New York, New York, It’s a Helluva Town
On September 20, 2014, On the Town began previews at the Lyric Theatre, previously known as the Foxwoods. On October 16, 2014, the show opened after 24 preview performances. The reviews are in, and critics are loving it! This is encouraging given that the Lyric Theatre is a notoriously difficult theatre in which to sell tickets profitably. The most recent overambitious financial catastrophe there was Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark (when the theatre was called the Foxwoods), which had a $70 million capitalization and garnered bad press due to injuries from flying spectacles and subsequent lawsuits. Although that show sold many tickets, many tourists compelled rather than deterred by the press, it was still unable to recoup anywhere near its capitalization, and closed at a loss. The next show slated for the Lyric was King Kong – a musical complete with a giant spectacular gorilla. However, when that show got postponed, On the Town was brought in to fill the slot. This was not looking promising, as On the Town is a revival of a semi-dated, fun-loving classic Broadway musical – not exactly groundbreaking fare. And though ticket sales to date have not been stupendous, these positive reviews are certainly heartening.
Ben Brantley of The New York Times fell in love with On the Town. He compared it to candy-colored heaven, and congratulated it on being a show that dealt with sex and yet was appropriate for the whole family. Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News praised the performers, the choreography, and the classic score, while deeming it a love song to the city. Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press found the show lively and uplifting, calling it the perfect way to clear the bad energy of the doomed Spiderman. Dave Quinn of NBC New York lauded the musical for its ability to convert even the most jaded New Yorkers to understand a new appreciation for the city, seen through the eyes of those who are arriving there for the very first time. David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter fell immediately for the 28-piece orchestra’s rendition of the National Anthem, and his attention was retained throughout the entire show. He was relieved that this revival succeeded in bringing back the brilliance of the original 1944 production, when the last two revival attempts (in 1971 and 1988) both failed.
The numbers have not yet been affected by these positive reviews, but the show is going to need a boost in order to stay afloat. In each of the four weeks of previews, the show has barely made 40% of its gross potential. In the last reported data – the week ending October 12, 2014 – the show brought in $608,694 over the course of 7 performances, which only represents 39.05% of its gross potential. Of course, the show has a relatively high gross potential due to the gigantic size of the theatre; with 14,992 seats to fill over the course of a normal week of 8 performances, On the Town is potentially able to bring in as much as $1,775,166 each week, not taking into account premium ticket sales. At that rate, it would be competing with the most successful shows on Broadway such as Wicked and The Lion King. However, though these positive reviews may persuade some ticketbuyers to check out the show, unfortunately critics do not hold as much sway as they once did. Whereas some niche readers may appreciate the observation that this production succeeded where the past two revivals failed, none of this will overcome the bias of someone who believes off the bat that this is a tired, old show compared to some of the newer, more exciting options on Broadway.