Feds Cite Slumping Broadway Sales but League Notes Growth – Facts Behind Stats

th-94

Determining what is happening on Broadway at any given time can be especially confusing. Snapshots are often offered as are summaries but there’s rarely a view that is panoramic, all-inclusive, or devised in a manner that provides an accurate idea about what is occurring over a length of time.

What we know about Broadway is that overall ticket prices continue to rise and that grosses also continue to rise. What do those two basic stats mean and what else do we know? Those may be the billion dollar questions.

Continue reading

Bread and Circuses – Does This Describe the State of Broadway?

th-69

Some of the greatest theatre in the world can be seen on the Broadway stage. Also, some of the worst theatre in the world can be seen on the Broadway stage. In addition, Broadway does not have a monopoly when it comes to quality theatre. You can find amazing theatrical experiences Off-Broadway, and across American in various regional, university, and summer theatres. Of course, that’s not to mention theatre in other countries where, often, theatrical experiences eclipse those on Broadway.

Continue reading

The Arts and Education’s Powerful Potential Still Undervalued in US

Is this the only way to learn something important or useful?
Is this the only way to learn something important or useful?

As schools, colleges, and universities begin the new academic year, it’s a good time to consider the arts and their connection to education. Last year one apparently well-intentioned administrator decided that the arts needed to take a backseat. This occurred when Interim Principal of the Harley Avenue Elementary School in Elmwood, which is located on Long Island, cancelled the annual kindergarten variety show. Why was it shutdown?

This was done because an accumulation of snow days resulted in lost instructional time. Some at the school felt that the kindergarten students had more important things to do than to perform in a show. What was that? They had to prep for college exams.

Continue reading

Bad Behavior by American Theatre Audiences is Nothing New

th-23
Hand to God recently had an incident with an audience member.

So many reviewers, columnists, and performers are bemoaning the recent bad behavior of Broadway audiences. It’s as if having people in the audience who distract other audience members, upstage the show, and act in ways that detract from the live stage performance are something new. These actions are not. Such behavior is actually normal in the American theatre. If, somehow, you manage to not have anyone act inappropriately, then you truly have had a special live theatre experience.

Continue reading

Broadway Musical Hamilton – Not about the Future, about the Now in America

hamilton543

The new Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights) musical Hamilton has garnered a lot of attention and praise. It almost immediately sold out its Off-Broadway run at the Public Theatre, was designated for transfer to Broadway just after it opened to five-star reviews, and now that it’s in previews on Broadway every celeb wants to be seen at what is considered to be a groundbreaking show.

Getting the obvious out of the way, this is a piece of musical theatre that is expertly crafted, directed, and performed. Miranda is a genius, and with director Thomas Kail, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, and musical director Alex Lacamoire, he’s created a theatrical piece that works on many different levels.

Past and Future Brought Together?

hamilton6576

Some pundits are saying that this musical is about the future of America. This is for a few reasons with one being that most of the leads, in stark contrast to our white founding fathers, are being played by men of color. In other words, this is a colorblind production and making it thus reveals the future of what our country can be.

However, more so and more importantly, the casting, which features superlative performances, is not just about what our country might be one day, but what it is now. This musical is a living paradigm of society today, where color lines in the eyes of many of those who are just being born and those who are in their late-twenties to early-thirties mean little to nothing when it comes to working together, falling in love, or creating lasting friendships.

Continue reading

Where Is Broadway Headed and Do We Need To Do Something About It?

BROADWAY 15

Broadway is this amazing amalgam of shows, ticket prices, theatres, artists, producers, marketing and branding agents, and more. For the past 50 years or so there’s been a lot of concern as to where Broadway is going and what will happen to it. The fact is since the 1960s Broadway has fluctuated from periods of financial stability and growth to decline.

Whatever the case may be in the future, the fiscal, moral, artistic, and spiritual wellbeing of Broadway are all a part of the lives of every theatre professional, whether they are working on The Great White Way or involved in an independent, professional theatre in one of the 50 states. Here are some questions that everyone who is involved in the monetary aspect of the theatre needs to ask themselves and answer honestly.

Continue reading

Tony Awards Tommy Tune Controversy and Other Broadcast Choices Raise Questions about Ceremony

tony 2398989
The coveted awards.

The 2015 Tony Awards, which will be broadcast live on CBS on June 7, are filled with controversy regarding which parts will be seen live and which will be only available via YouTube. At this point, Tommy Tune’s remarks regarding his Lifetime Achievement Award have been relegated to the Tony Awards YouTube channel. Creative awards, including those for Best Original Score, Best Book of a Musical, Scenic Design, Lighting Design, and others are given off air with clips of acceptance speeches shown to the live audience during commercial breaks and the full speeches available later on YouTube. The award for Best Play and Best Musical is not accepted by the writers of such, but by the producers.

Whose Awards Are These?

tony 2347575
The Tonys are a major production.

These decisions regarding which recipients are seen and which are not raises questions as to the reason for and intention of the Tony Awards. The awards are supposed to “celebrate excellence in Broadway theatre.” However, more and more they have become commercials for current and upcoming shows.

Continue reading

The American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League: Dedicated to Different Goals?

The Wing champions American Theatre
The Wing champions American Theatre

The American Theatre Wing notes on its website, “In 2017, we will celebrate 100 years of service to the American Theatre. We have been tirelessly committed to championing and honoring American Theatre.” The Wing created and is responsible for the administration of the Tony Awards®. Each year in their effort to foster the American theatre, they present thousands of dollars in awards and grants and offer a wealth of educational programming. They are dedicated to preserving our theatrical past, celebrating its achievements, and fostering its future.

Controlling the Awards

Who chooses the Tony nominees?
Who chooses the Tony nominees?

An article published in the Huffington Post last week noted that often there are 50 people on the Tony nominating committee this year. That’s many more than even the recent past. As an example, in 2007-2008 there were 27 and last year 47. But each year various members of the committee elect to recuse themselves. Of the 50 who are on the committee this season, 11 will not participate. Someone will recuse him or herself if there is a conflict of interest or if they cannot see all of the shows on Broadway. This is the first year that the Tonys have defined when someone should be recused.

Continue reading

The Cost of Doing Business on Broadway

An American in Paris on Broadway.
An American in Paris is Broadway at its best.

In 2011, the New York Times Arts Beat blog offered an article entitled “The Staggering Cost of Broadway.” In it, writer Patrick Healy referenced the revival of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, a three-character drama that had recently been produced in London and was transferring to Broadway. In interviewing London producer Sonia Friedman about the hit production, it became clear exactly how costly it is to produce a play on Broadway.

Healy wrote, “This ‘Betrayal’ revival cost £350,000 (about $565,000) to mount in the West End, Ms. Friedman said, and an additional £65,000 ($105,000) to pay weekly running costs. By comparison, she estimates that the same production would cost about $2.8 million to mount on Broadway — the standard amount for a commercial play production — and an additional $260,000 or so to run each week.”

Continue reading

Is the New Golden Age of American Theatre Beckoning?

Broadway was electric in its Golden Age.
Broadway was electric in its Golden Age.

The Golden Age of American Theatre is considered to have lasted about 40 years, depending upon how you define it. Starting sometime around 1915 and lasting until sometime in the late 1950s to early 1960s, it was a time that saw the Little Theatre Movement develop, the Harlem Renaissance bloom, Broadway houses multiply and then decline, and great works that defined the American theatre and made the rest of the world respect our dramatists, composers, and lyricists come into being. Broadway was the central focus of this period of stage enlightenment.

Continue reading

On the Twentieth Century: Peter Gallagher Misses the Train Again

Gallagher will return soon.

Gallagher will return soon.

Peter Gallagher is still recovering from a serious sinus infection and that means that he was not seen on stage tonight in the revival of the Tony Award winning musical On the Twentieth Century. He is now expected to be on stage for the Saturday, March 7 evening performance. Gallagher has been out since the evening of February 21. The Roundabout cancelled the evening performance that night and the next day Gallagher’s understudy, James Moye, play the role of Oscar Jaffe. Moye, who usually plays Max Jacobs, has been filling in for Gallagher ever since, playing opposite Tony and Emmy winner Kristin Chenoweth (Lily Garland)

Postponements and Cancellations

On the Twentieth Century has already had numerous cancellations and postponements. The producers changed the first preview by one day due to setbacks caused by dismal winter weather. Then there was the cancellation of the Saturday night preview performance due to Gallagher’s illness and the need to offer Moye more rehearsal time. Recently, the Roundabout put off opening night, opting to offer the official opening on March 15 rather than March 13. The show is being performed at the American Airlines Theatre and it’s directed by Scott Ellis.

The Show

On the Twentieth Century, which was nominated for nine Tonys when it premiered in 1978, winning five, is a crazy comedy that takes place on a luxury train that’s named The Twentieth Century. The train is brimming with a wide range of unique and comical characters, including desperate Broadway producer Oscar Jaffe, former Broadway star and now film queen Lily Garland, Garland’s jealous and egotistical boyfriend, and a crazed but extremely benign religious zealot.

As the train travels along it’s predetermined destination, characters are side tracked and driven. The various characters collide to create mayhem, madness, and mischief. There are wonderful comic scenes, great gags and lines, and a lot of wonderful duets, solos, and production numbers.

The original production ofOn the Twentieth Century received five, including Best Book and Best Score. It was also nominated for four Drama Desk Awards, winning four including Outstanding Music.

Larry David’s Fish in the Dark Opens to Mixed Reviews

David's Fish in the Dark opened tonight.

David’s Fish in the Dark opened tonight.

Yes, it is true that Larry David’s Fish in the Dark is booked solid. It was an instant hit the first week pf previews. But now it’s official as the first reviews come out. Reviewers are surprised not by the fact that the comedy is filled with and finds much of its comedy from David’s neuroses, but that it’s a relatively old-fashioned, you might say, “classic,” comedy.

The reviews for Fish in the Dark are mixed.

Reviews Snippets

The reviews for Fish in the Dark were mixed. The Wall Street Journal thought Fish in the Dark was less of a play and more of a personal stage appearance and that David was uncomfortable on stage. The New York Times reviewer, Ben Brantley, said that he “laughed fully exactly once. The Washington Post called it a “middling comedy.”

The Wrap, which was more positive than the WSJ , Times, or Post noted, “It’s to be expected that Larry David’s new play is laugh-out-loud funny. The big surprise, though, is just how sturdy and conventional his stage comedy is in an old-fashioned Broadway kind of way. David may have written cutting-edge TV, but “Fish in the Dark,” which opened Thursday at the Cort Theatre, is anything but cutting-edge theater.”

The Daily News was also fairly upbeat, saying, “Fans will be pleased to know that David, a Broadway rookie, holds his own with seasoned stage pros in this solid production helmed by Anna D. Shapiro (“August: Osage County”), who is as good as it gets for shaking hilarity from family dysfunction.”

For Variety, Marilyn Stasio observed, “For anyone who’s still reading this review, let me say that, contrary to rumor, the show is not a TV sitcom. It does, however, round up some outrageously funny Larry David-ish characters who could probably float such a show.”

Stasio adds, “Helmer Anna D. Shapiro (“Of Mice and Men,” “August: Osage County”) has shrewdly surrounded her star with some of the best character actors in the business — Lewis J. Stadlen, Kenneth Tigar and the wonderful Marylouise Burke among them — to give master classes on how to time a laugh. There’s a swarm of these pros playing the family friends and relatives who crowd the waiting room keeping the death watch for Sidney, who is showing a lot of spirit for a dying man. Just ask the pretty girl who makes the mistake of paying him a bedside visit.”

The cast, as just about every reviewer admits, is stellar.

Record Breaker

No play in Broadway history has had $13.5 million in advanced ticket sales. Fish in the Dark for that fact alone is a record-setter. David fans are giddy with the show, reviewers are mixed, and producers are very happy. Fish in the Dark opened March 5 and is scheduled to close June 14.