News and reviews from New York: Broadway box office makes history and my top shows this spring

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Mark Shenton rounds up the week’s biggest theatre stories from across the pond, and names the five Broadway productions he’s looking forward to over the next six months…

BROADWAY’S BOFFO BOX OFFICE

Broadway has just had an all-time record breaking week. The more money Broadway charges, of course, the more it makes. Combined with an increase in attendance, too, and it’s no wonder that records were smashed last week for both Broadway grosses and attendance, with 357,718 people shelling out over $43m to see one of 38 shows playing on the rialto at the moment. Many shows play a nine-show week rather than the usual eight-shows, so that partly accounts for the rises.

But its yet another vote of confidence in Broadway, just at the time it most needs it and it plunges this week into the post-Christmas doldrums. January and February is traditionally the time when the least secure Broadway shows are most vulnerable. Two of them shut shop on January 3 in anticipation of the fall-off: Dames at Sea and Sylvia. Four more ended as planned, Hand to God to move to London, and the limited seasons of Lord of the Dance, The Illusionists and Therese Racquin.

The top-grossing show was The Lion King, raking in $2.9m for the week, with an average ticket price of $1289.40; while its other Broadway attraction, the London-bound Aladdin, reeled in £2.4m, with an average ticket price of $154.30. As Jeremy Gerard observed in his weekly analysis of the Broadway box office for deadline.com, “Not even Star Wars can claim ticket prices like that. (And both shows are available exclusively in 3D Live format.)” Disney also saw those shows respectively occupying the number 1 and 3 positions of the year’s top grossing shows of the year.

Newcomer to the street Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock (pictured left) beat its own previous record set the week before for top grossing show at the Winter Garden Theatre, when it grossed $1,671m with houses at 102.1% capacity. No wonder Andrew is happy, stating in a press statement, ”

“We could not have ended 2015 on a higher note, and we look forward to 2016 bringing School of Rock to greater audiences on Broadway, in London, and at the hundreds of schools themselves that will be performing the show across America.”

MY PERSONAL TOP HALF DOZEN FOR THE SPRING

Now it is time to look forward to the next five months, during which nearly 20 shows are to open.  Here are the half dozen I’m most looking forward to (but there are many more!):

HUGHIE. The Michael Grandage Company — who have already taken its West End production of The Cripple of Inishmaan to Broadway — now originate a first show directly onto Broadway, when Grandage directs Forest Whitaker in a revival of Eugene O’Neill’s rarely seen Hughie, beginning performances Feb. 8, prior to an official opening Feb. 25, at the Booth Theatre. Website: http://hughiebroadway.com/

SHE LOVES ME. I adore this most fragrant of all Broadway musicals — set in a  parfumerie, how could it not be? — with all my heart. I wasn’t around for its original 1963 production that starred the incomparable Barbara Cook, but saw its 1993 Broadway revival by the Roundabout Theatre Company when Scott Ellis directed Judy Kuhn (now on Broadway in Fun Home) and later  Diane Fratantoni in it. Now Ellis is reprising his directorial duties to revive it for Roundabout at Studio 54, beginning performances Feb. 19 prior to an official opening March 17, this time with Laura Benanti, joined by Jane Krakowski, Gavin Creel and Zachary Levi. Website: http://www.roundabouttheatre.org/Shows-Events/She-Loves-Me.aspx

THE CRUCIBLE. Having done revelatory work on Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge, now running at Broadway’s Lyceum after transferring from London’s Young Vic, Dutch director Ivo van Hove tackles another Miller classic, beginning performances Feb. 29 at the Walter Kerr Theatre, prior to an official opening April 7.  The cast includes Ben Whishaw as John Proctor; Sophie Okonedo as his wife, Elizabeth Proctor, Saoirse Ronan as Abigail Williams and Ciaran Hinds as Deputy Governor Danforth.
AMERICAN PSYCHO. Rupert Goold revisits his 2013 Almeida hit based on the novel by Brett Easton Ellis and featuring a score by Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening), re-cast now with American actor Benjamin Walker in the title role originally played in Islington by Matt Smith, beginning performances March 24 at the Gerald Schonfeld Theatre. Website: http://americanpsychothemusical.com/

SHUFFLE ALONG. Is it a new musical or a revival? This show is about the making of the 1921 musical of the same name, beginning performances March 15 prior to an official opening April 21 at the Music Box Theatre. George C Wolfe directs a cast that is led by 6-times Tony winner Audra McDonald, with Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter, Brandon Victor Dixon and Joshua Henry. Choreography is by Savion Glover. Website: http://shufflealongbroadway.com/

WAITRESS. Based on the 2007 film of the same name, this new musical has a score by pop writer and performer Sara Bereilles, and has a predominantly emale lead creative team including book writer Jessie Nelson, director Diane Paulus and choreographer Lorin Latarro.  The show stars Jessie Mueller (pictured left), Tony winner for the original production of Beautiful. I saw its try-out at American Repertory Theatre last summer and loved it there, so can’t wait to re-visit it. Website: http://waitressthemusical.com/

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Mark Shenton
My Theatre Mates co-founder Mark Shenton is one of the UK’s leading theatre critics and correspondents, whose regular credits include LondonTheatre, Playbill.com and The Stage, where he is contributing editor. He chairs the drama section of the Critics’ Circle, and hosts the annual Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards, held at the Prince of Wales Theatre. He blogs independently at www.shentonstage.com and tweets @ShentonStage.
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Mark Shenton on FacebookMark Shenton on Twitter
Mark Shenton
My Theatre Mates co-founder Mark Shenton is one of the UK’s leading theatre critics and correspondents, whose regular credits include LondonTheatre, Playbill.com and The Stage, where he is contributing editor. He chairs the drama section of the Critics’ Circle, and hosts the annual Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards, held at the Prince of Wales Theatre. He blogs independently at www.shentonstage.com and tweets @ShentonStage.

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