“Living on Love” Closes After One Month

Failing to Receive a Tony Nod, Producers Cut Losses

living on loveOn April 1, 2015, Living on Love began previews at the Longacre Theatre. The official opening night took place on April 20, 2015. Less than a week later, the Tony nominations were announced, and Living on Love received a grand total of zero. This play is a new adaptation of an older work by Garson Kanin called Peccadillo, which Joe DiPietro (Nice Work if You Can Get It, I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change) reworked and dubbed Living on Love. The play is directed by Kathleen Marshall, who has shepherded many large scale musicals to great success such as Anything Goes, The Pajama Game, and Nice Work If You Can Get It. This was a foray into directing a straight play, but not one without a musical bent. The lead actress of the play is the opera star Renée Fleming making her Broadway debut, who plays an opera diva named Raquel De Angelis. Therefore, though the play is not a musical, there are bouts of opera singing throughout. However, this mix of elements was not enough to make the play a hit at the box office. With low weekly grosses, and no acknowledgement from the Tony committee, the producers decided that the show’s last performance would be May 3, 2015. It closed having played only 21 preview performances and just two weeks (16 performances) of regular shows.

Unable to Gain Traction at the Box Officeliving on love

In this highly competitive season, some straight plays were standing out, some even performing neck and neck with big budget musicals such as Larry David’s Fish in the Dark, Terrence McNally’s It’s Only a Play, and the Helen Mirren starrer The Audience. Living on Love, however, had only one big name among the cast, Renée Fleming, and even she is only well known among opera lovers, which is a distinct audience from the general ticket buyers of Broadway shows. With a tight budget it was difficult to get the word out that this play was on, and even then it was a puzzlement for theatergoers, as it was unclear what exactly they were to expect with an opera star leading a straight play adapted from a classic farce. When the reviews came out and many were less than positive, this did not help boost sales. Of the five weeks the show was running, the first of which was a partial week, the highest weekly gross Living on Love earned was in the week ending April 12, 2015, with a weekly gross of $198,392, which represents just 20.73% of its gross potential. That week also marked the highest average paid ticket, which was only $34.18. This is abysmally low for a Broadway show that sold its top ticket ambitiously for $275.00. Even with papering and discounting, the audience capacity never averaged more than 78.6% in a week, which took place the week ending April 19, 2015.

A Labor of Love, via the Williamstown Theatre Festival

The development of Living on Love was a long process, involving the adaption of the play Peccadillo, followed by a trial run at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in July 2014. That run received positive enough reviews to encourage the producers to transfer it to Broadway, with The New York Times calling Renée Fleming an eight-lane highway broad, with a voice to graze the heavens. However, in the context of the more competitive Broadway atmosphere, critics were less laudatory. Without the Tony nominations to keep the play afloat, it was just not worth it to continue paying the weekly running costs to keep the show open. Though the play was relatively low budget, it will close at a serious loss.

“The Bridges of Madison County” to Close on May 18

Based on the 1992 best-selling novel by Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County is a musical with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown (Parade, Songs for a New World), a book by Marsha Norman (‘night, Mother), and directed by Bartlett Sher.  Though the show was a highly anticipated transfer from the Williamstown Theatre Festival where it ran in summer 2013, it will unfortunately close on May 18, 2014 after consistently moderate sales.  The musical opened at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on February 20, 2014 after 37 preview performances, and it will have run 100 regular performances by the time it shutters its doors.

The musical was not helped by its schedule, hbridges of madison county musical kelli o'hara steven pasqualeaving opened in the midst of a very cold winter.  Furthermore, it received mixed reviews from critics, despite considerable appreciation for the performances of its two stars.  Kelli O’Hara, who has received Tony Award nominations for her roles in The Light in the Piazza, The Pajama Game, South Pacific, and Nice Work if You Can Get It, starred alongside Steven Pasquale, who is known for his television roles on Rescue Me and Six Feet UnderThe Bridges of Madison County received four Tony Award nominations in 2014, including those for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical (Kelli O’Hara), Best Original Score (Jason Robert Brown), Best Orchestrations (Jason Robert Brown), and Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Donald Holder).  Despite this appreciation from the theatre community, it did not manage to attract enough ticket-buyers to keep it afloat.

Financially, the show’s highest weekly gross was $476,374, but it generally grossed around $350,000 per week.  This is hardly enough to sustain a musical, even though its capitalization was a modest $8.5 million.  In general, it only amassed enough sales to reach 30 to 40 percent of its gross potential in a given week.  Since early March, it has been on a steady decline, and this past week it grossed $64,998 less than the week before.

The novel is one of the bestselling books of the 20th century, having sold 50 million copies worldwide.  It is the story of an Italianbridges of madison county kelli o'hara steven pasquale bed scene woman named Francesca who lives in Madison County, Iowa in the 1960s.  The story takes off when she starts an affair with a National Geographic photographer focused on covered bridges in the area, and it follows the couple for several years afterward.  In addition to this musical adaptation, the novel was made into a film in 1995 directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Eastwood and Meryl Streep.

This is a very competitive season for new musicals.  In addition to the four that were nominated for the Tony Award for Best Musical – A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Aladdin, After Midnight, and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical – this season also saw the premiere of Bullets over Broadway, If/Then, and Rocky the Musical, as well as the Broadway premiere of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Violet (though these two shows have had Off-Broadway runs in the past).  In addition to the slew of musical revivals and plays both new and revived, it was particularly difficult for a new musical to find its audience, even one with such name recognition as The Bridges of Madison County.