EXCLUSIVE: Why did the Shubert Organization, which owns 17 of Broadway‘s 40 designated theaters, sign off on a deal to buy New World Stages, the five-theater underground off-Broadway complex owned by Dutch entertainment mogul Joop van den Ende? Sources tell me the answer has nothing to do with the arts and everything to do with real estate — along with the unique, not to say wacky, world according to Shubert, a $410 million nonprofit that coincidentally owns the most powerful commercial theater company in the U.S.
The company, whose theaters housed Les Miserables, A Chorus Line, Cats, Fiddler On The Roof, Amadeus and countless other legendary shows, has been Broadway’s reigning landlord for nearly a century. In recent years, the Shubert Organization has sold air rights above its landmarked Times Square theaters to the tune of $50 million. This spring, the Witkoff Group, a building consortium, paid $18.3 million for 45,000 square feet of air above the Shubert-owned Booth and Gerald Schoenfeld Theatres on West 45th Street. That deal will allow Witkoff’s project, the Times Square Marriott Edition hotel at 701 Seventh Avenue, to grow to 500 feet high.
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Thirteen years old and still selling well at Broadway‘s Broadhurst Theatre, Mamma Mia! has launched a new video series to promote the show with a nod to its major market, out-of-towners. MAMMA MIA!’s Guide To NYC will showcase art exhibitions, dining, shopping, et cetera, with the help of the show’s stars. The smoothly produced debut episode, with the show’s Lauren Cohn, takes in Art of the Brick. No, it’s not about the iconic downtown music and performance space. It’s a plug for the (admittedly amazing) Lego art installation at Discovery Times Square, which just coincidentally happens to be across the street from the Broadhurst. Watch:
UPDATE: Bullets Over Broadway will close at almost a complete loss of its $15 million-plus capitalization. Here’s the second announcement in a week about a movie-to-Main Stem musical closing. Six days after news surfaced that Rocky The Musical was KO’d comes word that Bullets Over Broadway will go dark August 24. The show, based on Woody Allen’s 1994 film comedy about an idealistic playwright who gets entangled with gangsters in order to see his high-minded play produced on Broadway, will lose most, if not all, of its $15-million-plus capitalization. It also represents the second costly demise, after Big Fish, of a musical from last season that arrived with high expectations based not only on its film pedigree but on the previous record of director-choregrapher Susan Stroman (Contact; The Producers).
But the great-looking, slickly produced, high-energy tuner failed to garner the necessary rave reviews and theatergoer buzz despite a name star (Zach Braff) and six Tony nominations. Last week, an almost universally upbeat one on Broadway, Bullets took in $686,693, equal to just 45 percent of its gross potential, at the St. James Theatre box office. That probably didn’t cover its weekly operating expenses.
Related: Hugh Jackman Hippity-Hops Through CBS’ Ruthlessly Upbeat All-Star Tony Show
The show will have played 156 performances since opening April 10 after 33 previews. In addition to Braff, it starred Helene Yorke as the talent-free girlfriend of … Read More »
Dutch entertainment mogul Joop van den Ende is one of Europe’s savviest producers of movies, TV and legit, but he just can’t catch a break on Broadway. His latest venture, the musical adaptation of Rocky, was a hit on the Continent — it’s still selling out in Hamburg — but the tuner will shutter August 17 at the Winter Garden Theatre at a complete loss of its estimated $16 million-plus capitalization. Van den Ende will share the pain with a four-star roster of partners including Rocky himself, Sylvester Stallone, MGM, the two leading Broadway landlords, the Shubert Organization (which owns the Winter Garden) and the Nederlander Organization, along with a host of independent producers.
Rocky began previews February 13 and opened a month later to mostly critical yawns that tamped the box office despite some enthusiastic patrons getting in on highly discounted tickets. The show offered a certified coup de theatre from set designer Christopher Barreca in the final scene, which called for the folks in the front rows of the orchestra to move to stageside bleachers, offering a simulacrum of a live boxing event. The boxing ring in which Andy Karl’s Rocky Balboa fought Terence Archie’s Apollo Creed was drawn out on risers directly into the house, a knockout move. Strategic miking and custom-made props — including soft gloves that allowed the actors to actually pummel one another — enhanced the illusion. Read More »
A rare, not to say quixotic, attempt to bring rap music into the Broadway mainstream, Holler If Ya Hear Me will close Sunday at the Palace Theatre after 17 previews and 38 regular performances. Embedding the music of murdered poet and rapper Tupac Shakur into a tale of struggle to find dignity on mean streets, Holler featured a strong ensemble cast led by what, under happier circumstances, would have been a star-making performance by hip-hop poet and rapper Saul Williams.
The show was staged by Kenny Leon, who had just had a triumph directing a Broadway revival of A Raisin in The Sun starring Denzel Washington. Capitalized at about $8 million, the show lost money every week. Last week it took in just $154,948, or 17% of its gross potential, while playing to houses that were less than half-full in a legendary theater whose seating capacity already had been reduced by hundreds of seats for the show.
The musical, which opened in June, features over 20 Shakur songs, including the title number, ”California Love,” “I Get Around,” “Thugz Mansion,” “Keep Ya Head Up,” “Dear Mama,” “Me Against the World,” “Unconditional Love” and “Hail Mary.” Time magazine’s Richard Zoglin called the show “a bold effort to open up Broadway to a new musical idiom, without diluting it or reducing it to a cartoon. The show hollers, and you … Read More »
Bruce Norris, whose Clybourne Park won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, returns to Playwrights Horizons next spring with The Qualms, which opens Sunday (July 13) at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company. The New York edition will begin previews May 22, 2015 at the off-Broadway nonprofit. Director of both is the very busy Pam MacKinnon, also on board with the upcoming all-star Broadway revival of Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance marqueed by Glenn Close, John Lithgow and Lindsay Duncan.
Steppenwolf describes the play this way: “At a beachside apartment complex, a group of friends gathers for their regular evening of food, drink, drugs and partner-swapping. When Chris and Kristy attempt to become the newest members, the evening does not go as planned. The artichoke dip grows cold as the party devolves into a territorial battle over mating privileges. Does sex ruin everything? And what is the purpose of monogamy? Bruce Norris’s comedy explores the eternal struggle for power, status and getting laid.”
MacKinnon has fast become one of Broadway’s go-to directors while also being a Steppenwolf mainstay: her extraordinary revival of Albee’s Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? was a Broadway transfer from the Chicago company, where she also staged Clybourne Park (which had its debut at Playwrights).
The Playwrights production of The Qualms is not a co-production with Steppenwolf, per a a company spokesman, and casting, along with the rest of the creative team, will be announced at a late date.
Stage and screen veterans Elizabeth Ashley and Byron Jennings have joined the ever-expanding cast of the upcoming Broadway revival of You Can’t Take It With You, already set to star James Earl Jones, Rose Byrne, Annaleigh Ashford and Mark-Linn Baker, among others. The show begins previews August 26 at the Longacre Theatre and opens September 28. Scott Ellis directs.
Meanwhile, Lincoln Center Theater and the Signature added new plays to their upcoming season lineups this morning, and young folks under stress — from love or lawlessness, take your pick — are prominent. Coming up first, at the Pershing Square Signature Center in August, is Naomi Wallace’s And I And Silence, in which Trae Harris (Orange Is The New Black) and Emily Skeggs (Fun Home) play younger versions of Jamie (Rachel Nicks, Nurse Jackie) and Dee (Samantha Soule, A Fable, Detroit ’67). Signature describes the play as concerning “two imprisoned teenagers, one black, one white, [who] form a perilous bond. As the young women serve time, they forge a plan for survival. When the outside world proves even more dangerous than the jail itself, their private world becomes an untenable practice ground for their new lives. And I and Silence explores the fierce dreams of youth and the brutal reality of adulthood in 1950’s America.” Caitlin McLeod, who staged the play in 2011 in London, repeats. The show begins performances August 5 and opens August 25.
Lincoln Center Theater will turn its mid-size … Read More »
The Writer’s Room, a new development effort underwritten by veteran off-Broadway and Broadway nonprofit company Manhattan Theatre Club (which presented two of last season’s Tony contenders for Best Play) and off-off-Broadway group Ars Nova (which had a major hit with the musical Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet Of 1812) will launch By The Water, its first show, in November at MTC’s Studio At Stage II, its smaller theater at New York’s City Center.
The Sharyn Rothstein play, to be staged by Hal Brooks, is set in Staten Island in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. A couple is trying to put their lives back together after the storm has destroyed their home and community and their returning sons make some startling discoveries. The drama is slated to begin performances on November 4 and open two weeks later. It was commissioned by The Writer’s Room. Read More »
Prolific director George C. Wolfe and Pulitzer-winning playwright Lynn Nottage are on board with producers Stephen Byrd, Alia Jones-Harvey and Paula Marie Black to recast Marcel Camus’ Black Orpheus as a Broadway musical.
The steamy 1960 Best Foreign Film Oscar winner, which set the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in modern-day Rio de Janeiro against the orgiastic background of carnavale, had a celebrated score by Luiz Bonfa and Antonio Carlos Jobim that’s widely credited with launching the Bossa Nova craze in the U.S. with such classics as its theme, “Manha de Carnaval.”
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Here’s a sneak look at Randy Newman as Mephistopheles, during a rehearsal for tonight’s one-night-only SRO concert of Faust: The Concert. The show, part of New York City Center’s Encores! Off-Center series, was originally written and presented in 1995 at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego and also ran at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre. But it never came to Broadway.
The prolific composer/lyricist had earlier released an all-star album of the song cycle based on Goethe’s Faust that counted James Taylor, Elton John, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt and Don Henley among the cast members.
The concert tonight features Newman with Broadway stars Michael Cerveris, Laura Osnes, Vonda Shepard and “Broadway Inspirational Voices.” It’s the second show in the series, to be followed by a revival of the country-western high-styled Pump Boys and Dinettes.
EXCLUSIVE: Just a day after the announcement of a new Broadway revival of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic The King And I comes word that the title star of the Tony-winning 1996 revival, Lou Diamond Phillips, is stepping in to reprise his performance in an Australia tour of the lavish Christopher Renshaw production mounted by producer John Frost, who also presented the earlier revival.
Phillips was Tony-nominated for his work as the stubborn King, originated by Yul Brynner, torn between the demands of tradition and a desire to enter the modern world, and challenged by the forthright teacher he’s imported to educate his brood. He replaces Jason Scott Lee, who I’m told tore a calf muscle during the run in Melbourne.
“It provides a unique opportunity for Melbourne audiences to witness the wonderful Lou Diamond Phillips, who was so extraordinary in the role on Broadway,” Frost says.
Phillips (La Bamba, Stand and Deliver) just finished his third season of A&E’s Longmire and stars opposite Antonio Banderas and Juliet Binoche in the upcoming film The 33, based on the true story of the Chilean miners produced by Phoenix Pictures. On Broadway, he played the King for over 550 performances, opposite the “I” of Tony winner Donna Murphy. In the new production his Anna is Lisa McCune. His first performance is set for July 10 at and ill run through August 31 at the … Read More »
Offbeat playwright Will Eno’s Broadway debut, The Realistic Joneses, will end its limited run this Sunday, having played 132 performances at the Lyceum Theatre since March 13. The dramedy about a suburban couple whose life is changed when a weird pair moves in next door stars Toni Collette, Michael C. Hall, Marisa Tomei and Tracy Letts and was staged by Sam Gold. The play had its world premiere last year at the Yale Repertory Theater and came to New York on the strength of some positive reviews and a desire by game lead producers Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel to risk bringing a fresh voice to the commercial bazaar that is Broadway. Read More »
George and Ira are rarely far from a Broadway marquee: Leading dancers from America and the UK, along with one of Broadway‘s most celebrated comediennes will headline a stage adaptation of the Gershwins’ 1951 film classic An American In Paris, slated to open in December at the Théâtre du Châtelet in that city before coming to Broadway next spring. Creatives on the show, in addition to the brothers Gershwin, include Christopher Wheeldon, direction and choreography; Craig Lucas (Prelude To A Kiss), book; Rob Fisher, musical score adaptations and arrangements; Brad Haak, musical director; Christopher Austin, orchestrations; Bob Crowley (Aladdin), sets and costumes; and Natasha Katz (Aladdin), lighting.
Related: ‘An American In Paris’ Has Hopes Of Broadway Stardom
Along with the title song, the score includes the standards “I Got Rhythm,” “’S Wonderful,” “But Not For Me,” “Stairway to Paradise,” “Our Love Is Here To Stay” and “They Can’t Take That Away.”
New York City Ballet principal dancer Robert Fairchild will take the Gene Kelly role of struggling Yank painter Jerry Mulligan, who woos Lise, the Leslie Caron part, to be played by Royal Ballet First Artist Leanne Cope. Veanne Cox (The City Of Conversation) will play Madame Baurel, who has her own designs on Jerry. The cast also includes Jill Paice (Matilda), Brandon Uranowitz and Max Von Essen.
Show is being produced by Pittsburgh … Read More »
Getting to know Kelli O’Hara has hardly been the problem for Broadway — but getting her a Tony Award is another matter. Five times a nominee — most recently for The Bridges Of Madison County — but never a winner, O’Hara will get another shot next spring when she stars as “I” in the Lincoln Center Theater revival of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic, The King And I.
In the title role created (and oft-reprised) by Yul Brynner, Oscar nominee Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai) will make his American stage and Broadway debut as the stubborn ruler torn between custom and a desire to join the modern world, challenged by the arrival of the widowed British schoolmarm imported to teach his platoon of children.
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Musical-theater rehab may be the theme of Broadway’s upcoming season, as The First Wives Club becomes the second show in recent weeks to emerge from turnaround following an abortive tryout (as was the case with the revised, rewritten and re-scored Finding Neverland, which is about to begin its second out-of-town run, this time at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, MA).
Executive producer Elizabeth Williams and producers Jonas Neilson and Paul Lambert announced this morning that a revamped version of The First Wives Club, with a new book and a new director, will open at Chicago’s Oriental Theater next spring, aiming for a Broadway opening in the 1015-2016 season. Five-time Emmy winner and FOB&HRC Linda Bloodworth Thomason (Designing Women) has replaced Rupert Holmes (The Mystery Of Edwin Drood) as the book writer of the show, based on the Olivia Goldsmith novel and 1996 Paramount film. Read More »
UPDATES with more casting news, below: The New Group, an off-Broadway standard bearer, heads into its 20th season in a new home further west on 42nd Street with a lineup that will feature Cynthia Nixon (Sex And The City) in her directing debut and the world premiere of a new play by and starring Jesse Eisenberg (Social Network). The season also includes the return to the stage of Dianne Weist and Holly Hunter.
The company leaves 42nd Street’s Theatre Row to take up residence a block west in the Frank Gehry-designed Pershing Square Signature Center complex, which has in a short time become one of the city’s premiere theater destinations, noted for its $25 ticket policy, live-jazz-accompanied cafe and open space bookstore. The season will kick off in October with a revival of David Rabe’s seminal Vietnam-era drama Sticks And Bones, with Holly Hunter and Bill Pullman playing a black-comedy riff on iconic American TV couple Ozzie and Harriet. Their world is turned inside out when son David returns home from the war. New Group artistic director Scott Elliott will direct. Joseph Papp’s original 1971 production moved to broadway and won the Tony Award for best play of 1972.
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UPDATE: Broadway to dim the lights: Theater District marquees will go dark for one minute at 7:45 PM Friday as Broadway marks the passing of Eli Wallach, who died June 24 at age 98. TCM has also set a five-film tribute marathon on June 30 starting at 9 AM ET. The character actor likely was best known as Tuco opposite Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone’s classic spaghetti Western The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
A lifelong theater actor and all but accidental movie and TV star, Wallach and his wife, Anne Jackson (who survives him), were fixtures of the Broadway and off-Broadway stages, often together and always happy to put their skill and fame in the service of liberal social causes. In 1951 he was cast opposite Maureen Stapleton in the leading roles of Tennessee Williams’s The Rose Tattoo, as Alvaro Mangiacavallo, a truck driver who woos and wins Serafina Delle Rose, a Sicilian widow living on the Gulf Coast. Both won Tony Awards.
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Manhattan Theatre Club will present the world premiere of Richard Greenberg’s The Swing Of The Sea as part of its off-Broadway season next spring, in a production staged by MTC Artistic Director Lynne Meadow. For Greenberg, whose Broadway credits include Take Me Out and Three Days Of Rain with Julia Roberts, it’s collaboration number 11 with the prestige nonprofit.
MTC describes the play thusly: Patriarch Max has died, leaving behind two sons, Brett and Alec, and a lover Vivi. All three reunite for one evening in Vivi’s New York apartment. Secrets, passions and ghosts of the past emerge for this trio as each of them faces an uncertain future. Swing is slated to begin performances May 26, 2015 at the company’s City Center Stage I.
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EXCLUSIVE: The long-aborning musical adaptation of John Berendt’s Georgia-drenched best-seller Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil moved closer to reality with a reading last week overseen by Rob Ashford and cast that included Tony Goldwyn (Scandal), Leslie Uggams, Peter Cincotti, Jessica Molaskey, Michael Park and Jake Robinson (The Carrie Diaries, upcoming in HBO’s The Leftovers and NBC’s Odyssey). Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy) is the writer; composer and sound designer Mark Bennett is overseeing the the score, which will use standards and lesser-known songs from the American songbook, notably from such Johnny Mercer-lyrics as “In The Cool Cool Cool Of The Evening” as well as more contemporary Southern rock, blues and gospel. I’m told that the reading went so well that a formal two-week workshop is set for September, with dates to be announced. Read More »