Sunday in the Park with George, which began a more experimental phase for Stephen Sondheim when the musical debuted off-Broadway in 1983, is doing big business in its latest go-round.
Sales for the revival, with movie star Jake Gyllenhaal as pointillist painter Georges Seurat (and his fictional great-grandson in Act Two), jumped 18 percent to $1.1 million last week. The average ticket, at $140, was topped only by Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen.
That’s impressive for a show that lost the 1984 Tony Awards to the more commercial (and conventional) La Cage aux Folles. Even nine years ago, the musical’s first revival wasn’t boffo. Although it got great reviews, as did this one, it didn’t have a star and in its best week the average ticket was just $59. Twenty-five shows on Broadway were charging more, according to Broadway World analytics.
To be sure, that was before the Roundabout Theatre Co., which presented it, embraced premiums. Its top ticket was $121, vs. $499 today at the Hudson Theatre.
Without access to financial papers, it’s difficult to know whether this Sunday can recoup. But the steadily rising grosses bodes well for producers, led by the Ambassador Theatre Group, the company that also owns the smallish 957-seat theater. It’s directed by Sarna Lapine, the niece of James Lapine. He wrote the book and directed the original production in the first of several collaborations with Sondheim.
On the other end of the charts, Significant Other isn’t doing much better than its unlucky-in-love protagonist. Its sales tumbled 28 percent to $165,000. The average ticket plunged from $43.73 to $34.86.
The play by Joshua Harmon doesn’t have big stars in its ensemble of seven. And a month before the March 2 opening night of Significant Other, its highest-profile advocate, critic Charles Isherwood, was fired from his job at the New York Times.
Instead of Isherwood showering it with praise, as he did when the Roundabout presented the play off-Broadway in 2015, Ben Brantley, the Times’ chief theater critic, was more measured and wrote it would’ve been “a more fully satisfying comedy” if trimmed by 20 minutes. (Grosses were hampered somewhat last week by free tickets dispensed around the opening.)
The conventional wisdom on Broadway is that to succeed, a play without music generally needs a star or a New York Times rave. Or both.
The first Broadway revival of Miss Saigon had a promising first five previews, grossing $723,000, about 76 percent of capacity. Dear Evan Hansen, in its first week after its composers won an Academy Award for a song in the movie La La Land, rose by 3 percent to $1.2 million. Come From Away, a 9/11-themed musical, saw sales increase 7 percent to $644,000. It’s about air travelers stranded in a remote town in Newfoundland, Canada, after 9/11. It opens on Sunday, after developmental runs in Washington, Seattle and La Jolla, California, received encouraging notices.