Hadestown’s strong sales and its Tony Award for Best Musical may advance the cause of female theater artists more effectively than any speech advocating for industry inclusiveness.
The inventive folk opera, which won eight awards at Radio City Music Hall Sunday night, is an all-but-guaranteed hit — and just the latest musical written in part or entirely by a woman to demonstrate staying power.
Of the dozen new musicals running on Broadway longer than a year, six have a female composer, lyricist or book writer. (They are Wicked, Waitress, Mean Girls, Frozen, Come From Away and Beautiful, the Carole King jukebox show.)
Hadestown, which collected Tonys for Anaïs Mitchell’s score and Rachel Chavkin’s direction, is the fourth new musical in eight years with a woman writer to win the top award. (The others are Fun Home, Kinky Boots and Once.)
Keep in mind that all-male writing teams remain the norm — accounting for about three-quarters of new musicals opening every season. That’s despite the fact that the audience is two-thirds female.
In an interview shortly before Hadestown’s April 17 opening, lead producer Mara Isaacs described Mitchell’s score as one of the best pieces of art she’d ever encountered — by a man or a woman. Broadly, she said she believes that the industry sets a higher bar for women. “If we were as hard on the male artists as we are on the female artists, maybe all the work on Broadway would be better.”
Thanks to its stellar sales and modest expenses, her show has already returned 15 percent of its $11.5 million capitalization to investors, according to a person familiar with the situation. Among the beneficiaries is New York Theatre Workshop, which helped develop it. Hadestown‘s average ticket price, at $159, was the third-highest on Broadway in the week ending on June 2. (With available tickets few and far between, don’t expect much of an immediate post-Tony bounce.)
For all the pre-awards speculation about an electorate split among various new musicals, Hadestown dominated the contest. But the evening wasn’t a total loss for Temptations tuner Ain’t Too Proud, which has a book by Dominique Morisseau.
Its cast performed early on the CBS broadcast, when ratings tend to be highest. Its spirited medley employed Sergio Trujillo’s now-Tony-winning choreography. Ticketing consultant Michael Rafael said Ain’t Too Proud’s appearance reminded him of a former client, Beautiful. Although Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder won Best Musical in 2014, tickets sales jumped dramatically for Beautiful after Carole King performed at the ceremony.
“We didn’t win the Tony but we kind of won the Tony Awards,” Rafael said.