“A Raisin in the Sun” Concludes Performances

An Unequivocal Success

Kenny Leon’s acclaimed revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun played its final performance at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre last night: Sunday, June 15, 2014.  Starring Denzel Washington as Walter Lee Younger, this production took home three Tony Awards last weekend: those for Best Revival of a Play, Best Director of a Play (Kenny Leon), and Best Featured Actress in a Play (Sophie Okonedo).  This was the most wins for any straight play at this year’s Tony Awards, and the show was also nominated for an additional two acting awards: those for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play (LaTanya Richardson Jackson), and Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play (Anika Noni Rose).  Though Denzel Washington was not nominated, Kenny Leon, in accepting his Tony Award, made it clear he believed this was a snub.  After all, Washington received unqualified praise for his performance, and he furthermore won the Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play for 2010’s Fences, also directed by Leon.

Successful Recoupment of Capitalization

The run was by all measures successful, as the producers announced last week that the play managed to recoup its entire a raisin in the sun castcapitalization, which is reported to be $4.25 million.  This is a very large cost for a straight play with a limited engagement, but the investment, as well as the profit potential, was significantly upped due to the star casting of Denzel Washington, whose innumerable fans reliably flock to the theatre for the opportunity to see him in live performance.  The recoupment is especially impressive given the briefness of the play’s run, which totaled only 85 performances in addition to 27 preview performances since it began on March 8, 2014 (the official opening was April 3, 2014).  This achievement was only possible due to the high demand for tickets, which allowed premium pricing and very limited discounting.  The entire run was sold out, the average ticket price each week was generally over $140, and the top ticket price for premium seats was $348.  In general, the weekly gross reached around 110% of its potential (due to premium pricing), and each weekly gross was almost without exception over $1.1 million.

Solidifying Its Place In History

This is the third time A Raisin in the Sun has played on Broadway.  The premiere was in 1959, marking the first time a play written by a black woman was seen on Broadway.  The first revival was in 2004, also directed by Kenny Leon.  Though that production won two Tony Awards (Best Actress for Phylicia Rashad, and Best Featured Actress for Audra McDonald), it did not win the award for Best Revival (though it was nominated), nor was Kenny Leon nominated for the award he would win in 2014: Best Director.  Critics discussed how this production was a significantly more mature achievement than Leon’s first attempt, which may justify the difference in awards reception.  This production also had the honor of being attended by the President of the United States, Barack Obama, and his family.  On Friday, April 11, 2014, West 47th Street was swarming was security guards, as the first family made its way to the theatre.  Barack and Michelle Obama also had attended a revival of August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone in 2009, and Michelle had taken her daughters to the musicals Memphis and The Addams Family.

All in all, this production was a crowning achievement for its producers, who make up a great selection of the producing society of Broadway, including Scott Rudin, Roger Berlind, Jon Platt, Scott Delman, Roy Furman, Stephanie McClelland, Ruth Hendel, Sonia Friedman, and Daryl Roth.  In this light, it was actually a success for the Broadway community as a whole, pumping much needed blood into the life of quality-driven productions on Broadway.

Broadway Fall 2014 Line-Up Falling into Place

This fall looks to be an exciting one on Broadway!  Let’s face it – every new season is pretty exciting.  But with the Tony Awards still a month away to commend the brilliant plays and musicals of the 2013-2014 season, announcements are already being made for shows to open next fall.

It was recently announced that Hugh Jackman will be returning to Broadway this fall in Jez Butterworth’s play The River.  Jez Butterworth’s work was last seen on Broadway with the 2011 production of Jerusalem starring Mark Rylance, directed by Ian Rickson, and prohugh jackmanduced by London-based powerhouse theatre production company Sonia Friedman Productions.  Sonia Friedman will be shepherding a Butterworth play once again, after having watched over its production at the Royal Court Theatre, where Jerusalem also premiered.  The partnership between Ian Rickson and Jez Butterworth also holds strong, as Rickson is on board to direct this play.  The River is about a loner on a remote island and the two women in his life, who will be played by British actresses Laura Donnelly and Cush Jumbo.  The River will begin performances at the Circle in the Square Theatre on October 31, 2014.  A favorite of the Great White Way, Hugh Jackman sold out his 2011 one-man show Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway, and he will host the Tony Awards this year for the fourth time.

In addition to the proven partnership between director Ian Rickson and playwright Jez Butterworth, another fall show will see the recurrence of a proven Broadway partnership, this time between two beloved actors.  Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, who famously co-starred in 2001’s The Producers, will join forces this fall for a Terrence McNally play called It’s Only a Play, directed by Jack O’Brien.  Like The Producers, It’s Only a Play is also a comedy based in the world of show biz.  Having premiered at the Manhattan Theater Club in 1986, It’s Only a Play is the story of a nervous playwright (Broderick) at the opening night party for a play he has written, and his interactions with his backstabbing friend (Lane).  Produced by Tom Kirdahy, who is married to Terrence McNally, the play will begin performances in September at a theatre yet to be announced.

Producer Scott Rudin also has a starry play up his sleeve for this fall.  This Is Our Youth, written by Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me, Margaret, The Starry Messenger) first premiemichael cera kieran culkinred Off-Broadway in a production by The New Group in 1996.  The play centers on three aimless teenagers in New York City, and this Broadway production will star Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin, and Tavi Gevinson.  Directed by Anna D. Shapiro (Motherf**ker with the Hat), the show will have an out-of-town pre-Broadway run at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago over the summer, and it will then transfer to Broadway’s Cort Theatre with performances beginning August 18, 2014.  Michael Cera and Kieran Culkin also appeared in their same roles in an Australian production of this play in 2012, directed by Mark Brokaw.

Further fall productions that have been announced include Simon Stephens’ play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, which is a transfer from London’s National Theatre via the West End.  The play will occupy the Ethel Barrymore Theatre with previews beginning September 15, 2014.  In addition, The Country House by Donald Margulies will star Blythe Danner at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, with previews beginning September 9, 2014 in a Manhattan Theatre Club production.  Finally, it has also been announced that a production of Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing will play at the American Airlines Theatre in a Roundabout Theatre Company production, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ewan McGregor, and Cynthia Nixon, and directed by Sam Gold.  This is just the tip of the iceberg, however, as many more exciting shows are sure to be announced for the Broadway fall season in the coming months.

‘The Book of Mormon’ Inks Deal with StubHub.com

The Book of Mormon now officially sells tickets on StubHub.com.

Since its opening in 2011, the Broadway production of The Book of Mormon has been selling out its houses at the 1,006 seat Eugene O’Neill Theatre.  With rampant demand for the satirical musical written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, along with Avenue Q writer Bobby Lopez, the show has regularly seen premium ticket prices as high as $477.  The show’s lead producers Scott Rudin and Anne Garefino have often been at the cutting edge of strategies to maximum their ticket revenue, utilizing dynamic pricing to vary ticket prices throughout the house in line with demand.  As of just week ago, they have announced a new partnership that changes the game for the Broadway ticket marketplace: they will now sell tickets on StubHub.com.

Book of Mormon and Stubhub join forces

Book of Mormon and StubHub.com  join forces

StubHub.com, an online ticket marketplace owned by eBay, has grown from America’s largest secondary-market ticket marketplace to the world’s largest ticket marketplace.  The secondary market for tickets refers to when tickets are re-sold, often at a higher amount than their original price, especially when the primary ticket sellers have sold out their inventory.  Another example of a secondary-market ticket site is TicketsNow.com, which is an acquired subsidiary of Ticketmaster.  Ticketmaster often redirects its customers to TicketsNow.com when the original inventory is sold out, which is effectively the same thing as selling tickets at a higher price through the same outlet.  Critics of secondary market ticket sites consider them to be just another form of scalping, and thus the legality of such sites is often questioned.

In an unprecedented move for Broadway, The Book of Mormon has decided to utilize StubHub.com as another outlet to sell their higher priced premium tickets.  In this way, StubHub will not be functioning as a secondary ticket marketplace, but rather a primary ticketing outlet.  Presently, the primary ticketing outlet for Broadway shows is more often than not Telecharge.com, which is owned by the Shubert Organization, one of the major Broadway landlords.  Therefore, this decision will present StubHub as a direct competitor to Telecharge.

It is common for producers to turn to additional outlets to help move their inventory, yet this is generally done in the form of discount ticket sales.  When sales are slow for a certain show, producers will often offer lower priced tickets either by direct mail to potential ticket buyers’ homes, or through online promotions by email or on websites.  However, the decision to sell premium seats for this hot-ticket show specifically through StubHub is an interesting maneuver, especially as the StubHub customer base may not be accustomed to seeing theatre options on the site.  StubHub’s biggest business comes from the music and sports industries, and this will present a Broadway option to this largely untapped audience.  On the other hand, the advantage from StubHub’s point of view is that it will help shift their reputation from that of a glorified online scalper to a more legitimate ticket sales outlet.

In any case, this novel approach presents an interesting dilemma for the Shuberts, who own Telecharge.com.  If premium tickets can be sold directly though secondary outlets commonly known for scalping tickets, there is a grey area between the primary and secondary market ticket outlets that had not previously existed for the Broadway marketplace.  If they neglect the opportunity to invest in secondary outlets, like Ticketmaster did with TicketsNow, then they might very well be losing profits in the long run.  Still, for now, The Book of Mormon’s new partnership will be a noteworthy case study to see if the StubHub customer base opens up new avenues for premium Broadway ticket sales.