“It’s Only a Play” Concludes Its Run

Successful Run Concludes With Final Performance On June 7, 2015

it's only a play coverOn June 7, 2015, Jack O’Brien’s production of Terrence McNally’s It’s Only a Play played its final performance at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. On August 28, 2014, it began previews, at that time playing at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. After its opening night on October 9, 2014, the show received mixed to positive reviews. However, that did not stop the show from becoming a huge hit, with the box office flowing healthily due to the star studded cast. The original cast included Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, bringing back the excellent chemistry from their world renowned star turn in The Producers. On top of those two, the cast included Stockard Channing (Grease, Other Desert Cities), Rupert Grint (“Ron” from the Harry Potter movies), Megan Mullaly (Young Frankenstein, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying), F. Murray Abraham (Mauritius, Triumph of Love, A Month in the Country), and Micah Stock. Though Micah Stock was the least famous of the bunch, and the only one making his Broadway debut, he was also the only one to be nominated for a Tony Award, that for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play. This was the only nominated the show received, and it did not win.

Nathan Lane is the Golden Ticketit's only a play cast

Despite the mixed recognition from reviewers and Tony voters alike, It’s Only a Play was an unqualified financial hit. On December 17, 2014, the production announced that it had recouped its $3.9 million investment, making it the first show of the 2014-2015 season to announce recoupment. Fortunately for the producers, that achievement took place before the planned departure of Nathan Lane, who quickly proved himself to be the biggest star in the show. In every single full performance week where Lane appeared, up until the week ending January 4, 2015, the show brought in over a million dollars. Immediately after he departed, starting the week ending January 11, 2015, the numbers took a huge dip. Whereas the play had been bringing in over 100% of its gross potential consistently, suddenly it was bringing in just over 60% for three weeks, and then those numbers dipped even further, bringing in around an average of 45% of its gross potential each week. In the week ending January 4, 2015, the weekly gross was $1,455,818, but just three weeks later, the weekly gross was $462,008.

Matthew Broderick Did Not Have As Much Box Office Pull

Matthew Broderick, who had originally also planned to leave on January 4, 2015, decided to extend his participation in the show until the end of the run, whereas Lane had to leave to appear in The Iceman Cometh. However, Lane clearly proved he is a bigger star than Broderick, as Broderick’s decision to remain did not keep the numbers as high as they had been. However, when Lane came back to It’s Only a Play on March 31, 2015, the numbers did jump up, though not quite as high as they had been. Once he returned, the weekly grosses were averaging around $600,000 to $700,000. In the last week of the run, the week ending June 7, 2015, both Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane took their final bow, with a weekly gross of $669,145, representing 66.51% of the show’s gross potential. Therefore, the show was clearly running in the black, having entered profits back in the end of 2014. Since that time, they were playing for laughs as much as for money.

“The Visit” Starts Performances on Broadway

Chita Rivera Stars in a Kander and Ebb Musical

the visit chita riveraOn March 26, 2015, The Visit began previews at the Lyceum Theatre. This musical has a book by Terrence McNally (It’s Only a Play, Mothers and Sons, Master Class). As for the score, the music is written by John Kander, and lyrics are by Fred Ebb, making this the newest musical from the all star team behind Cabaret, Chicago, The Scottsboro Boys, The Rink, and Woman of the Year. This musical, which is based on a play by Friedrich Duerrenmatt, has only been staged once before in New York: for a one night only performance on November 30, 2011 at the Ambassador Theatre (where Chicago has been playing for many years). That concert performance starred Chita Rivera in the role she is now playing in an extended Broadway run: Claire Zachannassian, a very wealthy woman. This was a benefit staging produced by the Actors Fund and the Vineyard Theatre. Rivera assembled along with other cast members from a previous production at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, where the show played for just over a month in 2008. Prior the that, it had a run in Chicago in 2001. However, it wasn’t until 2014, when the Williamstown Theatre Festival reworked the play into a one act structure, that it was finally deemed ready to come to Broadway.

A Starry Cast and Revered Creative Teamchita rivera roger rees

According to Kander and Ebb, this role was written for Chita Rivera, whose previous credits include The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Nine, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and Chicago. She plays Claire Zachannassian, the richest woman in the world who has been widowed on several occasions. The title refers to when she pays a visit to her humble hometown, and the entire town expects this to bring great prosperity to all. However, she has other plans in mind, and a sardonic and complex series of events ensue. In addition to Rivera, the role of Anton Schnell is played by Roger Rees (The Addams Family, Peter and the Starcatcher, Uncle Vanya). Other roles are played by Mary Beth Peil (Follies, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown), George Abud, and Jason Danieley (Next to Normal, Curtains). The show is directed by John Doyle (The Color Purple, A Catered Affair, Company), who was behind the reworking at Williamstown that persuaded producers to bring to show to Broadway. Furthermore, it is choreographed by Tony nominee Graciela Daniele (Ragtime, Pal Joey, The Most Happy Fella, Zorba). The musical coordinator is John Monaco, and the associate conductor is Jesse Kissel.

Struggling at the Box Office

In the three weeks that the show has been running so far, it is having difficulty at the box office. In the last reported week of box office figures, the week ending April 12, 2015, the show brought in only $224,289, which represents 29.41% of its gross potential. Over the course of the eight performances that week, the top ticket price was $225.00, but the average paid admission was only $43.19. Still, it managed to fill up only 72.0% of seats across the week. The previous two weeks were not much better, although the first partial week of five performances brought in 35.12% of the gross potential. The show will open on April 23, 2015, upon which the reviews will hopefully send many more ticket buyers to the box office.

“It’s Only a Play” Extends Until June

Excellent Sales and a Chance to Earn More

it's only a playJack O’Brien’s production of Terrence McNally’s It’s Only a Play, which had previously been expected to conclude its run on March 29, 2015, has now announced that tickets are on sale until June 7, 2015. The starry cast has drawn excellent box office response since the play begin previews on August 28, 2014, and has continued to perform marvelously since the opening night of October 9, 2014. The high-profile cast members include Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, who are reunited following their history-making run in Mel Brooks’ musical The Producers. The stars don’t stop there, as Lane and Broderick are joined by Stockard Channing (Grease, Other Desert Cities), Rupert Grint (Ron from the Harry Potter movie franchise), F. Murray Abraham ( , and Megan Mullaly, along with newcomer Micah Stock. Rupert Grint, Nathan Lane, and Megan Mullaly played their last performance on January 4, 2015. However, when Matthew Broderick announced that he would extend until at least March to star alongside Martin Short, the show got another breath of life.

Box Office Declined after Nathan Lane’s Departureit's only a play

It’s Only a Play was a miraculous box office performer this season, earning more than 100% of its gross potential every single week since it began previews – that is, until the second week in January 2015. As soon as Nathan Lane, Rupert Grint, and Megan Mullaly stepped out of the show, ticket sales declined enormously. The show’s weekly gross record was earned in the week ending January 4, 2015, which was the exact day that those three actors left the show. It is likely that Nathan Lane was the biggest ticket seller, with Rupert Grint also attracting a different demographic to the audience. With the loss of those two huge names, it became apparent that Matthew Broderick alone was not a big enough name to sustain the hyperbolically high ticket sales. In the week immediately following, the week ending January 11, 2015, the weekly gross went down by $764,914, resulting in a gross of $690,904, which represented only 60.79% of the gross potential. Furthermore, the average paid ticket went down from $171.68 in the week ending January 4, 2015, to $88.95 in the week ending January 11, 2015. In the four weeks since, the show has still been struggling. Most recently, in the week ending February 1, 2015, the show only brought in $513,389, which is only 44.21% of its gross potential.

Optimism about the Spring Season

The decision to extend the show until June demonstrates that the producers felt optimistic that ticket sales would pick up along with the temperature. The months of January and February are traditionally very slow on Broadway, and March brings the opening of many new shows in the spring season. Therefore, it is a risky choice to extend a show from the fall season into the spring, as it will need to compete with all of the new fare. However, the producers must have felt confident that they had a hit show, and that even without Nathan Lane and the other early deserters, that they would attract enough interest with the second-tier cast and very hyped production. It definitely helps that Matthew Broderick has extended until March 29, 2015, although he will be out from March 4 to 21, 2015. It is not yet clear whether Broderick will remain with the show through the final three spring months, or whether Martin Short and the other cast members will stay.

“It’s Only a Play” Opens on Broadway

Ticket Sales Anticipate Reviews

it's only a playOn October 9, 2014, It’s Only a Play opened at Broadway’s Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, after having played 48 preview performances since the first on August 28, 2014. Generally, an opening night is vital for a show to gain traction after reviews hit the press, but in this case, the reviews were all but unnecessary. The show is already almost completely sold out until the end of its run, currently scheduled for January 4, 2015. In every single week that the show has been running, it has brought in over 100% of its gross box office potential, due to premium ticket sales on top of outstanding regular priced sales. Discounts are not part of the equation in this case. In the first partial 5-performance week ending August 31, 2014, the show earned 112.45% of its gross potential. In the full 8-performance weeks following, the show has unfailingly passed the million dollar mark on each occasion. In order, from the week ending September 7, 2014 until the most recently reported week ending October 12, 2014, the weekly grosses were: $1,163,626, $1,230,603, $1,277,059, $1,261,025, $1,248,660, and $1,173,896. The reason for this outstanding box office performance can be summarized in two words: star power.

Chock Full of Stars

With regards to attracting ticketbuyers, the most important names associated with this production are its actors. First of all, the it's only a play castproduction reunites Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick who made Broadway history with their performances in 2001’s The Producers. Beyond the combination of this power duo, each has individually earned a remarkable series of accolades, including two Tony Awards a piece: Lane earned the Best Actor honor for The Producers and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Broderick earned the same for Brighton Beach Memoirs and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. They are joined by Stockard Channing, who came to fame with the film Grease, and earned a Tony Award for A Day in the Death of Joe Egg. In addition, F. Murray Abraham won an Academy Award for 1985’s Amadeus and is a seasoned veteran of stage and screen. Furthermore, the cast includes Rupert Grint making his Broadway debut, and yet he may hold the honor of having been seen by the most eyeballs due to his starring as Ron in the Harry Potter franchise. On top of the stellar cast, rounded out by Megan Mullaly and Micah Stock, the playwright Terrence McNally has had a remarkable 21 productions of his plays on Broadway, and the director Jack O’Brien has helmed at least 26 shows on Broadway (winning three Tony Awards with an additional seven nominations), also serving as the artistic director of the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego from 1981 to 2007.

Critical Appreciation, with Some Reservation

In general, the reviews are positive though some are mixed. In particular, Ben Brantley of The New York Times saw through the starry exterior and reviewed the play on its merits. He remarked how McNally revised the script to be more up-to-date. As the play, originally written in 1982, has some antiquated references, newer stars such as James Franco, Rosie O’Donnell, and Denzel Washington were swapped in for their written predecessors. Most notably, the respected theatre critic Frank Rich was swapped out for none other than Brantley himself. He responded to this fact with sufficient grace and only mild resentment, explaining that the entire premise of the play was to throw mud at famous names, whether those of critics or actors. In any case, he was fully aware that his review would not be affecting ticket sales, which are already more victorious than any written assessment of the play’s merits could expect to be.

“It’s Only A Play” Begins Performances on Broadway

An All-Star Cast

it's only a playNathan Lane and Matthew Broderick are back at it again.  The hilarious team behind The Producers has reunited for Terrence McNally’s It’s Only a Play, which began previews on August 28, 2014 at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.  Directed by Jack O’Brien (The Nance, The Coast of Utopia), the play will officially open on October 9, 2014, and is slated to run for a limited engagement until January 4, 2015.  The play premiered Off-Off-Broadway in 1982, and then Off-Broadway in 1986 produced by Manhattan Theatre Club; this is the play’s Broadway premiere.  Not only does the cast feature The Producers dream team Broderick and Lane, but it also includes Academy Award winner F. Murray Abraham, Emmy and Tony Award winner Stockard Channing, Harry Potter film star Rupert Grint making his Broadway debut, Emmy Award winner Megan Mulally, and a newcomer named Micah Stock.  This all-star cast is sure to make a huge splash in this upcoming Broadway fall season.

Already a Financial Success

In fact, the box office is already showing a lot of promise.  In the first week of only 5 performances, the show grossed a total of it's only a play cast$793,046, which is 112.45% of its gross potential.  With a top ticket price of $225, the average ticket was a remarkable $146.81.  This is especially impressive given that the play has not yet been reviewed, nor has it appeared on Broadway before.  However, Terrence McNally is a tried and true playwright on Broadway, whose experience underscores the quality of this production perhaps even more than the starry cast.  He has had a total of 21 productions on Broadway, beginning in the year 1963 with his adaptation of The Lady of the Camellias.  The first play he wrote that was produced on Broadway was And Things That Go Bump In the Night in 1965, and some of his other writing credits include the epic musical Ragtime, last season’s Mothers and Sons starring Tyne Daly, Master Class also starring Tyne Daly, the book for the stage adaptation of Catch Me If You Can, the book for the musical The Full Monty, the book for Kiss of the Spider Woman, as well as Love! Valour! Compassion!, The Rink, Deuce and many more.

A Backstage Drama

This script promises to be one of McNally’s best.  The cast list alone implies that the play is top-notch, as such as stellar list of actors responding positively to the material cannot be a coincidence.  According to a statement by McNally, the play was cast in less than two days, as the actors responded with an immediate yes.  The only exception was Rupert Grint, as he was on location filming a movie where there was no wireless internet, but he responded positively within four days.  Also, the play is reported to have undergone significant revision since its Off-Broadway production in the 1980s.  The story involves a backstage drama in a metatheatrical fashion.  Matthew Broderick plays a playwright named Peter Austin, and the show takes place on opening night of a production of one of his plays.  As he nervously awaits a response from audience and critics, he interacts with a television star played by Nathan Lane, his early-career producer played by Megan Mullally, the star of the play (Stockard Channing), the young director (Rupert Grint), a scary critic (F. Murray Abraham), and a coat check boy (Micah Stock).

“Mothers and Sons” To Close on June 22

Terrence McNally’s New Play Stars Tyne Daly

Mothers and Sons, a new play by Terrence McNally, has been running at Broadway’s Golden Theatre since February 23, 2014.  Starring Tyne Daly, a frequent McNally collaborator, this play opened on March 24, 2014 to fairly positive reviews.  The production was directed by Sheryl Kaller (Next Fall), produced by Tom Kirdahy and Roy Furman, and the cast also featured Bobby Steggert, Grayson Taylor, and Frederick Weller.  The play received two Tony Award nominations: Best Play, and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for Tyne Daly.  However, soon after the Tony Awards played out and Mothers and Sons did not win any honors, the announcement was made that the show will close on June 22, 2013, having played 104 performances and 33 previews.

Mothers and Sons Broadway Show tyne daly

Mothers and Sons Broadway Show

Next Season, McNally Returns with “It’s Only a Play”

McNally is one of the few living playwrights whose work has proved the test of time, with his new plays still consistently being produced on Broadway, irrespective of their star power or recognizable brand titles.  Mothers and Sons is McNally’s 20th Broadway show, marking the 50 year anniversary of his work being shown on Broadway.  This is by no means the end of his streak, however, as next season his play It’s Only a Play will be revived starring Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Stockard Channing, F. Murray Abraham, Megan Mullally, and Micah Stock.  Directed by Jack O’Brien, that new production will begin previews in the fall at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, with an opening night set for October 9, 2014.  That is sure to be an exciting production, as it will reunite Lane and Broderick who co-starred in the celebrated 2001 Broadway hit The Producers, not to mention the rest of its stupendous cast and creative team.

Financial Woes

Mothers and Sons has been struggling financially for some time, never earning much more than 30% of its gross potential since it began performances.  With an average ticket price around $65, the production has been offering heavy discounts throughout its run.  In the week ending June 8, 2014, the show only grossed $197,920, which is only 25.79% of its gross potential, and it filled up to only 43.9% of its audience capacity.  It must have been holding out for the Tony Awards, and when it did not win any, it cut its losses and announced closing.

Critical Performance

Like many of McNally’s plays, Mothers and Sons deals with concepts of homosexuality and AIDS.  It is the story of Katharine Gerard (played by Tyne Daly), who lost her son to AIDS 20 years ago, and now decides to visit her son’s partner Cal (Frederick Weller), who has since married a man named Will (Bobby Steggert).  Ben Brantley of The New York Times was lukewarm in his review, opining that the play’s intellectual debate overshadowed its emotional effects.  Still, he commended Tyne Daly’s performance and the production for the unstated sorrow beneath the words.  Other reviewers, such as NBC New York, Time Out New York, and the Associated Press, all gave more positive reviews.  Still, the play was unable to compete in this difficult marketplace against much more crowd-pleasing titles.  Perhaps the next McNally show will fare better.

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.

‘Mothers and Sons’ starring Tyne Daly opens on Broadway.

A Moving Tribute – Manhattan style

In Terrence McNally’s Mothers and Sons, Tyne Daly masterfully plays the lead as Katharine Gerard, a recently widowed woman who lost her only son Andre to AIDS 20 years ago.  In the opening scene, Katharine unexpectedly turns up at the Central Park West apartment of Andre’s former life partner, Cal Porter (played by Frederick Weller) .  Now alone in the world and still very much in denial about her son’s lifestyle choices, Katharine seeks solace from the one person closest to Andre prior to his untimely death.

Mothers and Sons Broadway Show tyne daly

It’s been nearly two decades since Katharine and Cal have last seen each other – at Andre’s funeral  – and the tension between them is palpable.  Katharine is resentful at Cal for taking her son away and living a lifestyle that she disapproves.  Cal is resentful at Katharine for shunning him at the funeral and refusing to acknowledge the pain he was suffering from losing Andre.

Secretly hoping that Cal has not moved on, Katharine instead finds that this once poor bohemian has become a successful money manager with a new husband (Bobby Steggert) and young son (Grayson Taylor).  Katharine cannot fathom why Cal’s life has improved so much since Andre’s death and hers has been in a steady decline.  She is angry and jealous.  They exchange bitter words.

And just when it appears these two couldn’t be further apart, secrets are revealed that not only highlight their similarities, but also brings them closer together.

The play pays tribute to the legions of gay men that were lost to the AIDS crisis in the late 20th century and shines a light on the pain of those who lived through this horrible epidemic.  When Katharine asks “When is someone going to write the next great American novel?”, Cal’s response is “It could have been Andre.”  It leaves you wondering what the world might have been like had this generation of bright and talented individuals survived.  This show is an obvious draw for gay couples from Chelsea, but should really seen by everyone because it’s a remembrance of a period in modern American history that has been largely overlooked.

Tyne Daly is believable in the role, at times you simultaneously want to hug her, shake some sense into her, and tell her she is not alone.  The subtle references to current New York City life and locations is a real treat and makes the story line even that much more enjoyable and believable.

Mothers and Sons is now playing at the Golden Theatre, located at 252 W. 45th Street in the heart of Manhattan’s theater district.