Many winners at Radio City Music Hall on June 11 had their bestselling weeks to-date after being recognized for achievement and, in the case of musicals, making the most of the international platform to present songs from their shows.
“Like Christmas Day and sex with supermodels, Broadway seasons are often far more exciting during the anticipation stage.” So began Jess Cagle’s December 1997 review of Broadway’s The Lion King in Entertainment Weekly. (He gave it an A+).
Two decades later, Cagle, 51, is editor-in-chief of People; editorial director of Time Inc.’s Style and Entertainment Group, which includes EW, In Style and Essence; and his conversations with actors, directors and other celebrities — known as The Jess Cagle Interview — are distributed by Sirius XM. We spoke on May 16. Edited excerpts follow:
Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, Hello, Dolly! and A Doll’s House, Part 2 got the most Tony Award nominations this morning in their respective categories.
Natasha competes against Dear Evan Hansen, Come From Away and Groundhog Day the Musical in the all-important new musical category. Among the high-profile snubs, the new musicals A Bronx Tale, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Amelie got no nominations. Also bageled was the hit musical revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard, although star Glenn Close, who won for the role in 1995, was out of contention.
Easter week was flush for Broadway’s flashiest star vehicles and dismal for serious new plays, Pulitzer Prize notwithstanding.
Two Scott Rudin productions in previews tell the story: Hello, Dolly! with Bette Midler passed $2 million for the first time, its average ticket rose $8 to $201, according to sales figures released by the Broadway League. Meanwhile Lucas Hnath’s A Doll’s House Part 2 was little changed at $91,000, with an average ticket of $24.
One of the season’s most anticipated musical revivals, the Scott Rudin-produced Hello, Dolly!, got off to a fast start in Broadway’s top-selling and best-attended week of the year.
The show grossed $1.4 million in five previews, according to the Broadway League. Both its $750 top seat and $196 average ticket were second only to Hamilton: An American Musical, which has an $849 top ticket and $267 average last week. The numbers confirm that Dolly!, with Midler singing on Broadway for the first time since Bette! Divine Madness in 1979, is on track to be the top-grossing new production of the spring. The classic last appeared on Broadway two decades ago, with Carol Channing reprising a role she played repeatedly on Broadway and on tour.
Nineteen new musicals and revivals have opened or are scheduled to open through April 27, the cut-off for Tony Award eligibility. That’s the biggest tally since 1980-81, according to the Broadway League. If all 19 arrive, 2016-17 will have the most musicals since Ronald Reagan was first sworn in as President.
Without an early Hamilton-scale blockbuster, the competition for theatergoers and Tony Awards should be robust. There are constraints on how much demand can rise to meet supply. In recent seasons, about 15 percent of all seats have gone unsold. The average musical customer sees just four a year, according to the Broadway League’s demographic study, regardless of how many are playing. And of the 13 new musicals this season, five at most will be nominated for best musical and guaranteed a performance slot on the Tony telecast in June.
EXCLUSIVE: A star of the new heyday of television is taking a swing at a golden age musical.
Jeffrey Richards leads a team of producers developing it for 2018. Richards enhanced (or subsidized) an Encores! revival of the show at New York City Center in 2008. Kathleen Marshall is to direct and choreograph Damn Yankees on Broadway.
Introduced after runaway advance sales, it’s the biggest price ever for a musical revival. As of a few weeks ago, Dolly’s costliest ticket on Telecharge or at the box office was $425. But like Hamilton, it’s exploding on the resale market. Prime Dolly tickets on StubHub exceed $2,000, with seventh row center offered for over $5,000, with fees.