott Pask, the lighting design is by Jeff Croiter, the costume design is by Gregg Barnes, the sound design is by Peter Hylenski, the musical coordinator is John Miller, and the conductor is Phil Reno. Also notably, the lead producer is Kevin McCollum, who is also behind Hand to God this season, as well as The Last Ship, Motown the Musical, and Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.

Difficult to Pre-Sell, but Not Necessarily to Sell

In his interview with Variety, producer Kevin McCollum was questioned about his choice of lead producing two new shows this season – Something Rotten! and Hand to God – both of which have little name recognition with the average audience member. In response, he said that these shows are not hard to sell; they are just hard to pre-sell. Something Rotten!, which is still in previews, is proving this to be correct thus far, as the box office figures in the first few weeks of the run are not spectacular. In the last reported week of box office, the week ending April 12, 2015, the show brought in $619,159, which represents 76.60% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of $197.00, the average paid admission was $66.50. However, the good news is that this is a steady increase from the previous two weeks. Even with one fewer performance, that week was an increase of $112,057 from the week ending April 5, 2015, and that week showed and increase of $143,228 from the week before. Therefore, word of mouth is beginning to spread, and the post-opening reviews will prove whether this musical will be a long-standing hit.

“Motown” Concludes Its Run with Plans to Return

The Critical and Commercial Hit Says Goodbye for Now

Vinyl record poster Motown the Musical Broadway Show On March 11, 2013, Motown the Musical began previews at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, a coveted Broadway house owned by the Nederlander organization. Its opening night was on April 14, 2013, where it received a round of highly positive reviews from critics. Since that time, the musical has played to generally full houses and financial success. The reportedly $18 million musical announced that it would recoup its capitalization by the time it closed, which happened this past week on January 18, 2015 after playing 738 performances (and 37 preview performances). The show was a regular member of the million dollar club on the weekly gross charts, but sales softened in the last season. With very high running costs reaching around $850,000, there was a lot of pressure to sell a full house of full price tickets in order to stay afloat. With that accomplished, the production has decided to shutter this present Broadway incarnation, focusing for the next 18 months on the London production and touring productions. Having decided to depart before sales turned sour, the musical will be thought of as a complete success.

An Unusual 18-Month Hiatus for “Motown the Musical”Motown the Musical Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder

More importantly, the producers have learned that they can mount the show with lower running costs. In the Broadway production, there are 41 performers in addition to 18 in the orchestra, but they found that the touring production was as much of a hit with only 33 actors and 15 in the pit. Though the producers do not plan on mounting the same pared down touring production when the show returns to Broadway in July 2016, the show may end up in the middle of those two versions. This will allow the production to lower its running costs, sustaining its endurance on Broadway for perhaps several or even many years longer. Of course, this is the goal of almost all musical producers: to have their show run as long as possible. It appears that in this case, the show’s creators determined that they would last longer if they took a breather. They made a deal with Nick Scandalios, a top executive in the Nederlander organization, who promised to give Motown a Nederlander theatre (no promises which) when it returns in July 2016. The reason the landlord agreed is that this allowed them to open up the desirable Lunt-Fontanne, which many other productions – including Harvey Weinstein’s Finding Neverland – are vying for.

In the Meantime, London and U.S. National Tour

The London production of this hit musical is planned to open this upcoming summer 2015. Employing another cost-saving strategy, the producers have decided to use the Broadway costumes and sets in the West End. If the London show is a hit beyond July 2016, they will likely have to make or acquire new sets and costumes, but that window leaves enough time for the show to open and close if it cannot find its legs in the West End. Either way, it is a smart strategy given the odds. In addition, the U.S. tour is ongoing and has just left Chicago. The first U.S. tour grossed $20 million over the course of 16 weeks, so the producers have a reason to be optimistic about the future of this musical, even if the Broadway production is temporarily closed.

Motown Producer Kevin McCollum To Develop Shows Based on Fox Films

20thcenturyIn the golden age of musical theater, it was common for books and plays to be adapted into musicals. Nowadays, it is increasingly movies that are being targeted as source material for new musicals. Producers like them for their name value, and movie studios appreciate having a new way to make money from old movies.

20th Century Fox, the studio behind everything from black and white classics to Star Wars to modern movies as varied as Lincoln and Life of Pi, is now looking to adapt films from its catalog for the stage. For this task, they have tapped Broadway producer Kevin McCollum (Motown the Musical, Rent, In the Heights), John Davis, and Tom McGrath.

“For years we have been eager to expand our entertainment expertise to the world of live stage, but we wanted to do it right and most importantly, with the right people,” stated 20th Century Fox CEO Jim Gianopulos. “We have been fortunate to have found great partners in Kevin, John and Tom to help to transform great Fox properties into exciting live stage entertainment for audiences everywhere.”

There are already nine musicals based on 20th Century Fox films planned for development over the next few years.