EXCLUSIVE: Six, the sizzling pop musical in which British Royals meet #MeToo, may be able to repay investors within 11 weeks of its first preview. That’s according to a projection distributed to investors, and assuming the production can sustain the momentum it’s built up through four stops in the U.S. and Canada, more than a year on the West End and ongoing tours in the U.K., Australia and at sea via the Norwegian Cruise Line.
Capitalized on Broadway at $5 million to $6.5 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Six could potentially make its backers whole faster than Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s blockbuster took seven months after previews began on Broadway, in July 2015, to recoup its $12.5 million and make its first profit distribution. Should Six become another New York money machine, credit a witty and contemporary score about the divorced, beheaded and otherwise beleaguered wives of King Henry VIII. And its relatively tiny budget.
The show that begins previews on Feb. 13 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre never abandoned its Edinburgh Fringe Festival roots, where it debuted in 2017. Composer-lyricists Toby Marlow, now 25, and Lucy Moss, 26, were students at Cambridge University when they reimagined Henry’s disposable wives as pop stars.
Six is an 80-minute concert featuring six little-known actresses, offered at Broadway prices. The producers are spending $1.5 million on advertising and marketing, more than three times the cost of the spare physical production, to reframe the narrative. Six is likely to be portrayed as a raucous, ingenious and tuneful expression of female empowerment, starring the most famous wives in history.
All things being equal, a show that’s inexpensive to produce and operate will be more profitable than a pricey one. Six‘s $6.5 million maximum capitalization is less than some plays: The Inheritance, Matthew Lopez’s two-part drama that’s struggling at the box office, was budgeted at $10 million. Diana, the other new musical about English royals, with songs by David Bryan of Bon Jovi, will cost nearly $18 million.
Henry is referred to but not seen in Six. Three of its six principals are making their Broadway debuts. A recent audition notice for eventual replacements advertised the Broadway minimum salary, $2,168 a week.
The show needs to average $1.16 million a week in ticket sales — after deducting expenses that the production doesn’t keep, such as credit card fees — to recoup after 11 weeks, according to papers circulated to prospective investors. (That means it can recoup, best case scenario, around the time Tony Award nominations are announced, on April 28.) Its weekly breakeven, after deductions, is $469,000. The corresponding breakeven for Tootsie, the adaptation of the movie that closed at a loss early this month, was $777,000, according to a production projection.
A spokesman for Six declined to comment for this story. It’s produced on Broadway by Kenny Wax and, among others, Kevin McCollum, who was behind the comic Something Rotten! (not to mention Rent, In the Heights, Avenue Q and another new musical, Mrs. Doubtfire, which opens three weeks after Six.)
Six was a hot property among potential Broadway investors, with reason. At the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass., where it played last August and September, it was one of the fastest-selling shows since Robert Brustein founded the company in 1980, a theater spokeswoman said. Likewise, It was a hot ticket at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and is returning to the city in July. The cast recording was the tenth most-streamed theater album in the U.S. last year, according to Nielsen data.
But in theater investing, desirability and transparency can be inversely proportional.
In a prospectus filed with the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James, Six on Broadway LP disclosed that 10 percent of any net profits (after investors are made whole) and 1 percent of box office will be paid to Ex-Wives Ltd., the “mother company” that presented the initial commercial productions in the U.K. and elsewhere. The papers don’t detail what, if any, net profits may be paid to McCollum for overseeing the New York production, or to others on the creative and production teams. The papers also refer to the possibility of Six on Broadway paying another weekly fee the mother company, without elaborating.
Fees and off-the-top profits paid to insiders dilute investor returns. Without knowing their extent, any evaluation of Six is incomplete. (McCollum isn’t working pro bono in any case. He earns an “office charge” of $2,000 a week; he and the three other general partners split 3 percent of box office; and they receive 50 percent of adjusted net profits, with investors earning the other half.)
Still, if New York follows the rest of the world, Broadway theatergoers should be as receptive to Six as those hopeful investors.