Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris Debuts on NBC

At 10PM EST on September 15, 2015, Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris debuted on NBC. Best Time Ever is a live variety television show developed in the style of Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, a British TV show that has been airing on the British channel ITV since 2002 where it achieved high very high ratings throughout its broadcast seasons. The new NBC show is a wacky and versatile take on the format and takes full advantage of the diverse talents of the host, Neil Patrick Harris. The show features A-list stars, performances, stunts, comedy skits, mini game shows, audience giveaways and hidden camera pranks.

Not unlike SNL’s first ever episode, Best Time Ever got off to slow start in its debut show, probably owing to tense nerves for the brand new, live, network TV show, but it wasn’t long before Neil Patrick Harris got everyone settled in and the show began ratcheting up the laughs. From this point forward, we will refer to Neil Patrick Harris as NPH and Best Time Ever as BTE, because without the acronyms, things can get a little wild, just like the show.

neil patrick harris in blue suit next to nicole scherzinger in green sparkly dressGuest Announcer Reese Witherspoon and Show Co-Host Nicole Scherzinger

Reese Witherspoon was the guest announcer for the debut show. Although it seemed that she wasn’t fully utilized, she still added some great fun moments to the show. Her announcing was hysterical and her involvement with the segments on the show were quite amusing. Unfortunately, in one segment, Witherspoon chose to do some rather lame comedy repartee bits with NPH that portrayed her as the “dumb blonde,” which seemed dated and totally missed the comedy mark. But she made up for it in her go-girl attitude when climbing up the massive American Ninja climbing frame, despite being visibly shaken by its height. Witherspoon missed many opportunites to be humorous on the show, but she is, after all, an accomplished actor and producer, not a comedian.

NPH’s official co-host was former Pussycat Doll, recording artist and dancer, Nicole Scherzinger. Nicole was dazzlingly gorgeous but her co-hosting ability took a back seat because the two-host format developed by Ant and Dec for the UK show did not take into account the powerhouse entertainer that is NPH. Harris has so much stage talent, such that he doesn’t really need anyone else to ad-lib or fill-in for him. When he can do everything on the show so well already, why divide the responsibility?

Neil Patrick Harris Provides Lots Of Entertaining Segments

In a segment called The Best Days of Your Life Neil brought up a couple from the audience as a segue from flirting with some audience members and asked some random questions (a play-off of the original British show Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway). He showed clips of stalking them across the country, even at their wedding! Because he’s the fun-loving Neil Patrick Harris, he gets away with it, with many great laughs.

Carson Daly was brought on as a guest to promote NBC’s The Voice and to talk about a hilarious skit where Neil went undercover on the TV show as an Austrian host of the Austrian version of The Voice. The hosts Gwen Stefani, Pharrell Williams, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine had no idea this awkward foreign guy was actually Neil Patrick Harris in the flesh. Neil made his reveal on The Voice stage as he sang Dreamgirls’ “And I am Telling You,” in a flat, thick German accent. Hilariously, no judge turned around for him.

stunt with reese witherspoon and neil patrick harris on latter red and blue jumpsuits

Neil Patrick Harris and Reese Witherspoon

The surprise live karaoke segment, “Sing-Along Live” was clearly a total shock to the contestants, who at each reveal gave a deer-in-the-headlights look at their TV, not understanding what was going on, creating comedy gold. Kudos to the BTE production team, which managed to keep the contestants in the dark until the reveal. It’s a risky gambit for NBC to broadcast this show without a tape delay, but boy is it entertaining for the in-studio and TV audiences.

The fear during the stunt Reese and Neil pulled off together was felt both in the studio and throughout the nation. Everyone held their breaths until they both zip-lined down from that terrifying lattice, the in-studio audience cheered loudly for the champ, Neil, but were scared for the visibly shaken Witherspoon.

Gloria Gaynor Shines As First “Sing-Along Live” Surprise Guest

On BTE’s premiere night, 70’s disco queen, Gloria Gaynor was the singing star that appeared in the “Sing-Along Live” segment where some surprised viewers at home had to finish the song, where she left off. Gaynor belted out her female empowerment anthem “I Will Survive” to a raucous reception. Gaynor showed that she is still a powerhouse singer and can hit the high notes. Ricky Martin is anticipated to appear in the show’s first season.

best time ever end of the show showThe End-of-The-Show, Show

The intense stunt wasn’t the only moment where Harris showed off his brave talents. NPH ended the show with a bang, with a segment named The End-of-the-Show show. The stage was set up with Little NPH and Gloria Gaynor sitting at a bar. There were bartenders juggling bottles, then Neil popped up and started juggling along with them. Ant and Dec were also hanging out and having a beer. To up the ante, Neil brought out extreme pogo-stick riders and joined them and back flipped off his pogo-stick as Reese came downstage to join the party to the tune of Pitbull’s “Don’t Stop The Party.” But it wasn’t over! There was a huge blast of confetti while Little NPH got up on the bar and lip-synced, doing a little dance. After a parade of trumpets and drums. Scherzinger strut her stuff with dancers! This big finale was just a big giant party and had the audience on their feet dancing and screaming for more of everything! This is sure to be a very exciting season of Best Time Ever and will be a front-runner for ratings this fall, assuming that NPH can keep the momentum building.

Off Camera Hi-Jinks

Off-camera, NPH made the audience feel very comfortable, joked and often took the mic away from the warm-up comedian RC Smith who was trying his best to interact with the audience. After the show ended, Neil hugged his husband, David Burtka in celebration and quickly chatted to Perez Hilton, who was also in the audience. For full disclosure, not every moment was live last night. There were a few pre-recorded portions of the show, but both the in-studio and at-home audience felt the exciting and spontaneous elements of the entire hour, which ripped through at a rapid pace.

In Studio Audience Experience Different From TV

During the taping (can you say that when it is live?), the show pace appeared to be just-too-much for the director, Glenn Weiss, to handle. Weiss has previous live TV experience with Peter Pan Live and the 67th Annual Tony Awards, but on this show he missed many on-camera jokes that the live studio audience laughed at and the at-home TV audience missed  – and were then left scratching their heads wondering what was going on. This happened with all three live Karoake contests, where the cut-away was too soon. Weiss also missed NPH’s zipline crash through the finish line banner. All these scenes were missed by the at-home viewers but seen by the studio audience who reacted accordingly with laughs and clapping. When Gloria Gaynor belted out “I Will Survive” with the background dancers and a roller-skating couple, key elements of the segment were also missed. It is anticipated that adjustments will be made to the production that allows for these comedy-gold moments to be captured more appropriately. It would have also been nice to see an unannounced audio cut to Reese Witherspoon actually singing the Gloria Gaynor song, “I Will Survive” (she sounded great to the in-studio audience, but her was audio cut) or incorporating her into the quiz show segment, where she could have mimed the answers to the contestant, which could have been hilarious.

Show Broadcast Live From Kaufman Astoria Studios ineil patrick harris in front of Kaufman Astoria Studiosn Queens, New York

Best Time Ever with NPH is taped at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Astoria, NY. This area is a strange location for a TV show of this magnitude, but it works! If the in-studio audience is driving to the show, parking is easy to find and if they use public transportation, the subway is just a couple blocks away. The audience seemed at home in this neighborhood and after the show, although late at night, the streets were still safe. Aside from this, restaurants like UNO bar, Beer Garden and the locals’ favorite: Mama’s Empanadas are near and open, so after the show, the audience and crew found some good late night eats!

Harris recently starred on Broadway in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, for which he won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical. He is also very well known for his television starring roles in such shows as How I Met Your Mother from 2005 to 2014, and Doogie Howser, M.D. from 1989 to 1993. He has won 5 Emmy Awards for his work hosting the Tony Awards, and for his work on “Glee.” He has also been nominated for his role on “How I Met Your Mother. In Best Time Ever, one of the many aspects of the show is song and dance, allowing Harris to demonstrate his charm in a musical fashion. Furthermore, the segments include game show bits, character impersonations, A-list celebrity appearances, stunts, performances, pranks, and audience giveaways.

Show Ratings and Demographic

For BTE’s debut episode, the preliminary ratings showed that 6.8 million viewers of adults aged 18 to 49 tuned in to see Harris’ premiere. The studio audience demographic skewed older than the at-home viewers and the curve for 18-45 years old was bottom heavy, which is a positive for advertisers.

Promotion Of NBC’s Other Shows on BTE

NBC Executives must have pushed the producers to promote other NBC shows in the debut of NPH’s BTE. The Voice featured heavily in the undercover segment featuring a fake Austrian The Voice host, Jurgen Vollmer (actually NPH) and the American Ninja host Matt Iseman. The American Ninja apparatus into which NPH and Witherspoon so courageously climbed in the second segment promoted NBC’s American Ninja TV Show. The demographic of these other shows skew quite differently to BTE, as does the lead-in to the show, America’s Got Talent, whose demographic is wildly different. NBC’s current stable of shows seem to be all over the shop, in terms of demographic.

Comparison To Fox’s Knock Knock Live:

Best Time Ever is the live TV show format that the upstart-challenger on the Fox channel, in the form of Ryan Seacrest’s Knock Knock Live, tried to achieve in July 2015. In a bid to steal the format from NBC, Seacrest’s show failed miserably and was cancelled after only two shows due to low ratings, even with the endorsement and participation of big celebrities and large amounts of money being given away. The problem with that format was that there was no real entertainment value, other than rather boring back-stories, that Seacrest gambled on and lost. BTE, on the other hand, was entertaining from start to finish. No need for back-stories here, this is fun!

Tuesday Live Shows For The Next 8 weeks

Neil Patrick Harris’ Best Time Ever is scheduled to broadcast on NBC for the next seven weeks and they will try to raise the ante on each show. The out-of-the-gate momentum is strong, and the show will move to an earlier time slot at 8PM beginning on 9/29. The new time slot will change the viewer demographic considerably and may mean an increase in the market penetration, for this funny and irreverent vehicle for Neil Patrick Harris’ talents.

“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” Plays Final Performance

Year and a Half Run Goes Out With a Bang

hedwig coverOn September 13, 2015, Hedwig and the Angry Inch played its final performance at the Belasco Theatre. The show had been running on Broadway since it began previews on March 29, 2014, followed by its official opening night on April 22, 2014. With a book by John Cameron Mitchell, and music and lyrics by Stephen Trask, the show first premiered Off-Broadway in 1998, starring John Cameron Mitchell in the title role. At that time, the show won an Obie Award and Outer Critics Circle Award and ran for two years, followed by a run in London’s West End. However, it wasn’t until 2014 that Broadway was brave enough to take on this risqué, small-scale musical about an androgynous rock musician who was raised in East Berlin. However, it was well worth the wait, as the show took home the 2014 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. Furthermore, the show broke the record for the longest running production at the Belasco Theatre. The character of Hedwig is a German young man who becomes a woman in order to marry a U.S. soldier and escape life in East Berlin; however, once he arrives in America he is abandoned and forced to make his life as a single, transsexual with a botched sex change operation. In addition to taking place at this fascinating time in history, the style of the musical is steeped in the gorgeous and colorful aesthetic of 1970s glam rock, inspired by the likes of David Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and John Lennon.

Excellent Box Office with Opening Cast, Success Throughout the Runhedwig and the angry inch neil patrick harris title

When the show began its run, the lead actor was played by Neil Patrick Harris, a big box office favorite who managed to sell out with grosses over 100% of gross potential and weekly box office over one million dollars for multiple weeks. In Harris’ final week of performances, the show reached its record high of a weekly box office gross of $1,139,903, reaching an astounding 136.61% of its gross potential. The top ticket price has remained $248.00 throughout the run, but that week it reached a peak average paid admission of $158.83. In the show’s final week of performances, it brought in less than it had been bringing in at the beginning of the run, but still a significant increase from the lower grosses that the later performances had been seeing. In the week ending September 13, 2015, the show brought in $625,159, which represents 88.12% of its gross potential, with an average paid admission of $88.57. This is up by $178,208 from the week before, the penultimate week.

A String of Fantastic Hedwigs: Harris, Rannells, Hall, Mitchell, Criss, Diggs

The other actors who played Hedwig did not perform as well at the box office; however they were all very exciting performers who brought originality and pizzazz to the role. The next man to take on this challenging role was Andrew Rannells, who rose to fame after playing the opening cast lead role of Elder Cunningham in The Book of Mormon. The next Hedwig was played by Michael C. Hall, well known for his role on Dexter amongst other shows. As the fourth Hedwig, a landmark occasion took place as John Cameron Mitchell returned to Broadway to play the role he created, but this time at age 50. Though he was indeed magnificent, the role did at one time prove a bit strenuous, as Mitchell injured his knee and had to take a few performances off, returning with his leg in a cast. With utter grace and charm, he continued to play the role of Hedwig marvelously despite his injured state. Following Mitchell, Darren Criss from Glee took over the role. Finally, for the closing weeks, Hedwig was played by Taye Diggs, well known from the original cast of Rent among other productions. The show will continue on the road, with a national tour commencing in San Francisco on October 4, 2016, as well as international performances in London and Australia.

Fall Gears Up for Slew of New NYC TV Shows

Neil Patrick Harris’ “Best Time Ever” Premieres Sept 15th on NBC

neil patrick harris best time everIn fall 2015, a lot of changes are afoot on network television. Neil Patrick Harris, the beloved star of stage and screen from such shows as Broadway’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch and CBS’ How I Met Your Mother, has a new variety show coming to NBC. The name of this show has been announced: Best Time Ever. The variety show will be based off of the British program on ITV called Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. A teaser was shown during this year’s Super Bowl, which thoroughly excited Harris’ huge fan base, but the name and premiere date were only announced recently. This past week, NBC set its fall premiere dates and Best Time Ever is set to begin a week before the rest of the shows. Best Time Ever will launch on Tuesday, September 15th at 10:00pm, after the finale of America’s Got Talent. For the majority of its run, however, it will be at the 8:00pm slot on Tuesdays. The variety show includes a mixture of comedy, musical numbers, performances, sketches, and celebrity guests, and therefore is suitable for an early evening demographic. The rest of the NBC new programming will start the following week.

“Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and “Daily Show with Trevor Noah”late show stephen colbert

As for late night television, two programs are launching their new hosts this fall. Stephen Colbert, who has been on leave from late night since wrapping up The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, will premiere his new part as host of the Late Show on September 8, 2015 on CBS. This also marks a summer break for Late Show, as David Letterman hosted his final episode of Late Show with David Letterman on May 20, 2015. Over the summer, the network opted to air reruns of sitcoms rather than reruns of Late Show, so that fans will be eager for the new host after having been without any episodes for the summer. Colbert’s first hosts have not yet been disclosed, but he has launched a podcast and website while his writing team is busy conceiving the new show, as well as the Colbert demeanor without the faux daily show with trevor noahconservative Colbert character from The Colbert Report. In addition, the Daily Show on Comedy Central will be undergoing a shift in leadership. Jon Stewart steps down with his final episode airing August 6, 2015. After a short break, Trevor Noah will step into his shoes, with the first show airing September 28, 2015. Trevor Noah was a controversial choice for the Daily Show replacement, as he is a 31 year-old relatively inexperienced comedian from South Africa. After the announcement was made, there was a bit of a backlash on social media with some fans declaring him a racist and anti-Semite. However, this is likely a resistance to anyone replacing the beloved Jon Stewart, and Comedy Central stands behind their choice of Trevor Noah as a new face on their network.

Dr. Phil to Launch New TV Show in Fall 2016dr phil

Looking ahead to the following fall, Dr. Phil McGraw, best known just as Dr. Phil, has partnered with to launch a new syndicated television show. Like much of the content currently on the site, this show will focus on celebrity news. It is not yet clear whether Dr. Phil will be a regular on-camera presence on the show, only that he will appear if the Daily Mail wants to run interviews he has done for his own show, Dr. Phil. The producers of this new show will be Dr. Phil, his son Jay, and Carla Pennington, who is the executive producer of Dr. Phil. The show will most likely be based in New York, although there are plans to have studios in New York, Los Angeles, London, and Sydney. The new DailyMail show will be distributed by CBS, which also distributes Dr. Phil. Dr. Phil declared that he saw an opportunity to create something utterly unique, unlike anything else on TV. Further details are yet to come to describe exactly what this will be.

John Cameron Mitchell Returned After Injury, Next Hedwig Announced

The Original Hedwig Playing His Creation on Broadway

john cameron mitchellHedwig and the Angry Inch, created by John Cameron Mitchell, premiered on Broadway on March 29, 2014. The show originally opened Off-Broadway in 1998, starring Mitchell in the title role of the gender-bending East German rock performer. He also wrote and starred in the 2001 film version. When Hedwig came to Broadway for the first time, however, the producers and Mitchell felt that he was no longer in his prime, and thus the lead role was given to Neil Patrick Harris, who won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical. After Harris departed, the role was played by Andrew Rannells (The Book of Mormon, Girls), followed by Michael C. Hall (Dexter). However, to the delight of diehard Hedwig fans, it was announced that John Cameron Mitchell himself would be stepping in to play the role after all, with his first performance on January 21, 2015. Originally, he was slated to perform for just six weeks until March 14, 2015, as a trial run to see if he had enough stamina to play the intensive part at this point in his career. Fortunately, he was brilliant as always, and fans flocked to see him, and thus he announced that he would extend his run until April 26, 2015.

Mitchell Sustained Knee Injury, Michael C. Hall Stepped Inhedwig lena hall

Unfortunately, on February 7, 2015, Mitchell injured his knee during the performance. He continued on until the end of the 7pm show, but the later 10pm show that night was cancelled. At the time, the show’s representatives tweeted that he planned to return for the next scheduled performance on the following Tuesday, and that doctors were examining him. However, they then announced that one week later, Michael C. Hall would return to the role to allow Mitchell time for his injury to heal. From February 17 to 21, therefore, Hall donned the wig once again. In the week where Mitchell performed with a knee brace, he made the best of the humorous situation. One joke, for instance, was “You’re seeing the original cast!” Furthermore, he played on the dominating relationship Hedwig has with his co-star Yitzhak by making her attend to his injury, demanding that she place a crate underneath his propped foot, while he sat on an elevated chair so that he could still be visible while seated. As planned, after a week of performances by Michael C. Hall, Mitchell returned to the stage on February 24, 2015, and he plans to continue as announced until April 26, 2015.

The Next Hedwig: Darren Criss

GQ Celebrates The Grammys With Giorgio Armani - ArrivalsFollowing Mitchell’s departure, Darren Criss (Glee) will step into the spotlight on April 29, 2015 for a run of 12 weeks through summer. Criss’ huge fanbase was evidenced by his brief turn on Broadway in 2012, when he replaced Daniel Radcliffe in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. At the time, he significantly boosted ticket sales for the three weeks he played the part. Therefore, this appears to be a good move for the show’s producers, who hope to keep it running as long as possible by bringing in a string of stars who appeal to a variety of audience members. Furthermore, the second and only other main character in the musical, Yitzhak, has been played by Lena Hall since the start of the revival. Hall wonrebecca naomi jones the Tony Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical, and has been the Yitzhak to all four Hedwigs so far: Harris, Rannells, Hall, and Mitchell. However, she has recently announced that her last performance in the role will be April 4, 2015. The new Yitzhak will be played by Rebecca Naomi Jones (American Idiot, Passing Strange), who will step in on April 14, 2015. In the interim week, the role will be played by understudy Shannon Conley. Therefore, Jones will play opposite John Cameron Mitchell for less than two weeks, before partnering with Darren Criss to continue the tradition of Hedwig on Broadway.

Neil Patrick Harris to Host New NBC Variety Show

Eyeing a Fall 2015 Premiere on NBC

Hedwig Neil Patrick Harris Black TieOn October 27, 2014, it was announced that Neil Patrick Harris would be hosting a new variety TV show to premiere on NBC, in the style of the British show Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, which is produced by ITV. ITV has agreed to make a ten episode season to air on NBC, with Harris as host. Harris was reportedly drawn to this format in particular, believing that it best suits his strengths. The previous May, Harris had turned down an offer from CBS to replace David Letterman as host of The Late Show upon his departure, a position that has been given to Stephen Colbert. At the time, he told Rolling Stone Magazine that he would get bored in the traditional late night format, and that he would rather take on a variety show project. The fact that he was offered the position must have given him confidence that he had the star power to find a way to live that dream. This opportunity came in the form of a partnership with ITV, after finding their Saturday Night Takeaway show to be hilarious and perfect for him as a performer. The show will be filmed in front of a live studio audience by ITV Studios America.

Upsetting the Writers Guild

Though Harris and ITV vehemently deny the accusations, the Writers Guild of America East has called out ITV for not employing union writers for their shows, a trend they may expect to continue with this extremely high profile variety show project with Neil Patrick Harris. The WGA has been in a long standing battle with ITV over efforts to unionize the company, and now over 175 unionized writers in the comedy and variety genre have signed a petition urging the organization to enter into a collective bargaining agreement. Nevertheless, Neil Patrick Harris told the press that a WGA contract was planned for his show, and an ITV spokesperson also explained that the accusations were in error, as a separate and binding agreement was underway regarding that series in particular. Regarding the claims that the company is generally at fault for their hiring activities, the spokesperson also said that they are working on resolving the majority of issues. Still, this is a big money game – Ant and Dec, the creators of ITV’s Saturday Night Takeaway, reportedly pocketed 15 million pounds for the rights to their concept, given that it has become an international hot commodity with Harris in the host position.

Neil Patrick Harris: A Versatile Performerneil patrick harris

The variety show format appeals to Harris as it will allow him to flex his muscles. It will include a combination of comedy sketches, musical performances, celebrity pranks, game activities, and A-list guests. Guests are said to include Lady Gaga, One Direction, and Katie Perry, and many more yet to be announced. Harris was most recently in the public spotlight as host of the 87th Annual Academy Awards on February 22, 2015. He has twice hosted the Primetime Emmy Awards (2009 and 2013), in addition to being nominated for 9 Primetime Emmys, winning 5. Of these 5 Emmy wins, 4 were for hosting the Tony Awards. Therefore, he has proven his chops as an awards show host, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. He recently debuted the role of Hedwig in the Broadway premiere of Hedwig and the Angry Inch by John Cameron Mitchell, winning the Tony Award for Best Lead Actor in a Musical. He is also very well known for his role as Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother, as well as his teenage role as Doogie Howser, M.D.

“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” Recoups on Broadway

An Astounding Success

hedwig and the angry inch neil patrick harris titleJohn Cameron Mitchell’s glam rock musical about a German transvestite has turned a profit on Broadway.  Starring Neil Patrick Harris, Hedwig and the Angry Inch began its Broadway premiere at the Belasco Theatre on March 29, 2014, with its official opening on April 22, 2014.  Though this is the first time the show has been in a Broadway theatre, it was considered a revival for purposes of Tony consideration because it premiered Off-Broadway and has had many productions around the world, as well as a feature film adaptation.  In that regard, the show scored big at the Tony’s.  It was nominated for eight awards, winning four: Best Revival of a Musical, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (Neil Patrick Harris), Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (Lena Hall), and Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Kevin Adams).

Neil Patrick Harris to be Replaced by Andrew Rannells after August 17th

Though the production was originally slated to have a limited engagement concluding on August 17, 2014, the show has announced that it will remain open due to robust ticket sales.  Instead, the star performer will be replaced by Andrew Rannells, who made a name for himself by starring as Elder Price in the original Broadway cast of The Book of Mormon, and who is also a
regular cast member on HBO’s “Girls.”  Though the excellent box office performance was due in part to the star power of Neil Patrick Harris, the show has now laid firm ground for continued success, and Rannells will certainly shine in the lead part.  The big question is whether the profits will continue to be as astounding with Rannells in the part.

A Financial Slam Dunkneil patrick harris in performance as hedwig in hedwig and the angry inch

The show recouped in a magnificently efficient 15 weeks.  Though the budget was exceedingly low for a musical at only $5 million, the critical and commercial was better than anyone could have expected.  The recoupment occurred in the week ending July 13, 2014.  In that week, the musical grossed $1,072,311, which was 128.51% of its gross potential.  In the week ending July 20, 2014, the show did even better, reaping in $1,088,660, which was 130.47% of its gross potential.  Though that was the highest gross potential percentage for the production to date, it has consistently been well over 100%, with only 2 weeks near the start of the run when the show made less than 100% of its gross potential.  The top ticket price is $248, which is lower than some, and the average ticket price has always been over $100, generally closer to $150 in recent weeks.  This demonstrates extreme demand for the show, as discounting is not at all necessary, and audience members are vying for limited seating availability.

The Winners Are In For The 68th Annual Tony Awards!

Hugh Jackman Hosts, Many Tune In

On Sunday, June 8, 2014, the Tony Awards were held at Radio City Music Hall.  As anticipated, they were a gigantic success, and Hugh Jackman received enormous praise for his hosting prowess.  Much discussion was had about Jackman’s very bouncy opening number, which was as aerobic as it was silly, but still it was a very fun way to start the show.  This is the fourth time that Jackman has hosted the event, while another frequent host Neil Patrick Harris took home the award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for his role as Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.  Though that category was pretty much considered to be a shoe-in, many other winners took the audience and theatre fans worldwide by surprise.  The ceremony was also full of spectacular performances by nominated shows.  7.02 million viewers tuned in to watch the live telecast on CBS, which was a dip from last year’s ratings of 7.24 million viewers.  Unlike other awards shows, there was no official online live stream of the event, but still many people have been watching online clips since the event’s original airing.

a gentleman's guide to love and murder a new musical comedyTied for the Most Wins: A Gentleman’s Guide and Hedwig and the Angry Inch

As many predicted, the Tony Award for Best Musical went home with A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, a sleeper hit that beat strong odds to win this coveted award.  This show also earned the award for Best Direction of a Musical for Darko Tresnjak, the artistic director of Hartford Stage where the show first premiered.  He is the first Connecticut artistic director ever to win a Tony Award, and the first Broadway transfer for that theatre since 2003’s Enchanted AprilA Gentleman’s Guide also took home the awards for Best Book of a Mhedwig and the angry inch neil patrick harris titleusical (Robert L. Freedman) and Best Costume Design of a Musical (Linda Cho), which tied it for the most wins: four.  The other show to win four awards was Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which took home the award for Best Revival of a Musical, as well as Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical for Neil Patrick Harris.  Furthermore, Hedwig earned the award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for Lena Hall, who played a female to male drag character Yitzhak, as well as Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Kevin Adams).

A Raisin in the Sun, Twelfth Night, Lady Day, All the Way, and all the rest

The most awards for a straight play went to A Raisin in the Sun, which earned three: Best Revival of a Play, Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play (Sophie Okonedo), and Best Direction of a Play (Kenny Leon).  This is Leon’s first Tony win; he was also nominated for 2010’s Fences, which like Raisin starred Denzel Washington.  In his acceptance speech, Leon made it clear that he believes Washington was snubbed in not receiving a nomination for his role.  Another winning play was Twelfth Night, which took home two awards: Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play (Mark Rylance as Olivia), and Best Costume Design of a Play (Jenny Tiramani).  This is Mark Rylance’s third Tony win, and the first time his acceptance speech did not consist of a poem by Louis Jenkins.  In addition, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill took home two awards: Best Performance by anTwelfth Night Shakespeare play poster Actress in a Leading Role in a Play (Audra McDonald), and Best Sound Design of a Play (Steve Canyon Kennedy).  At the age of only 43, this is Audra McDonald’s record-setting sixth Tony win, and she is also now the only person to have earned a Tony Award in all four acting categories.  Finally, Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way took home the award for Best Play, and Bryan Cranston earned the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play for portraying Lyndon B. Johnson in that play.

Beautiful Broadway ShowThe award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical went to Jessie Mueller for portraying Carole King in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, which also took home the award for Best Sound Design of a Musical (Brian Ronan).  The Bridges of Madison County was the only nominated musical not to perform at the event, and yet it earned two awards for Jason Robert Brown: Best Original Score (he wrote the music and lyrics), and also Best Orchestrations.  Rocky won the award for Best Scenic Design of a Musical (Christopher Barreca), and After Midnight won the award for Best Choreography (Warren Carlyle).  Act One took home the award for Best Scenic Design of a Play (Beowulf Boritt), and Aladdin earned the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical (James Monroe Iglehart).  The Glass Menagerie took home the award for Best Lighting Design of a Play (Natasha Katz), which is the first time this play has ever earned a Tony Award of the course of its seven productions across history.

The shows that were nominated but failed to win any awards were Bullets over Broadway, Cabaret, Casa Valentina, The Cripple of Inishmaan, If/Then, Les Misérables, Machinal, Mothers and Sons, A Night with Janis Joplin, Of Mice and Men, Outside Mullingar, Richard III, The Velocity of Autumn, and Violet.  Still, this was a year in which no show earned more than four awards, with the winners being fairly well dispersed.  In any case, the winners will surely see a box office boost from their Tony Awards, most notably A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which will most certainly attract many more theatregoers now that it has taken home the honor of Best Musical.

2014 Tony Award Winners:

Best Musical
Best Book of a Musical (Robert L. Freedman)
Best Direction of a Musical (Darko Tresnjak)
Best Costume Design of a Musical (Linda Cho)

Best Revival of a Musical
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (Neil Patrick Harris)
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (Lena Hall)
Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Kevin Adams)

A RAISIN IN THE SUN – 3 Tony Awards
Best Revival of a Play
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play (Sophie Okonedo)
Best Direction of a Play (Kenny Leon)

ALL THE WAY – 2 Tony Awards
Best Play (Author: Robert Schenkkan)
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play (Bryan Cranston)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Jessie Mueller)
Best Sound Design of a Musical (Brian Ronan)

Best Original Score Written for the Theatre (Music & Lyrics: Jason Robert Brown)
Best Orchestrations (Jason Robert Brown)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play (Audra McDonald)
Best Sound Design of a Play (Steve Canyon Kennedy)

TWELFTH NIGHT – 2 Tony Awards
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play (Mark Rylance)
Best Costume Design of a Play (Jenny Tiramani)

ACT ONE – 1 Tony Award
Best Scenic Design of a Play (Beowulf Boritt)

Best Choreography (Warren Carlyle)

ALADDIN – 1 Tony Award
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play (James Monroe Iglehart)

Best Lighting of a Play (Natasha Katz)

ROCKY – 1 Tony Award
Best Scenic Design of a Musical (Christopher Barreca)

Drama League Winners Announced

drama leagueThe 80th Annual Drama League Awards Ceremony took place today, May 16, 2014.  The luncheon was held in the Broadway Ballroom at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square.  Though the Drama League Awards are not considered to be as high an honor as the Tony Awards, it is definitely an immense distinction to earn a Drama League Award, and they are often thought to point to the direction that the Tony Awards may be leaning.  Led by executive director Gabriel Shanks, the Drama League Awards are the oldest theatrical honors in America, having been given since 1922, and formally awarded since 1935.  The Tony Awards, on the other hand, were founded in 1947.  They are distinguished from all other major awards because they are chosen by audience members, specifically the thousands of individuals who make up the Drama League membership from all around the country.

And now for the winners!  The award for Distinguished Production of a Musical was given to A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which is also nominated for the equivalent Tony category, and which has been nominated for the greatest number of Tony Awards: 10.  This adds momentum to the Tony campaign for this new musical, whose competitors for thea gentleman's guide to love and murder a new musical comedy Tony category of Best Musical are Aladdin, After Midnight, and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.  The award for Distinguished Production of a Play was given to All the Way by Robert Schenkkan.  Starring Bryan Cranston as Lyndon Johnson, the play is a historical drama recounting the era of civil rights struggles in the 1960s.  The Distinguished Revival of a Musical was chosen to be Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and the Distinguished Revival of Play was determined to be The Glass Menagerie.  The Drama League only gives one Distinguished Performance Award, which was awarded to Neil Patrick Harris for his performance in the title role of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Furthermore, Barbara Cook was given an award for Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre.  At the age of 86, Cook was last seen on Broadway in 2010 for Sondheim on Sondheim, and she is well known for her roles in such shows as Plain and Fancy, Candide, and The Music Man.  In addition, the award for Unique Contribution to the Theatre was given to John Gore of Key Brand Entertainment and Broadway Across America.  Gore founded Key Brand Entertainment in 2004, and acquired Broadway Across America in 2008, as well as the e-commerce theatre website  As a theatre producer, Gore’s Broadway credits include Bullets over Broadway, Betrayal, Jerusalem, Passing Strange, One Man Two Guv’nors, The Mountaintop, and many more.  Finally, the Founders Award for Excellence in Directing was given to John Tiffany, who directed The Glass Menagerie this season.  Of Scottish origin, Tiffany has only three Broadway credits, the first of which was Once, winner of the 2012 Tony Award for Best Musical and a long-running hit.  He also directed Alan Cumming’s one man show Macbeth last year.

“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” Opens on Broadway

Hedwig and the Angry Inch first hit the Off-Broadway stage in 1998, and it has taken 16 years for this gender-bending rock musical to find the Great White Way.  In this time, its book-writer and original star John Cameron Mitchell, though forever ageless in the mind of his fans, has sadly aged beyond the prime energy levels required to sustain this magnificently vibrant performance, which requires the lead to carry the entire show on his shoulders.  Fortunately, however, Neil Patrick Harris has stepped up to the post at the Belasco Theatre, and according to the unanimous response from critics, he does so to stupendous success.  Directed by Michael Mayer and choreographed by Spencer Liff, Hedwig and the Angry Inch has music and lyrics by Stephen Trask, along with the book by John Cameron Mitchell.

With its style rooted in thedwig and the angry inch neil patrick harris titlehe androgynous glam rock of the 1970s, Hedwig and the Angry Inch is the story of a struggling East German rock star named Hansel during the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Hedwig is homosexual turned accidental transsexual, so to speak, as his tragic story originates with his desire to marry another man, and in so doing escape the communist East for the capitalist West.  However, his sex change operation gets botched, and instead of a makeshift vagina, Hansel a.k.a. Hedwig ends up with a one-inch mound of flesh.  After Hedwig moves to Kansas with her new husband, he leaves her for a man and she forms a rock band called Hedwig and the Angry Inch.  The story, divulged by means of a spectacular rock concert, continues as Hedwig tells of her encounter with a lonely Christian teenager, who becomes a famous rock star named Tommy Gnosis and leaves her in the wake of his success.

For purposes of Tony consideration, this musical is considered a revival, although this is its first time on Broadway.  (The same thing happened with this season’s production of Violet.)  This is because many productions have been done of the show since its Off-Broadway premiere.  Still, it has earned a remarkable eight Tony Award nominations, including those for Best Revival of a Musical and Best Actor in a Musical.  (Coincidentally, Harris has hosted the Tony Awards four times.)  In addition, a well-known film version was released in 2001, immortalizing John Cameron Mitchell as the anti-hero he created.  Though that film may not have been a financial success, having grossed just over half of its $6 million budget, it is widely regarded as a beautiful and unique masterpiece of the screen.  With this history, many doubted if Neil Patrick Harris could hold a candle to his fellow three named predecessor.  Fortunately, with the opening of the Broadway production on April 22, 2014, the results are in, and Harris is a winner.neil patrick harris in performance as hedwig in hedwig and the angry inch

Neil Patrick Harris has appeared on Broadway three times prior to this: as Hal in Proof in 2002, as the Emcee in Cabaret in 2003, and as Lee Harvey Oswald in the 2004 production of Assassins.  However, he is best known for his television roles, specifically for starring in How I Met Your Mother as well as Doogie Howser, M.D.  If the magnificent reviews and the eager cult following were not enough to make this a sell-out hit, then Harris’ star power will convince the less daring theatregoers to give this risqué piece a try.  Fortunately, the box office is holding up to its potential.  Bringing in over $700,000 per week, Hedwig has maintained sell-out capacity as well as an average ticket price of well over $100.  This may be no The Book of Mormon, but this small-scale edgy rock show seems to have found its audience.  Hedwig and the Angry Inch is presently scheduled to have an open-ended run.

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis w/e 3/30/2014

This weeks notable movements on Broadway are:

This past week saw the start of previews for the highly anticipated Broadway production of John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch.  This glam rock musical, which tells the story of an East German transsexual who underwent a botched sex-change operation, has stirred hearts and minds since its original Off-Broadway production in 1998.  Its audience of fans has expanded through the 2001 movie version and further productions worldwide, yet this is the first time the show has come to Broadway.  Starring Neil Patrick Harris, who has proven his charm to the Broadway community through hosting the Tony Awards on several occasions, this production is sure to be an audience favorite – and the numbers show it.  With only one performance in this first week, the show grossed $144,194, which amounted to an audience capacity of 101.40%, reaching 120.35% of its gross potential.  Collecting an average paid admission of $141.92, Hedwig was the top ticket price, with only The Book of Mormon charging a higher average admission.  In starting off with a bang, this bodes well for a profitable run.

In the same week, two other shows began previews, but to a much less profitable start.  Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, which stars Audra McDonald as Billie Holiday, only grossed $337,951 over its 7 performances, representing an audience capacity of 83.91%.  The show must have discounted significantly, as average paid admission was only $84.36.  Even less profitably, the Roundabout Theatre Company production of Violet ran for four performances at the American Airlines Theatre, grossing only $169,792 with an average paid admission of $60.53.  Still, they filled up 96.46% of their audience capacity, with the lower gross deriving from discounted and subscription tickets.

A musical that saw a steep increase in ticket grosses this past week was the new revival of Les Misérables, which grossed $1,223,317, up $191,448 from last week.  In addition, the new Disney production of Aladdin took in $1,104,798, which was an increase of $167,699 from the previous week.  Both of these are new productions that are proving to be strong contenders for long healthy runs.

The following are the Broadway ticket sales numbers for the week ending March 23, 2014:

Broadway Show Ticket Sales Analysis

Show GrossGross Total Attn %Cap AvgPdAdm
A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER $472,344 5,879 81.02% $80.34
A RAISIN IN THE SUN $1,045,534 8,368 100.00% $124.94
ACT ONE $318,292 5,491 63.32% $57.97
AFTER MIDNIGHT $702,074 7,378 89.02% $95.16
ALADDIN $1,104,798 13,783 100.17% $80.16
ALL THE WAY $949,056 9,283 81.60% $102.24
BEAUTIFUL $749,305 6,610 80.53% $113.36
BULLETS OVER BROADWAY $886,469 11,806 90.54% $75.09
CABARET $494,440 5,069 95.68% $97.54
CHICAGO $595,765 7,559 87.49% $78.82
CINDERELLA $1,012,922 11,953 85.33% $84.74
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH $144,194 1,016 101.40% $141.92
IF/THEN $1,002,321 9,897 97.03% $101.28
JERSEY BOYS $737,384 7,700 78.38% $95.76
KINKY BOOTS $1,489,070 10,995 96.52% $135.43
LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR & GRILL $337,951 4,006 83.91% $84.36
LES MISÉRABLES $1,223,317 10,736 95.24% $113.95
MAMMA MIA! $673,967 8,032 86.11% $83.91
MATILDA $1,212,014 11,524 100.59% $105.17
MOTHERS AND SONS $228,669 4,518 70.42% $50.61
MOTOWN THE MUSICAL $1,171,326 11,075 91.86% $105.76
NEWSIES $798,338 9,333 98.45% $85.54
NO MAN’S LAND/WAITING FOR GODOT $782,396 8,286 96.53% $94.42
OF MICE AND MEN $868,728 8,390 97.74% $103.54
ONCE $595,070 6,320 74.60% $94.16
PIPPIN $774,699 7,384 93.23% $104.92
ROCK OF AGES $376,294 4,496 96.40% $83.70
ROCKY $828,848 9,178 75.68% $90.31
THE BOOK OF MORMON $1,638,380 8,752 102.63% $187.20
THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY $352,896 4,920 60.35% $71.73
THE LION KING $1,885,162 13,603 100.02% $138.58
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA $1,057,502 12,439 96.88% $85.02
THE REALISTIC JONESES $462,236 5,595 80.20% $82.62
VIOLET $169,792 2,805 96.46% $60.53
WICKED $1,946,536 15,423 99.99% $126.21
Totals: $29,088,086 289,602 89.29% $97.63

Broadway ticket sales raw data are provided courtesy of The Broadway League All other data, text, opinion, charts and commentary are copyright © 2013