Tony Awards TV Viewership Down 10 Percent Despite Record Breaking Broadway Season

Broadway Grosses and Attendance Up By Over 7 Percent

tony awardIn the 2014 to 2015 Broadway season, 37 new productions opened. These included 15 musicals, 10 of which were new and 5 of which were revivals, as well as 20 plays, 11 of which were new and 9 of which were revivals. This is in addition to two special engagements. Across the board, the industry yielded $1.37 billion dollars, which is a 7.6% increase from last year’s gross of $1.27 billion dollars. On top of that, total attendance reached 13.1 million people, up 7.3% from last year’s total attendance of 12.2 million people. Though the number of shows was down to 37 from 44 the year before, that is actually a positive sign, as it shows that the shows that did go up stayed up more successfully, leading to less turnover. With regards to the sheer number of shows running on a weekly basis, the number of total playing weeks increased by 8.7% from the previous season. Despite these record breaking figures, the greatest theatre event of the season on broadcast television – the Tony Awards on CBS – had remarkably low TV viewership. According to Nielsen, the event pulled 6.35 million viewers, which is down by 10% from the year before. In comparison, the Golden Globes, often considered the Oscar’s poor cousin, brings in about 20 million viewers.

NBA Conflict Overstated in the Press

When Variety reported on this strange contradiction, its headline proclaimed that the Tony Awards “flirted” with record lows “opposite big NBA finals,” which were shown on rival station NBC. However, this is simplifying the facts. First of all, this was only Game 2 of the NBA Finals. If it were nearing the end of the finals, this may be more of an explanation for the low Tony viewership. Furthermore, the core demographic for theatre awards ceremonies and NBA basketball games couldn’t be less overlapping. The only justification for this could be households where there were conflicting interests, such as wives wanting to watch the Tony Awards and husbands wanting to watch the sports game. In addition, the Tony Awards began at 8:00pm, and the basketball game didn’t begin until 9:00pm. That first hour also includes the opening number, traditionally one of the more exciting elements to watch, as well as some of the major awards. Therefore, the real reason may have more to do with other factors.

Less Interesting Hosts? Less Interest in Awards?alan cumming and kristin chenoweth

One major difference between the 2015 Tony Awards ceremony and the 2014 Tony Awards ceremony is that this year, the hosts were Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth, whereas last year the host was Hugh Jackman. From the Broadway box office reports, it is clear that Hugh Jackman is a major attraction, as both The River and Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway performed excellently in terms of ticket sales. This year’s hosts, though certainly big names on Broadway and with lists of screen credits that are nothing to scoff at, are arguably less big stars. Also, it is possible that having two hosts diluted the interest in the hosting position. Whereas the decision to have two co-hosts may have been an effort to make up for each individual not being a big enough star, the result may have been the opposite: that two hosts are inherently less interesting than one. The Broadway League could be tempted to bring in someone more mainstream who is also funny, but it is doubtful that Ricky Gervais, Amy Poehler or Tina Fey would be expected to host any time soon. Furthermore, the contradiction between an excellent Broadway season and low Tony Award viewership may be explained by the fact that there has been an increased interest in seeing live theatre, but the fan aspect of watching the awards ceremony may have not increased in kind. There were also complaints about this year’s broadcast, such as the Dramatists Guild’s statement that they were increasingly dismayed that key awards, such as Best Book and Best Score, were not shown live on the telecast. In any case, it is excellent for Broadway that more people went to the theatre this past season, and perhaps next year more will tune in for the awards.

“Fun Home” and “Curious Incident” Win Big at the Tony Awards

Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth Host at Radio City Music Hall

alan cumming and kristin chenowethLast night, the 69th Annual Tony Awards took place at Radio City Music Hall, hosted by Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth. After much excitement, the winners were revealed, amidst many gorgeous musical numbers performed by shows that were nominated, as well as by shows that received no nominations. At the end of the night, the final and most anticipated award was announced: Fun Home took home the Tony Award for Best Musical. Arguably the most prestigious and meaningful award among a list of huge honors, this award will ensure that Fun Home continues to run for at least another year if not many more. After transferring from the Off-Broadway Public Theater, Fun Home has been playing at the small Circle in the Square Theatre since March 27, 2015. Though it has been playing to sold out houses, it has not been reaching the top of its money earning potential. This past week, the week ending June 7, 2015, it made only 87.60% of its gross potential. That is sure to change immediately, as the tiny venue can only accommodate 776 people, by far the smallest house on Broadway. Time will tell whether the show will need to transfer to a larger venue to meet demand, or whether it will just become an extremely tough ticket.

Best Play, Best Revivals, Best Actors, and Best Directorscurious incident

The other very prestigious honor at the Tony Awards is that for Best Play, which was earned by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Having transferred to Broadway from the National Theatre in London, this show took home 5 of the 6 awards for which it was nominated. In addition to Best Play, it won the awards for Best Direction of a Play for Marianne Elliott, Best Actor in a Leading Performance in a Play for Alex Sharp, Best Lighting Design of a Play for Paule Constable, and Best Scenic Design of a Play for Bunny Christie and Finn Ross. As for revivals, the award for Best Revival of a Play was earned by Skylight, which did not earn any of the other awards for which it was nominated. These include three acting awards, for Carey Mulligan, Bill Nighy, and Matthew Beard, none of whom took home an award for their performances, as well as the award for Best Direction, which Stephen Daldry lost to Marianne Elliott. The award for Best Revival of a Musical was given to The King and I. That show also earned the award for Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, given to Kelli O’Hara. This is the sixth time this wonderful actress has been nominated for a Tony Award, and the first time that she won. The award for Best Actress in a Leading Role in a Play was given to Helen Mirren for The Audience, and the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical was given to Michael Cerveris for Fun Home. Finally, Sam Gold took home the award for Best Direction of a Musical, also for Fun Home.

Writing and Composing Awards

fun homeWhereas the creators of straight plays are honored through the awards for Best Play and Best Revival of a Play, separate awards are given to the book writers, as well as the composers and lyricists, of musicals. These awards are in addition to the awards for Best Musical and Best Revival of a Musical, which are generally accepted by the producers. The award for Best Original Score was given to Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron, who wrote the music and lyrics respectively for Fun Home. The award for Best Book of a Musical was also given to Lisa Kron for Fun Home. Whereas this year the award for Best Musical served basically the same purpose as these two awards, sometimes the recipients do differ. In this case, the three separate honors proved irrefutably that Fun Home is the most exciting new musical of the year. Something Rotten!, which was the only show nominated for Best Musical not based on a previous work, was only recognized once, when Christian Borle took home the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical. Still, that show was nominated for a total of ten awards, which is certainly no small honor. As for An American in Paris, which was considered to be the next most likely show to win Best Musical, it only took home the awards for Best Choreography for Christopher Wheeldon, as well as Best Orchestrations, Best Scenic Design, and Best Lighting Design, showing that the Tony voters ultimately considered it to be a beautiful ballet show, but not dramatically substantial enough to win the highest honor of the event.

Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth to Host Tony Awards

Two Tony Winners Emcee on June 7th

alan cumming kristin chenowethOn June 7, 2015, the 69th Annual Tony Awards will be broadcast live from Radio City Music Hall. The hosts have been announced: Alan Cumming and Kristin Chenoweth. These two beloved stars are both Tony winners themselves, and they also both starred in musicals that played this season. Alan Cumming revived his magnificent role as the Emcee of Cabaret in this past year’s revival, a role that he played opposite first Michelle Williams, then Emma Stone, and finally Sienna Miller. As that production was an exact revival of an earlier revival production, with the same directors Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall, as well as the same star Alan Cumming playing the Emcee, it was not eligible for the Best Revival award category. As such, Cabaret did not receive any nominations this year. However, Alan Cumming did receive the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for playing that role in the 1998 production of Cabaret. As an award-winning emcee, therefore, he is the perfect emcee for this awards event. Furthermore, Kristin Chenoweth starred in On the Twentieth Century, a revival of a musical comedy by Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Cy Coleman. That production has received five Tony Award nominations, including one for Kristin for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical. Its other nominations are those for Best Revival of a Musical, Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Andy Karl, Best Scenic Design, and Best Costume Design.

A Broadway History of Alan Cummingalan cumming

On top of the two productions of Cabaret, Alan Cumming has been on Broadway an additional three times. In 2001, he played Otto in a production of Noel Coward’s Design for Living. In 2006, he played Macheath in a production of The Three Penny Opera. And very notoriously, in 2013, he played Macbeth in a one-man production of that Shakespeare classic, first at Lincoln Center and then at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. In addition to his Tony Award for the earlier revival of Cabaret, Cumming has received four Olivier Awards: the British equivalent of the Tonys. He received an analogous award for his role in Cabaret in 1994. He also received an Olivier Award for the Comedy Performance of the Year for La Bete in 1993. Before that, he received the same comedy award for his performance in Accidental Death of an Anarchist, and he was commended as Best Newcomer in a Play by the Oliviers in 1988 for Conquest of the South Pole.

A Broadway History of Kristin Chenoweth

kristin chenowethAs for Kristin, she has been nominated for Tony Awards twice before, winning one. She won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical in 1999 for You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. In 2004, she was nominated for her role as Glinda in Wicked for the award for Best Actress in a Musical, although she did not win (instead, Idina Menzel won the same award for the same production for her role as Elphaba). This is now her third Tony Award nomination. Furthermore, she starred as Fran Kubelik in Promises, Promises in 2010, and she played Eve among other roles in the 2006-2007 production of The Apple Tree. Before Wicked, she also played Louise Goldman in the 1999 production of Epic Proportions as well as a series of roles in the 1997 production of Steel Pier, as well as her star turn in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

“On the Twentieth Century” Opens

A Revival of a Screwball Musical Comedy

on the twentieth centuryOn March 15, 2015, On the Twentieth Century played its opening night performance at the American Airlines Theatre. Produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company, this musical is a revival of the original produced in 1978, which in turn was based off a play from 1932 by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, which was based off an unpublished by Charles Bruce Millholland. Furthermore, a film entitled Twentieth Century was released in 1934 based off the Hecht and MacArthur play. This musical has book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green (Singin’ in the Rain, Bells are Ringing, Wonderful Town), and a score by Cy Coleman (Sweet Charity, City of Angels, The Will Rogers Follies, Barnum). Following its 1978 Broadway run, the show won the Tony Award for Best Book as well as the Tony Award for Best Original Score, and then transferred to the West End in 1980. With the exception of a smaller London production in 2010, this is the first major revival. Directed by Scott Ellis and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, the musical stars Kristin Chenoweth, Peter Gallagher, Mary-Louise Wilson, Michael McGrath, Andy Karl, and Mark Linn-Baker.

Overall Positive ReviewsON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

The reviews are in, and critics are generally laudatory of this production. Ben Brantley wore none of his sometime cynicism in writing that he was on cloud nine following this performance, praising the “over-the-moon” acting which is a level above over-acting. In this case, he believes the extravagant performances by Chenoweth and Gallagher, among others, served the material brilliantly, and furthermore he was delighted to see a musical revival that isn’t revived very often, in this case for the first time. Joe Dziemianowicz calls the show Broadway musical bliss, delighting in everything from David Rockwell’s art deco set of the locomotive train, to Chenoweth’s dynamite comedy and voice. Frank Scheck from the New York Post delights in the fact that they don’t make musicals, or write dialogue, like this anymore, and likewise calls the show theatrical bliss. Jesse Green in Vulture calls the revival delicious, acknowledging that there are a million reasons why the show shouldn’t work today, but that Chenoweth above all makes those reasons fall to the wayside, as the role of Lily Garland is perfectly suited to her natural gifts. David Rooney of The Hollywood Report was more on the fence, deeming that Scott Ellis is off his game and that the mock operetta style becomes tedious to watch.

Mediocre Box Office Performance

Despite these largely positive reviews, the show is still struggling at the box office. This is not surprising, because most of these critical responses were extravagantly positive especially because they did not expect to like it. The show’s title, description, and appearance seem to make it very dated, and this makes it a difficult sell at the box office. It doesn’t matter that the show defies expectations, because you have to buy a ticket to find that out. In the full week of performances following the release of these reviews, the show’s weekly gross went up by only $75,479, bringing it to a gross of $466,078 across eight performances. This is only 56.69% of the week’s gross potential. Still, the Roundabout is managing to fill many of its seats, as the show did average over 100% of audience capacity in the last two weeks. However, with a top ticket price of $229.00, the average paid admission was $80.30, showing a heavy amount of discounting. Fortunately, the Roundabout is equipped to handle these numbers as a not-for-profit theatre company.

“On the Twentieth Century” Begins Previews

A Roundabout Production at the American Airlines Theatre

on the twentieth centuryOn February 13, 2015, On the Twentieth Century begins previews at the American Airlines Theatre. Produced by the non-for-profit Broadway and Off-Broadway powerhouse Roundabout Theatre Company, this revival marks the third Broadway production of the musical. With book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and music by Cy Coleman, it first premiered in 1978, directed by Harold Prince. The 2015 revival is directed by Scott Ellis, who has recently helmed such works as The Elephant Man, You Can’t Take It With You, Harvey, Curtains, and The Little Dog Laughed. He is also the Roundabout Adams Associate Artistic Director, and has been nominated for six Tony Awards. Opening night is scheduled for March 12, 2015, and it is scheduled to be a limited engagement that closes on July 5, 2015. If it is successful, it may extend through the end of summer.

Cast and Creative Team

The musical stars Kristin Chenoweth, who is well known for being the original Glinda in Wicked (Tony kristin chenowethnomination), has won a Tony Award for her performance of Sally Brown in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and who has also branched into television with such shows as The West Wing and Pushing Daisies. Alongside Chenoweth will be Peter Gallagher (The Country Girl, Noises Off, “the O.C.”, “American Beauty”), Andy Karl (Rocky Balboa in Rocky the Musical), Mark Linn-Baker (Relatively Speaking, Losing Louie), Michael McGrath (Tony Award winner for Nice Work if You Can Get It), and Mary Louise Wilson (The Women, Cabaret, The Importance of Being Earnest). The choreographer is Warren Carlyle, who won a Tony Award for his choreography for After Midnight, which he also directed). Scenic design is by David Rockwell, lighting is by Donald Holder, sound design is by Jon Weston, and costume design is by William Ivey Long. The musical director is Kevin Stites, and orchestrations are by Larry Hochman, with dance arrangements and incidental music by David Krane.

The Twentieth Century: A Luxury Train

 

peter gallagher kristin chenoweth

The musical’s title refers to being aboard a luxury train called the Twentieth Century, which is traveling from Chicago to New York. The business aboard the train is, not coincidentally, the theatre business. A temperamental actress named Lily Garland (Kristin Chenoweth) is at odds with her flailing producer named Oscar Jaffee (Peter Gallagher). He is at once trying to woo her romantically, and at the same time to play the lead part in his upcoming show, which has not yet been written. The musical is a screwball comedy, with elements of farce as well as operetta. The musical is based on a straight play of the same name from 1932, written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, which was turned into a film in 1934 called Twentieth Century directed by Howard Hawks. To complicate the matter, Hecht and MacArthur based their play on an unproduced work by Charles Bruce Millholland called Napoleon of Broadway, which is based on his real life experiences with the legendary producer David Belasco, who left his name to the theatre on 44th Street, where Hedwig and the Angry Inch is now playing.

 

Matthew Broderick and Kristin Chenoweth To Star in CBS Pilot

Matthew Broderick

Matthew Broderick

Two of Broadway’s favorite performers, Kristin Chenoweth and Matthew Broderick, will star opposite each other in an upcoming TV comedy pilot for CBS. The new show does not yet have a title.

The television show, to be directed by TV legend James Burrows (Cheers, Frasier, Friends), is about widowed father Jack (Matthew Broderick), a man who is trying to get back into the dating game while also raising a 12-year-old son. Kristin Chenoweth will co-star as Jack’s sister Marnie, a waitress.

Both Broderick and Chenoweth are Tony Award winning performers with plenty of Broadway experience. Broderick got his start as a young man on Broadway in Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues in the mid-’80s and is currently headlining the Broadway musical Nice Work If You Can Get It. Chenoweth became a star with her Tony winning featured role in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown in 1999 and solidified her reputation as a Broadway star in Wicked in 2003.

Broadway Favorites To Honor Barbra Streisand

Barbra Streisand

Barbra Streisand

The Film Society of Lincoln Center has announced that it will be honoring stage, film, and recording legend Barbra Streisand at the 40th Annual Chaplin Award Gala on April 22, and some of Broadway’s brightest will be on hand to pay their respects through performance. Liza Minnelli and Kristin Chenoweth will be among the Broadway favorites offering up their musical talents during the ceremony.

The tribute to Barbra Streisand, which will culminate in the famed artist being presented with the Chaplin Award by President Bill Clinton, will also include performances from luminaries like Tony Bennett and Wynton Marsalis. Many film stars will be in attendance at the gala, such as Kris Kristofferson, Pierce Brosnan, Richard Dreyfuss, Amy Irving, and Blythe Danner.

“The Board is very excited to have Barbra Streisand as the next recipient of The Chaplin Award,” stated The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s board chairman Ann Tenenbaum. “She is an artist whose long career of incomparable achievements is most powerfully expressed by the fact that her acclaimed Yentl was such a milestone film.”

Kristin Chenoweth Hosts The Dames of Broadway on PBS

Kristin ChenowethThe spotlight will be shining on the female characters who have made Broadway grand in the upcoming PBS broadcast of Kristin Chenoweth: The Dames of Broadway … All of ‘Em!, set to air on March 24.

Airing as part of the Live From Lincoln Center TV series on PBS, the concert itself is a part of Lincoln Center’s celebrated American Songbook series. During the evening, Chenoweth will honor the great roles for women that Broadway has brought us, from fabulous leading roles to scene-stealing featured parts.

Kristin Chenoweth is herself a favorite lady of Broadway, first gaining fans with her turn in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and going on to dazzle Broadway audiences in Wicked. More recently Chenoweth has been seen on TV in Glee and Pushing Daisies.

Carnegie Hall To Feature Broadway’s Favorite Divas

Kristin ChenowethTwo of Broadway’s favorite leading ladies will be gracing New York City cultural institution Carnegie Hall in the 2013-2014 season.

Two-time Tony Award winning actress and singer Patti Lupone, who was recently on Broadway in a non-singing role in David Mamet’s The Anarchist, will perform there on November 7, 2013 in a concert entitled “Far Away Places”. The one-night-only event will be a sort of travelogue that presents songs in different styles that tell different stories, including numbers by composers ranging from Cole Porter to Kurt Weill.

Tony and Emmy winner Kristin Chenoweth, best known for her role in Broadway’s mega-hit musical Wicked, will visit Carnegie Hall on May 3, 2014. The performance will be called “Evolution of a Soprano”.  Visit www.carnegiehall.org to find out more information, including ticket availability.