Scott Rudin Transfers from Roundabout Off-Broadway Run
On January 24, 2016, The Humans began previews at the Helen Hayes Theatre. The play ran this past fall at an Off-Broadway Roundabout house, the Laura Pels Theatre. When it opened to fabulous reviews on October 25, 2015, Scott Rudin, the powerhouse producer of both stage and screen, snapped it up and announced a Broadway run within the week. Roundabout itself does operate three different Broadway houses – the American Airlines Theatre, where Noises Off is playing this fall, Studio 54, where Thérèse Raquin completed performances just after New Years, and the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, on which Beautiful: the Carole King Musical has a long-term hold, barring it from the opportunity to play a Roundabout show. The occupancy of the Roundabout theatres is not the only reason that they turned to an outside producer to shepherd it to Broadway. Roundabout is not in the business of seeking commercial success on Broadway. The only time they do end up with a commercial hit is by accident, such as with the recent long-running revival of Anything Goes. Generally, their priority is to fill up their season with a variety of diverse fare, both Broadway and Off-Broadway, plays and musicals, new work and revivals. For this reason, they had Scott Rudin lined up awaiting the critical response to decide to bring The Humans to Broadway.
The Humans is the third play by young voice Stephen Karam, whose sophomore work, Sons of the Prophet, played to great acclaim Off-Broadway at the Laura Pels Theatre, where The Humans also originated, but never budged towards Broadway. Still, in earning Karam the nomination for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Sons of the Prophet positioned the playwright to have his next major work highly considered for Broadway. It helps that he has a dynamite cast and a veteran Broadway director, Joe Mantello, whose has recently directed many shows on Broadway such as An Act of God, Airline Highway, The Last Ship, Casa Valentina, and I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers. It also helps that both Karam and Mantello are firmly esconsed in the Roundabout family; all three of Karam’s plays have been cultivated by Roundabout. The excellent cast lined up for The Humans includes Reed Birney (Casa Valentina, Picnic), Jayne Houdyshell (Fish in the Dark, Follies, Dead Accounts), Arian Moayed (Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo), Sarah Steele (The Country House), Cassie Beck (Picnic, The Norman Conquests), and Lauren Klein (Other Desert Cities, Broken Glass). According to the reviews, all six of these actors are at the top of their games with this show.
First Performance Box Office Not Too Telling
In first week of reported box office figures, The Humans only had its figures for one performance included, as its first show was on a Sunday. Furthermore, that was the Sunday following last weekend’s Saturday snowstorm, when all of Broadway cancelled both matinee and evening performances following the city’s shutdown of public transportation. Although all Broadway shows did play performances on Sunday, many offered advance ticket exchanges for patrons who were unable to travel to the theatre. The Humans, therefore, opened in a disadvantageous climate for out-of-the-gate success. In this first performance, the show brought in $32,574, which represents 50.94% of its gross potential. Fortunately for the intimate nature of The Humans, the Helen Hayes Theatre is one of Broadway’s smallest, allowing the show to play to relatively low grosses. Nevertheless, the following weeks will show whether Scott Rudin made a good commercial bet. Chances are that awards season will help, as the Tony Award for Best Play is still open for contest, and Karam may be due for another Pulitzer nomination, and perhaps this time a win.