Is Broadway Healthy? Wicked Reaction: Yes to Cynthia Erivo, no to James Corden. #Stageworthy News This Week

“The Theatrical Renaissance is here right now in this city, around the country and around the world” Ken Davenport proclaimed with breathless optimism in his welcome to the hundreds of virtual attendees at his fifth annual Theatermakers Summit over the weekend, and then backed up his assertion with “proof” (anecdotes) that 1. Business is doing better (citing, among his examples, the Lyceum Plays’ extension.) 2. New creative voices are emerging (mentioning 20-year-old Emily Bear and the young, Black creative team of Chicken & Biscuits), and 3. Investors are investing as much if not more than before. One of his biggest investors reported to him: “I don’t care about the finances anymore. I just want theater to be.”

But how much hard proof do we have one way or another? Before the shutdown, The Broadway League published weekly reports on both attendance and gross income for each individual show.  Now it offers a general weekly report, without breaking down the figures for each show, which, given such known blockbusters as Wicked and Hamilton, masks the financial health of the average show. What we are told, as the Washington Post’s Peter Marks reported this past week: “For the week ending Oct. 31, there were 27 shows on Broadway, on average filling 77.5 percent of their capacity. That was a drop from the week before, when 85 percent of the seats were filled at 26 shows.” That represents a fall of $2..5 million. Others have pointed out that Halloween week is a traditionally weak week for Broadway sales.

Marks added: “The anecdotal evidence, gleaned from social media and private conversations with industry leaders, suggests a variety of challenges — lingering fears of the coronavirus, the disinclination by some patrons to wear masks and resistance to high ticket prices.”

An industry – and a community — looking for hopeful signs can find them. The producers of the Lyceum Plays– Dana H. and Is This A Room, playing in repertory – announced this week that their run will be extended two weeks to November 28, due to popular demand.  Of course, the producers had originally planned to present the plays through January, 2022. What this news is “proof” of is that many people, like Davenport’s investor, “just want theater to be.”

More on the Theatermakers Summit:

Andrew Lloyd Webber on creating the rare musical that works, interviewed by Emily Bear of The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical 

ASL Theater for All: Meet Brandon Kazen-Maddox

Producer Tom Kirdahy: “Passion is the essential ingredient in all we do.”

The Week in New York Theater Reviews

Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992

There are at least three startling moments in Signature Theater’s revised production of this 29-year-old play about the “civil unrest” that occurred in the aftermath of the 1992 acquittal of the police officers  caught on videotape beating a Black man named Rodney King, that each in a different way bolsters my conviction that Anna Deavere Smith is one of America’s greatest living theater artists, and “Twilight 1992: Los Angeles 1992” one of her signature achievements.

Tammany Hall 

an inspired site-specific, immersive new play about a colorful moment in New York City politics…Election Night 1929, the mayoral race between Fiorello LaGuardia and James J. Walker….the tradeoff in this kind of immersive theater: In exchange for a feeling of spontaneity, serendipity and intimacy, each individual theatergoer loses out on most of the scenes

Morning Sun 

I like “Morning Sun,” which stars these three amazing actresses Edie Falco, Blair Brown and Marin Ireland, and I also hate it… [Edward Hopper’s painting Morning Sun] does sometimes seem in sync with the tone of Stephens’ play  about the ups and downs of one woman’s life., with scenes through the years that are charming…funny…sad. [Other scenes are more like] Forrest Gump, a cheaply sentimental trip through Baby Boomer landmarks, triumphs and traumas

David Hyde Pierce and Ahmad Maksoud

The Visitor 

well-acted, well-meaning new musical… [but] the story of a middle-aged East Coast intellectual who suddenly awakens to the plight of the undocumented in America feels dated. Where has he been?!… The score would not be mistaken for Rodgers and Hammerstein, but it has its moments… the lyrics do none of the music any favors.

Generation Rise 

“Generation Rise” is being presented live on stage at New Victory Theater through November 14, billed as a show in which six New York teens voice their own experiences growing up in a global pandemic – which isn’t precisely true.  There is also a digital version, which is on demand through November 28. I prefer the digital version…the artifice of the stage production undermines the supposedly central mission of the enterprise: authenticity….three of the six “teenagers” are portrayed on stage by professional actors.

The Week in New York Theater News

Ciara Renee is the new Jenna in “Waitress” starting at the end of November. She was the last Elsa on Frozen, and also performed in Broadway in Big Fish and Pippin. (But was she ever a waitress?)

Broadway at Hudson Yards and Columbus Circle: A new free series of performances from Broadway casts will take place at The Shops shopping malls at Hudson Yards (every Monday at 5:00 PM) and The Shops Columbus Circle (every Thursday at 5 p.m.) from now until December 16. Click on the links for the schedule. The lineup as of now (which may change): Aladdin, Chicago, Come From Away, Dear Evan Hansen, Diana, Girl from the North Country, Jagged Little Pill, Moulin Rouge!,Mrs. Doubtfire, The Phantom of the Opera, The Lion King.

New York Comedy Festival, today through November 14: “7 days, 5 boroughs, 100+ shows, 200+ comedians.”

A new company, Open Circle Play Factory, is launching the Lanford Wilson Project with two of the late playwright’s plays in repertory, The Mound Builders and Sympathetic Magic, Nov 23-Dec 18 on Theater Row. Wilson (pictured here at age 35 in 1972) won a Pulitzer for Talley’s Folly

Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo will star in Universal film adaptation of the musical “Wicked,” directed by Crazy Rich Asians and In The Hiehgts filmmaker Jon M. Chu. Erivo will play Elphaba while Grande will play Glinda. The film has been in the works since 2004 (the year after it debuted on Broadway), with lots of changes of personnel. The film has not been given an updated release date

Why it matters that Cynthia Erivo is playing Elphaba in the ‘Wicked’ movie (LA Times)

‘Wicked’ Fans Petition Producers to Not Cast James Corden in Movie Adaptation (Hollywood Reporter)

Rest in Peace

Lee Goldsmith,  98, lyricist and book writer for what is thought to be the first musical on Broadway to feature lead characters who were gay (“Sextet,” which played the Bijou Theatre in 1974) Lee also enjoyed an early career with National Comics scripting stories for The Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and The Flash.

Linda Carlson, 76, “Newhart” TV series regular, and before that, performer on  Off Broadway and Broadway in the Otto Preminger-directed revival of Erich Maria Remarque’s Full Circle, as well as understudying Meryl Streep in Arthur Miller’s “A Memory of Two Mondays.”

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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