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.

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2014-15 Broadway Season: 4 Shows Open on Broadway in March 2015

The Heidi Chronicles will be the final show to open on Broadway in March.

The Heidi Chronicles will be the final show to open on Broadway in March.

Late April marks the deadline for Tony nominations and that means there will be a few new shows opening on Broadway in March and then 14 in April. During the next two months, a total of 18 new shows, more than have premiered in the other 10 months of the 2014-2015 theatre season, will make their way to a Broadway stage. Here is a thumbnail sketch of what is opening in March.

Fish in the Dark (Opens March 5; Cort Theatre)

It is the first Broadway comedy by Seinfeld co-creator and Curb Your Enthusiasm creator Larry David. The March 5, 2015 opening is a fait accompli, as Fish in the Dark has been selling at over 100% capacity and there is no end in sight to that phenomenon, except for the fact that the show is in a limited run and will be closing June 14, 2015. David fans have lined up to buy tickets to the show and are enthusiastic about the play and the chance to see David on stage.

The cast, which numbers 18, includes Larry David as Norman Drexel, Rosie Perez as Fabiana Melendez, Jayne Houdyshell as Gloria Drexel, and Jake Cannavale as Diego Melendez. Other cast members included Jerry Adler as Sidney Drexel, Rita Wilson as Brenda, Drexel, and Ben Shenkman as Arthur Drexel.

The dark comedy is about a son who loses his dad to death and how he and the rest of the family deal with the event.

The Audience (Opens March 8; Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre)

Helen Mirren has crossed the pond and is presently in previews in The Audience, playing Elizabeth II in the play which earned her an Olivier Award about three years ago. The Audience takes as its starting point a historical fact: every week for the past 60 years Queen Elizabeth II has had a private, secret meeting with her Prime Minister. No one knows what has been said in such meetings. Playwright Peter Morgan has created a series of scenes detailing individual meetings between the 12 Prime Ministers and one Queen that have served England for six decades. Mirren, a consummate actress, will be on Broadway through June 28, 2015. The show is selling at close to 100%.

On the Twentieth Century (Opens March 12; American Airlines Theatre)

There’s been a lot of press about the first Broadway revival of the Tony winning musical On the Twentieth Century. The musical, which has music by Cy Coleman and book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, is about a Broadway producer, Oscar Jaffe, who is desperate for a hit show. Jaffe’s professional life is in a shambles and believes that his former love and muse, Lily Garland, can save his career if he can get her to star in his next Broadway production. They board the luxury train the Twentieth Century, along with Garland’s jealous lover and an obsessed, hyperactive Christian, and as they cross the country old relationships are rekindled, jealousies surface, and mayhem ensues. It is an all stops out, no holds barred musical farce.

The revival of On the Twentieth Century stars Peter Gallagher as Oscar Jaffe and Kristin Chenoweth as Lily Garland. Gallagher has been ill of late and has missed a week’s worth of performances. He’s due to be back on stage starting Tuesday, March 3. The show has been selling at approximately 98% capacity.

The Heidi Chronicles (Opens March 19; Music Box Theatre)

The cast of The Heidi Chronicles includes Elisabeth Moss as Heidi Holland, Jason Biggs as Scoop Rosenbaum, and Bryce Pinkham as Peter Patrone, That is an exciting triumvirate of actors for the first Broadway revival of Wendy Wasserstein’s 1989 Pulitzer and Tony Award wining comedy.

The Heidi Chronicles focuses on the life of Heidi Holland and details her journey as a high school student in the 1960s, through her college and early professional years in the 70s, and into the 80s where she finally finds a balance of some sort between love, family, intimacy, and career. Wasserstein adeptly captures characters in respective eras and adroitly details their emotions, challenges, disillusionments, frustrations, and triumphs. In her comedy, Wasserstein investigates redefining family, love, and motherhood as the end of the 20th century nears.

Some of What to Expect in April

There’s a lot more to preview in March including Chita Rivera in the Kander, Ebb and McNally musical The Visit, the dark comedy Hand to God, and the romantic comedy Living on Love with opera superstar Renee Fleming making her Broadway debut. Also coming in April will be the Broadway premiere of the Gershwin musical An American in Paris, with a book by Craig Lucas, the musical adaptation of the epic Doctor Zhivago, and the new musical about how J.M. Barrie discovered Peter Pan, finding Neverland.

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Fish in the Dark Continues Big Box Office as Matilda Spikes Up

Larry David must be feeling "pretty, pretty good" about Fish in the Dark.

Larry David must be feeling “pretty, pretty good” about Fish in the Dark.

Larry David’s Fish in the Dark continued its strong run at the box office for the week ending February 22, 2015, while Matilda The Musical’s sales went up more than 13% from the week prior. Musicals that have been running strong, such as The Book of Mormon (102.5%), Aladdin (100.9%), The Lion King (99.8%), and Wicked (96.5%), continued to do so. Helen Mirren in The Audience, which played at 99%, also did healthy box office.

Matilda Gets a Boost

All musicals that were family fare and kid oriented were certainly helped last week by the fact that many schools were on vacation. Matilda saw an increase in capacity of 13.1%, going from 87.1% the week before to 100.2% this past week. Matilda is the story of a young and very bright girl who is abused by her family and the headmistress of her school. She finally finds release from the abuse by using some extra-special kinetic powers as well as by getting some much needed help from her teacher Miss Honey.

Fish in the Dark

Larry David’s comedy about a son dealing with his father’s death is selling as quickly as any show in recent memory. Last week the entire limited run was almost completely sold out. As it did the week before, the Fish in the Dark played to 100.6% capacity, grossing over $1.1 million. The show will be reviewed next week when it opens on March 5, but it’s doubtful that those reviews will have any effect on ticket sales as last week there were fewer than 700 seats left. Tickets for Fish in the Dark start at $49 with the top price being $425. The comedy closes June 14, 2015.

Biggest Spike, Longest Fall

The show that saw the biggest rise in ticket sales was the longest running show in Broadway history The Phantom of the Opera. Phantom saw an increase of 16.1%, going from 62.7% capacity the week before to 78.8% this week. The show that endured the biggest decline was the new musical Honeymoon in Vegas. The musical comedy, which garnered great reviews, has been having a tough time finding an audience. Tickets sales fell 17.2%, as the show played to 47.7% capacity.

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Broadway Grosses for Week Ending 2/15/15 Reveal New Strength

Mirren made a big splash last weekend.

Mirren made a big splash last weekend.

Helen Mirren in The Audience had a big first week, selling at 101.1%. That number is based on a short two-performance week. However, it’s expected that Mirren, who won an Olivier a few years ago for The Audience, will do big box office during her limited New York run.

Larry David’s comedy Fish in the Dark continued selling beyond capacity. The comedy realized a .5% increase over the week prior, filling the Cort Theatre at 101.6%, which was third for all shows on Broadway. The comedy earned $21,703 more than it did the week before.

Topping out the capacity stats was The Book of Mormon at 102.6%. The musical came in second in grosses, bringing in a total of $1,648,502. The Lion King was first in terms of gross, realizing $1,726,042, while filling 98.9% of its seats.

On the Twentieth Century

In its first weekend, the revival of On the Twentieth Century gave four performances and sold at 96.5% capacity. The madcap musical, which is produced by the Roundabout, stars Kristin Chenoweth and Peter Gallagher. It will be interesting to see if it does better than Honeymoon in Vegas and On the Town, both of which, until this past week, have seen sales slump.

Honeymoon and On the Town

Honeymoon in Vegas enjoyed the biggest gain in capacity of any show on Broadway. The musical sold at 64.9%, which marks a 13.6% jump from last week. Its gross receipts were at $491,146, which was an increase of $131,983 over last week.

The other show that witnessed a marked increase was On the Town. The 13.1% rise in capacity meant that the show sold at 49.3%, realizing $172,536 more in gross receipts, which totaled $552,450 for the week.

Other Box Office news

The Elephant Man was at 101.7%, up 1.5%, while Cabaret rose by 2.5%, coming in at 100.5%. The Elephant Man, which stars Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), closes this week just before the statuettes are given out, and Cabaret, which stars Oscar nominee Emma Stone (Birdman), saw Stone play her final performances this week. It’s said that the nominations helped both productions get added attention and increased ticket sales.

Sales on the Rise

With 18 new productions opening in March and April, eventual improvement in the weather, and Tony buzz developing, we should expect to see ticket sales for Broadway shows continue to rise.

(Note: All figures from this report were provided by the Broadway League. )

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Broadway Grosses and Capacity for Week Ending February 8

Fish in the Dark by Larry David

Fish in the Dark by Larry David

Larry David should be smiling as his show is selling beyond capacity.

It’s been an interesting week on Broadway, as four of five top shows in terms of capacity were plays and not musicals. Musicals topped the list of grosses, with four of the top five being tuners, but that’s partly because musicals tend to be playing in larger houses and tickets to these shows are pricier. You might think that a majority of the plays at the top of the list would be comedies, but only one, Fish in the Dark, is.

Fish in the Dark

The play by and starring Larry David, Fish in the Dark, seems to be an instant hit with a ready-made cult following who love his show Curb Your Enthusiasm and are big fans of his co-creation Seinfeld. A Fish in the Dark grossed just under one million last week and filled the theatre beyond seating capacity, coming in at 101.05%. The River, which stars Hugh Jackman, sold at 102.42% capacity, leading all shows, as The Book of Mormon, which was second to The Lion King in gross, selling $1,455,237 worth of tickets, was also second in capacity at 102.19%. Fourth and fifth in capacity were The Elephant Man (100.15%) and Constellations (98.69%).

Top and Bottom Grossing Show

This week the top grossing show, The Lion King, brought in $1,463,314. As noted, second was The Book of Mormon, while Wicked was third at $1,262,017, Aladdin fourth at $1,203,871, and Fish in the Dark fifth at $993,940.

Shows that are struggling at the box office include the musicals On the Town, Mamma Mia!, and Honeymoon in Vegas. All of these shows offer fairly light entertainment. Disgraced, which had a solid Off-Broadway run, seems to be unable to find an audience, as it is last in grosses, selling $333,741. Finishing close to Disgraced is the classic American comedy You Can’t Take It with You, starring James Earl Jones. It grossed just $334,224.

Top and Bottom Five for the Week

Here’s a quick summary of high and low grosses and capacities.

Tops (Gross)

  1. The Lion King ($1,463,314)
  2. The Book of Mormon ($1,455,237)
  3. Wicked ($1,262,017)
  4. Aladdin ($1,203,871)
  5. Fish in the Dark ($993,940)*

Bottoms (Gross)

  1. On the Town ($379,914)
  2. Mamma Mia! ($362,236)
  3. Honeymoon in Vegas ($359,163)
  4. You Can’t Take It With You ($334,224)
  5. Disgraced ($333,741)

Tops (Capacity

  1. The River (102.42%)
  2. The Book of Mormon (102.19%)
  3. Fish in the Dark (101.05%)*
  4. The Elephant Man (100.15%)**
  5. Constellations (98.69%)

Bottoms (Capacity)

  1. Les Miserables (60.09%)
  2. Mamma Mia! (55.29%)
  3. You Can’t Take It With You (52.50%)
  4. Honeymoon in Vegas (51.63%)
  5. On the Town (36.15%)
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Larry David’s Fish in the Dark First Broadway Preview Sold Out

Fish in the dark Broadway preview Larry David

Fish in the dark Broadway preview Larry DavidLarry David was christened last night, Monday, February 2, 2015. Symbolically, that is, as the sultan of the comic schlemiel and schlimazel performed for the first time on Broadway in the first play he’s authored for The Great White Way. The Monday night crowd at the Cort Theatre had a sort of David laugh and love fest.

This is a show that has an automatic following, as two shows that he created, Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO), have had droves of loyal fans who love David’s humor. In Seinfeld, Jason Alexander played the character based on David. In Curb Your Enthusiasm, David plays himself. The same seems to be true in Fish in the Dark.

The Premise of the Comedy

David in rehearsal for Fish in the Dark.

David in rehearsal for Fish in the Dark.

David has said that the comedy Fish in the Dark was inspired by the death of a friend’s father. And although that situation may not seem to be fitting as inspiration for a comedy, in Larry David’s world it is. The characters David plays are guys who dress sort of casual-sloppy, like what they like, and say what they think without any filter.

The focus of Fish in the Dark is on two brothers, one played by David and the other by Ben Shenkman. Together they attempt to deal with the death of their dad while life goes on around them. There are a lot of David moments, such as wondering if you should tip the doctor, asking is it okay to bring a date with you when you visit someone in the hospital, and wondering what country most looks like death itself? (It’s Norway.)

What People Liked

David signing autographs.

David signing autographs.

From the moment David entered into the scene, the audience was enthralled. The theatre of fans saw the Larry David they know- the guy dressed in a floppy sport jacket, wearing a blousy T-shirt, ironed khakis, and comfortable sneakers. They were at home with him and with the lines he said and had written, some of which were straight from his HBO series. Those familiar lines seemed to sit just fine with the first night audience.

Many fans waited outside the stage door to catch a glimpse of David. The writer/actor signed autographs and clumsily chit chatted, noting that he had to do the show again tomorrow. Overall it was a good first preview for David and company. Fish in the Dark opens on March 5 for a limited run.

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