Posted in musical revivals, revival, theater

Revivals and transfers

Originality is always prized, but is it always good box office?

Back by popular acclaim

On Broadway, the revival is generally a vehicle that’s had tried-and-true success. The public likes the play or its author, and adding a marquee name will probably bring them in again. An eager new cast and crew doing the hard bits is probably a formula that will minimize a producer’s risk.

There are no guarantees, of course, in the theater. The audiences can be fickle. Is O’Neill still a draw? Will Arthur Miller appeal? Do they want to see Neil Simon, or Ibsen? Is Chekhov a lock for their full attention?

Setting the stage

Les Miz and Miss Saigon (currently in a revival at The Broadway Theatre) cycle through periodically, generally with good success. Cats is bringing back “Memory” at the Neil Simon Theatre at the moment. Sondheim gets out quite a bit too– from revivals of Follies to Sweeney Todd to Gypsy, to mention a few, and of course the current revival of Sunday in the Park with George starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford at the refurbished Hudson Theatre.

Bette Midler is expected to be a very effective matchmaker in Hello Dolly! Given her fanbase,  she should attract a loyal audience to the Shubert Theatre, running through January 7, 2018, and in fact, the website’s performance calendar is already offering tips on availability.

On the dramatic side, Tennessee Williams gets his share of the Broadway air. His works are often produced, and not just at the not-for-profit subscription houses. So many roles tempt actresses to climb the mountains of his beautiful poetic prose that The Glass Menagerie has seen a number of recent renditions. In 2014, Cherry Jones tackled the part of Amanda Wingfield; in 2010 it was Blythe Danner. Currently, it’s Sally Fields taking on the mother of all roles (sorry Mama Rose) in the Broadway run of The Glass Menagerie
through July 2nd.

Crossing over

Broadway transfers create a very different equation for the money behind productions. The show did well in, say, a 300-seat house. How will it fare in one with 500+?

We caught In Transit in its off-Broadway run at 59E59 in a Primary Stages production, and the move to Broadway for this gritty a cappella musical should be interesting to watch. It’s at Circle in the Square through June 25th.

Often, Broadway’s bookmakers like the odds. They’ve taken The Humans, for instance, out of Roundabout’s Laura Pels and plucked it onto the Helen Hayes where it has flourished. Stephen Karam’s domestic drama won the 2016 Tony® as Best Play. Significant Other, another Roundabout vehicle is heading over to Broadway’s Booth Theatre, through July 2nd.

Dear Evan Hansen is doing very well, thank you, since moving around the corner from 43rd Street’s 2nd Stage to the Music Box in an open run. A dramusical with lots of heart and the off-Broadway cred of its creative group, Steve Levenson (book) and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (music and lyrics.) It’s attracting Broadway audiences. Its lead, Ben Platt, who like Significant Other‘s Gideon Glick , has star quality; both transferred with the pvehicles they lead.

Big ticket

Avenue Q took a circuitous route, after transferring from off Broadway’s Vineyard Theatre, it landed off a well-received Broadway run (it won 3 Tony®s in 2004) at New World Stages for seven years.

The most famous name in Broadway transfers came from the Public Theater to win 11 Tony Awards®. It is, of course, Hamilton, a story onto itself. Another recent  Public Theater production, Sweat, opens at Studio 54 on March 26th; Lynn Nottage’s timely drama about the dystopia of working class America should do well on a bigger stage.

For my money…

If you were putting up money for a Broadway produciton, would you opt for a revival or take a fly on bringing a production uptown? Tough call. And a big thanks to all the folks who do put their money in and bring theater to us.

Posted in theater, Tony Awards, Tony winner

TONY (W)rap

I was wrong
Hamilton came on strong

Not seven
But eleven

Statuettes for lighting,
Orchestrations, and fighting

Cast and Lin
All win

Hamilton‘s got a token
Record’s still unbroken

Hamilton– 16 nods, 11 wins– trails
The Producers– winning 12– prevails

Their twelve wins no one’s topped
Even with just 11, Ham can’t be stopped

Try and get a ticket to see it, now– no!
That’s okay, it’ll still be there when you do go


It’s an annual ritual at VevlynsPen.com to have me flail around guessing who the winner will be on TONY’s big night. I am often wrong, and occassionally right. Congratulations, for instance, to Roundabout’s She Loves Me for a best for sets designed by David Rockwell.

But the business of TONY is a double-edged sword. The awards celebration attracts audiences– Hamilton, we might point out, did not need the boost– andthose not getting an award are dubbed TONY losers. Yes, I know, a TONY nominee is not a loser, but if you don’t win it…. well you know. It is in the musical category that productions are particularly vulnerable. (Plays are on their own time-table; very rarely would one last even 500 performances, although it may find a revival every few years.)

Not every musical is as resilient as Something Rotten! which chugs along with only the one lonely TONY winner, Christian Borle, in its cast. From this year’s crop, On Your Feet!, the Emilio and Gloria Estefan musical, has its own special appeal, and is selling tickets through next April.

American Psycho The Musical succumbed before awards night. The luminous Bright Star is closing before the July 4th holiday on June 26th; as CBS news confirms, it did not win the awards needed to keep the public’s interest. Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Broadway Sensation of 1921, and all that Followed is telling its story through October 9th at this point. We’ll see if it gets a second wind if and when Audra McDonald returns from her intermission from the show.

Since I mentioned plays, aka non-musical ones, earlier, it is good to remember that Eclipsed might have had a longer run had it gotten more love from TONY. The Father, which won a TONY for Frank Langella’s star turn, closed on schedule on father’s day.The Humans, this year’s best play will stay open at least through the end of the year at the Helen Hayes.

What can the TONYs do to help Broadway more? Should we all ease up a little on thinking of a TONY win as the pinnacle of a production’s success? In other, maybe TONY should matter less and the play be the thing…..

Posted in theater

Who will win at the 2016 Tonys?

NoLateSeating

My TONY predictions are up for debate and parley: what do you think?
http://www.vevlynspen.com/2016/06/on-tonys-night-gonna-be-fight-with.html
Almost as soon as I make a guess as to which will win what, I want to hedge my bet. For instance, although I suggested that Savion Glover’s choreography for Shuffle Along, or… would win this year’s award, I am now leaning towards Sergio Trujillo’s congas in On Your Feet as prize winning for choreography.

In the musical categories, there is one big show to beat, but it is not the only contender. Without a doubt, however, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s brilliantly original Hamilton will be TONY’s BEST MUSICAL of 2016.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and the company of Hamilton. Photo © Joan Marcus
Lin-Manuel Miranda and the company of Hamilton. Photo © Joan Marcus

In other TONY expectations: look for Frank Langella to go home with a statuette for his performance in The Father. Likewise, The Humans looks good for Best Play, especially after its clinch at the Drama Desk Awards, although Danai Gurira’s timely and moving Eclipsed is also a nominee still in the running.

It is ever so tempting to blame the TONYs for early closings, but, honestly, American Psycho was steeped in red ink way before the nominations failed to acknowledge the hard work of its star, Benjamin Walker, or to credit the ingenuity of its creative team, particularly composer/lyricist, Duncan Sheik. TONY nomonations–or lack thereof– are not always the only problem productions face. Plays, especially “difficult” ones like Gurira’s, are often under-appreciated by theater-goers. (AP closed last week, and Eclipsed is scheduled to on June 19th. On Your Feet can carry on without substantial nominations and just its fan based audiences.)

My track record in guessing TONY finalists is not very good. So, let’s just hope for a lovely day and may the best play and players win!

 

 

Posted in comedy, drama, musical theater, theater, Tony Awards

TONY Business

Bringing home the TONY can mean the difference between shuttering a show and extending a run.

There are exceptions, notably, Something Rotten, which despite not being TONY’s BEST Musical of 2015, persists in entertaining audiences well into 2016.

There are plenty of other awards, keeping casts and creatives out late on school nights all through the spring each year. The Drama Desk and the Outer Critics add lustre to an artist’s or a show’s resume, but TONY is the ultimate Broadway party.

Tim Pigott-Smith & The Cast of King Charles III © Joan Marcus
Tim Pigott-Smith & The Cast of King Charles III © Joan Marcus

One Sunday in June–this year it’s the 12th, 8/7C televised on CBS and live from the Beacon Theatre— the theatrical community dresses up to cheer each other on. The Tony Awards celebration is Broadway’s Oscar night.

The five people and shows nominated in each TONY category are each a defacto winner, and will perpetually be labelled a Tony nominee. Anyone winning is, well, truly a winner.

Everyone loves a winner

Reed Birney, Jayne Houdyshell, Lauren Klein, Arian Moayed, Sarah Steele, Cassie Beck in a scene from The Humans. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe
Reed Birney, Jayne Houdyshell, Lauren Klein, Arian Moayed, Sarah Steele, Cassie Beck in a scene from The Humans. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe

TONY is the big get for producers, as well as for stars and the creative team. Having a Tony enhances your star power and can take your show into the next year. Subscription houses can turn a TONY into a larger patron base and the sale of additional regularly priced tickets.

The most coveted prizes in the TONY panoply are for BEST Musical, BEST Musical Revival, then for BEST Play or Revival. When a production snags one of these, it’s the producers– not the author, actors, crew or director– who take the bow, and make the speeches. The investors have had the foresight to back a winner.

Without at least a TONY nomination, shows fold their tents and make untimely exits from the Great White Way.

How long can a mere shadow mimic life or fill a Bway house?

Alex Brightman and the kid band from School of Rock - The Musical Photo by Matthew Murphy
Alex Brightman and the kid band from School of Rock – The Musical Photo by Matthew Murphy

Straight plays are less likely to fill 500 seats over the long-run, the way a musical can do. TONY is here to help, but it can only go so far. August Osage County lives on in a film version, as does Driving Miss Daisy, for instance, but how many plays have the years of success like the musicals Phantom or Chicago? For playgoers, and those involved in putting on the shows, the TONY for BEST Play and BEST Revival of a Play are still much anticipated.

All The Way, the 2014 winning BEST Play, which also won Bryan Cranston the lead actor Tony, has been turned into a much-anicipated HBO film, premiering on May 21st.

Who will win?

Akosua Busia, Lupita Nyong'o, Saycon Sengbloh, and Pascale Armand in a scene from Danai Gurira's Eclipsed, directed by Liesl Tommy. (Photo by Joan Marcus)
Akosua Busia, Lupita Nyong’o, Saycon Sengbloh, and Pascale Armand in a scene from Danai Gurira’s Eclipsed, directed by Liesl Tommy. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Your guess may prove better than mine, but I have made some predictions and invite you to compare notes now, and then again on TONY’s night, to see how I did, and how you did. Also, follow along on VevlynsPen.com to see what I think the contest will look like. That story will be up soon.

For now, get the nominee list for the 70th Annual Tony Awards from http://www.tonyawards.com/.