Blogger-producer Ken Davenport recently dropped a few compelling statistics about original-versus-adapted musicals on Broadway (OK, they’re only compelling if you haven’t been paying attention, but collectively, the numbers are still startling): Over the past 30 years, 82% of the new tuners on Broadway were adapted from movies and/or books or other material. Only 18% were original. About the same percentage — 83% — took the Best Musical Tony Award. And one-third of the original musicals (this season’s sole example, if you include original music, being If/Then, which was passed over for a Best Musical nomination) ran less than a month.
If/Then already has beaten those odds, while demonstrating that being a genuine, Broadway-minted star can still mean green at the box office. The reviews for If/Then, about a woman who experiences the divergent paths her life might have taken given certain choices, were all over the place. But I don’t recall anything but raves for Idina Menzel‘s performance in the leading role. Rent made her a star, Wicked made her a supernova, and one can surmise that all the girls who went — and went back again — to that show to relive the triumph of Elphaba are now young women who, as with the stars of an earlier time, feel they’ve grown up with their heroine. Judy Garland of course comes to mind, and Elizabeth Taylor and, to be Broadway specific, Patty Duke. I’m certain you can remind me of others.
If/Then, at the 1,311-seat Richard Rodgers Theatre, continues to take in more then $1 million per week at the box office — very close to its gross potential of $1.3 million — and has a respectable average ticket price of $106.48. A Tony win for Menzel’s performance (or for Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s score, for that matter) may not confer the prestige or long-term financial bump of a Best Musical win, but it will help keep the show in the public eye. And give producer David Stone and his partners a slightly better chance to see a return on their $10 million investment (beyond, that is, the satisfaction that in a business where both imitation and failure are the rule, they accomplished something extraordinary).