Broadway ended week 1 of the 2014-15 season on Sunday $3 million off from the week before but still ahead of the same frame a year ago. The story of the day, however, was the stunning collapse of a star-studded North American arena tour of the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice Jesus Christ Superstar just as it was about to get underway in New Orleans.
While the Broadway best-sellers continued full steam ahead, most other shows limped after the Memorial Day weekend highs. Total box office, according to figures released by the Broadway League trade association, was $27.9 million; the week before, the total was $30.9 million. The total one year ago was $23.3 million.
Among new productions this season, Disney’s Aladdin was the top seller, with $1.2 million in sales and all of its seats filled. Add in the take from The Lion King ($2 million) and Newsies ($628,000) and Disney had a $3.8 million week on the Rialto. Other new shows that went SRO were A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder ($701,000), A Raisin In The Sun ($1.2 million), Beautiful: The Carole King Musical ($1 million) and Hedwig And The Angry Inch ($979,000 ), though most were below their gross potential.
Among the new shows off significantly from the previous week were Bullets Over Broadway (down $172,000), Les Miserables (down $159,000), If/Then (down $117,000), The Cripple Of Inishmaan (down $112,000), After Midnight (down $90,000) and All The Way (down $80,000).
Red ink aside, the talk of Broadway and beyond was the shuttering of Jesus Christ Superstar by promoter Michael Cohl even as his starry cast was being outfitted for costumes in anticipation of a June 9 opening at New Orleans’ Lakefront Arena. The production was to have starred U.K. actor Ben Forster in the title role, John Lydon (the Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten) as King Herod, Incubus lead singer Brandon Boyd as Judas Iscariot, Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child as Mary Magdalene and JC Chasez of *NSYNC as Pontius Pilate.
Cohl — a rock promoter who co-produced Broadway’s biggest flop ever, the $80 million-plus Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, which shut down in January — was co-producing the Superstar tour with Lord Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group. More recently, Cohl suffered another last-minute collapse when A Night With Janis Joplin failed to transfer from Broadway to a smaller off-Broadway house.
In April, Cohl said that the Superstar tour was capitalized in the “eight figures” range and would need to take in several hundred thousand dollars at every performance to succeed. It was to have played Madison Square Garden in New York and, on July 26, Staples Center in L.A. Cohl told The New York Times that “it became obvious the shows were in trouble, but we tried until the last moment to give it every chance to turn around. In the end, it just did not make business sense to continue.” Or, for that matter, to begin.