The Playgoer: On B'way Plays Profit?

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Friday, June 06, 2008

On B'way Plays Profit?

What do these five titles from this Broadway season have in common: "August: Osage County," "A Bronx Tale," "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "Cyrano de Bergerac," and "Macbeth."

If you said, they're all great evenings in the theatre--you'd be wrong, since I hear Bronx Tale was really lame. (Ok, I didn't see it.)

No, the answer is: they all recouped their initial capitalizing investment. Meaning they made money.

More unbelievably...they're the only shows of those that opened this past season that made money.

And not one of them is a musical.

Plus--aside from the one-man vanity project Bronx Tale (where I imagine the only people they had to pay were Chaz Palmentieri, a director and a stage manager), these are not shows with particularly low overheads. August, Cyrano, Macbeth, Cat...them's some big casts! And in all but August, you even had some genuine stars (Kevin Kline, Patrick Stewart, James Earl Jones, Terence Howard, and don't forget Jennifer Garner) getting above the AEA minimum salary, if you can believe it.

So while I'm hardly one to buy the over-enthusiastic meme that "the straight play on Broadway is back!" I guess these successes do prove something. Perhaps just that the combination of a classic title and a celebrity actor will probably still take you far in this business.

Of course, August is a brand new play by an author new to Broadway, whose name the audience probably still doesn't know. But what potential income it lost for that was probably made up for by the lack of any celebrity actor to pay!

As for the lessons of Bronx Tale... low overhead, baby. Low overhead.

3 comments:

Rob Kendt said...

Great to see the props for plays...but in fact "Bronx Tale" was not really so bad (and "Cat" and "Cyrano" got similarly mixed reviews), and it did have a pretty lavish set and light plot, etc.

Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

I actually liked A Bronx Tale ... a lot. It was among the more captivating shows I saw on Broadway all year.

The Playgoer said...

Yes, I suppose I was unnecessarily harsh on Bronx Tale. I actually really like the movie! But from what I once saw of Chaz on stage (in Arturo Ui) he didn't seems like a natural stage actor. I would have liked to have seen him do the one-man show in his early days, playing small spaces.

But not at $100 a ticket in an oversized Jerry Zaks production.

But, hey, he made a profit and boosted a sagging career. Good for him.