“You Can’t Take It With You” Closes

Final Performance Sunday, February 22nd

you can't take it with youOn Sunday, February 22, 2015, You Can’t Take It With You will play its final performance at Broadway’s Longacre Theatre. It began previews on August 26, 2014, and the official opening night took place on September 28, 2014. This comedic revival is directed by Scott Ellis, who also helmed The Elephant Man starring Bradley Cooper, which wraps up performances the day before. The play was written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, and original music was written for this production by Jason Robert Brown (Parade, The Bridges of Madison County). The play starred James Earl Jones as the patriarch, Grandpa Martin Vanderhof. Furthermore, Rose Byrne starred alongside him, making her Broadway debut. Additional roles were played by Fran Kranz (Death of a Salesman), Annaleigh Ashford (Kinky Boots), and Byron Jennings (Arcadia). This comedy, originally written in 1936, takes place during the Great Depression. It is also a timely revival for the New York theatre scene, as last season Lincoln Center put on a play called Act One, which dealt with the life and collaborative partnership of Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman.

Critical Praise, and Commercial Survivaljames earl jones

Upon its opening night on September 28, 2014, critics were generally pleased with You Can’t Take It With You. Ben Brantley from The New York Times said that the only problem might be the pain in your cheeks after smiling for two and a half hours straight. Robert Kahn of NBC New York praised the performances of James Earl Jones, as well as Rose Byrne who is known for her performances in TV’s Damages as well as the film Bridesmaids. David Rooney from The Hollywood Reporter enjoyed the play’s escapist pleasure, emphasizing a life well lived rather than one marked by success. On the other hand, Mark Kennedy from the Associated Press did not enjoy the references from the Great Depression, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and the 48 States. Unfortunately, the concept of a farcical Broadway “laughfest” has died down since the 30s, and a comedy that was once thought hilarious may now come off as a glorified television sitcom. Nevertheless, this Pulitzer Prize winning play from 1937 managed to charm critics and audiences alike in 2015, which is no small achievement.

A Difficult Sell at the Box Office

Despite the overall laudatory response from reviewers, the box office was a tough sell for this play revival in light of the highly competitive season. The show’s highest weekly gross took place in the week ending October 19, 2014, when it brought in $680,921, which represented 87.4% of its gross potential. Still, it mostly hovered around the $400,000 to $500,000 marks, with the lowest weekly gross of $334,244, which took place just recently in the week ending February 8, 2015. Though the play has notable stars such as the esteemed James Earl Jones, the cutthroat competition proved a bit too much to allow this play to be a real hit on Broadway.

“The Elephant Man” Concludes Its Run

A Broadway Success, Closing One Day Early

elephant manOn Saturday, February 21, 2015, The Elephant Man plays its final Broadway performance. It has been running at the Booth Theatre since it began previews on November 7, 2014, and opening night took place on December 7, 2014. This revival of the 1977 play by Bernard Pomerance was directed by Scott Ellis, and has received rave reviews and excellent box office performance. The production was originally scheduled to conclude one day later, on Sunday, February 22, 2015; Sunday is a common closing night for Broadway shows. However, this particular Sunday also happens to be the Academy Awards, of which the star of The Elephant Man – Bradley Cooper – was nominated for two for the biographical war film American Sniper. Not only is this the third consecutive year in which Cooper has received an Academy Award acting nomination (the previous two were for Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle), but this is the first time he is also being honored with the nomination for Best Picture, as he is also a producer on American Sniper. This was therefore a good enough reason for The Elephant Man to cancel their final planned performance, allowing Cooper to travel to Los Angeles for the Academy Awards. This is the second instance in which Cooper cancelled performances for an awards ceremony; the first was for the DGA Awards on February 7-8, 2015.

Next Up: London’s West Endelephant man

Following the huge critical and commercial success of the Broadway run, The Elephant Man with Bradley Cooper in the lead role will arrive at London’s West End this spring. It will begin performances at the Theatre Royal Haymarket on May 19, 2015, and is scheduled to run until August 8, 2015. It will be a transfer production also directed by Scott Ellis, and Bradley Cooper’s co-stars Patricia Clarkson and Alessandro Nivola will join the London run as well. This will actually be the third time that these four individuals will have collaborated on this piece; the first instance was at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts in summer 2012. It is remarkable that Cooper has the stamina to continue to play this physically demanding role, in which he transforms into a deformed man based off a real-life figure named John Merrick. Cooper portrays Merrick, as the play has been traditionally done, without means of any stage makeup, but rather by means of physicality alone. It is therefore testament to Cooper’s true acting chops to be able to maintain this role in a third incarnation, which not all actors known for their film successes would be able to do.

Excellent Box Office Sales

In the last week of reported sales, the week ending February 15, 2015, The Elephant Man brought in an impressive gross of $1,113,192. This was the sixth highest grossing show that week, and by far the highest grossing straight play. It was only beat out by musicals, specifically The Lion King, The Book of Mormon, Wicked, Aladdin, and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. This eight performance week followed a six performance week in which Cooper took off two shows to attend the DGA awards, causing the production to cancel those performances. Therefore, there is intense demand for this show as it nears its closing performance. After all, it will be a bit more difficult for New York theatregoers to catch the show in London.

“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

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.

“The Elephant Man” Begins Previews

Bradley Cooper As a Disfigured Protagonist

bradley cooper elephant manOn November 7, 2014, The Elephant Man began previews at the Booth Theatre. It will have its official opening night on December 7, 2014. Set in Victorian England, The Elephant Man was originally written in 1977 by Bernard Pomerance, and the original Broadway production was in 1979. At that time, it won three Tony Awards, those for Best Play, Best Direction of a Play (Jack Hofsiss), and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play (Carole Shelley). It also won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play, the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play, and it was also selected for inclusion in The Burns Mantle Theater Yearbook as one of the Best Plays of 1978-1979. In 2002, a Broadway revival starring Billy Crudup was nominated for two acting Tony Awards but won neither. This production stars Bradley Cooper as the eponymous Elephant Man (whose name is actually John Merrick), and it is directed by 6-time Tony nominee Scott Ellis. Cooper stars alongside Patricia Clarkson as Mrs. Kendal and Alessandro Nivola as Frederick Treves.

Cooper’s Star Attraction

Bradley Cooper first played the role of John Merrick in a 2012 production at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. This is his second timeelephant man on Broadway, having also played the roles of Pip and Theo in a 2006 production of Three Days of Rain. Also, at the 2008 Williamstown Theatre Festival, he played the role of Jake in The Understudy. However, he is much better known for his performances on the screen. He has starred in such films as American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook (receiving Academy Award nominations for them both), The Place Beyond the Pines, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Hangover trilogy, and many more titles. Bradley Cooper is a beloved actor, as seen by the notable box office success of The Elephant Man thus far. In its first week of four performances, it has already grossed $520,087, which represents 113.36% of its gross potential. Furthermore, with a top ticket price of $298.00, it had an average paid ticket admission of $163.45, which represents little to no discounting. Of the 3,096 total seats across those four performances, it sold a miraculous 3,182 of them (accounted for by the premium ticket sales).

The Story of the Elephant Man

It is clearly the star attraction of Bradley Cooper, rather than the flashy subject matter, that has drawn such numbers to the box office. However, though it may not be superficially engaging, the storyline of the play is also excellent. It is based on the real life story of Joseph Merrick, a 19th century British man who suffered from extreme bodily deformity. He became a star of the freak show circuit, until a doctor takes him under his wing to study. He ends up being amazed by Merrick’s intellect, faith, and longing for love and loyalty. A romantic subplot emerges when Dr. Treves introduces Merrick to the beautiful Mrs. Kendal, who also sees his truly touching nature. However, Mrs. Kendal is not single, and there is a complex underlayer to their friendship, as she wants to protect him from the corruption of the real world. The Elephant Man is therefore a love story, but it is also the story of a man cut apart from the universe yet who still manages to maintain a virulent humanity. Interestingly, The Elephant Man is always performed without extravagant special effects stage makeup, so that Bradley Cooper displays the deformity through physicality alone.

“You Can’t Take It With You” Opens on Broadway

A Critical Hit With Financial Difficulties

you can't take it with youOn September 28, 2014, You Can’t Take It With You opened at Broadway’s Longacre Theatre after 39 preview performances. Starring James Earl Jones as the patriarch of the quirky Sycamore family, this classic 1937 comedy by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart received generally rave reviews from critics. However, despite appreciation and even celebration by some of New York City’s most dependable reviewers, the show is struggling to attract ticketbuyers at the box office. In the five full or partial weeks that the show has been open so far, the audience capacity has ranged between a weekly average of 80 to 90 percent; however the potential reached of the weekly gross fluctuated between 40 and 55%. This demonstrates that the producers are offering heavy discounts to ticketbuyers, who are happily taking advantage of the offers. However, the show will only be able to stay open so long with numbers like these. Nevertheless, it should be noted that these figures represent the pre-opening data, and that it is possible word will quickly spread now that the reviews are in. However, Broadway audiences have been decreasingly swayed by critical response in most cases, and are more generally made aware of shows through marketing campaigns, and thus the positive reviews are by no means a certain bet to improve the box office figures.

The Reviews Are In

Ben Brantley, the most significant theatre critic at New York’s most significant newspaper, The New York Times, loved You Can’t Take It With You. He opened his laudatory review by saying the only part of the show that he could complain about is the ache in his cheeks from smiling so much throughout the entire two and a half hour show. Even though the show won the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, he did not expect to enjoy this revival so much. Apparently the show has stood the test of time, rather than becoming dated, so much that Brantley refers to this family comedy as the Platonic ideal of family dysfunction. And Brantley was not alone in his praise. David Rooney at the Hollywood Reporter, representing the West Coast perspective on the situation, stated that the play remains irresistible after all these years. He calls the director Scott Ellis a comedy pro, and he gives Jones his due respect by calling him a theater lion with natural gravitas. The Huffington Post, representing the younger urban viewpoint, also gave the play a thumbs up, stating that the audience leaves in a state of euphoria.

Fran Kranz Taking on a Leading Part

you can't take it with you

Fran Kranz, Rose Bryne, and James Earl Jones

The young comedic actor Fran Kranz made his Broadway debut in the 2012 revival of Death of a Salesman starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, and received great notices for his memorable supporting role. You Can’t Take It With You marks his second Broadway performance. He has also received recognition for his roles in television shows such as Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse” and films such as Cabin in the Woods and Much Ado About Nothing. This is the first time, however, that he has been given a proper leading part as the romantic lead. He told Variety that this is an honor he does not take lightly, and he jumped at the chance to lead the show alongside James Earl Jones and Rose Byrne, the latter of whom made her Broadway debut. This appears to be the second of many Broadway outings for the up-and-coming actor, who is likely to become a name more people know in coming years. You Can’t Take It With You is scheduled to run until January 4, 2015.

“The Elephant Man” Starring Bradley Cooper Is Delayed

The Broadway Run Is Pushed By A Month

Originally slated to begin performances on October 18, 2014 at the Booth Theatre, The Elephant Man has delayed its production until November 7, 2014.  Its official opening night will now be on December 7, 2014, with the limited engagement scheduled to conclude on February 15, 2015.  The delay was reportedly caused by a scheduling conflict.

This Will Be The Second Broadway Revivalbradley cooper elephant man

This 1977 play by Bernard Pomerance has been produced on Broadway twice before.  Its premiere was in 1979, for which it won the Tony Award for Best Play as well as the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play.  There was then a revival in 2002, which ran for only 57 performances.  In any case, plans for the 2014 revival are well underway, with direction by Scott Ellis.  Scenic and projection design will be by Timothy R. Mackabee, costume design is by Clint Ramos, lighting design is by Philip S. Rosenberg, and sound design is by Drew Levy.

Cooper Played the Role at Williamstown

In the lead role of John Merrick will be film star Bradley Cooper, whose credits include Silver Linings Playbook (Academy Award nomination for Best Actor), American Hustle (Academy Award nomination for Best Featured Actor), The Hangover, The Place Beyond the Pines, and Wet Hot American Summer.  The cast of this revival will also include Patricia Clarkson as Mrs. Kendal and Alessandro Nivola as Frederick Treves.  Scott Ellis directed these same three actors in a 2012 production of the play at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.  Joining these three cast members for the Broadway revival will be Anthony Heald, Scott Lowell, Kathryn Meisle, and Henry Stram. elephant manThe Elephant Man is the story of a severely disfigured man in 19th century England, who travels the freak show circuit until he is noticed by a renowned physician.  Bradley Cooper will play John Merrick, the disfigured man.  Interestingly, this role is always portrayed without the use of any excessive makeup or props, but rather it is up to the actor to display the proper physicality to invoke the sense of disfigurement and awe.