A pervasive and apparently persuasive promotional campaign looks to be paying off for Broadway’s newest entry, Shuffle Along Or the Making Of The Musical Sensation Of 1921 And All That Followed. The Scott Rudin-produced 1921-vintage musical, written and helmed by George C. Wolfe and starring Audra McDonald, took in $640.4K in its first six previews at the Shubert Organization’s Music Box Theatre. That’s 80 percent of its $800K potential, with an average ticket price of $113.15 for its 963 seats, nearly all of which were filled. Moreover, word of mouth from preview audiences is exceptionally strong, with praise for the all-but-forgotten Eubie Blake/Noble Sissle score, vibrant production and a cast that also includes Broadway headliners Brian Stokes Mitchell, Billy Porter, Brandon Victor Dixon and Joshua Henry. The show is shuffling along to its April 28 opening, the last day of eligibility for this year’s Tony Awards nominations.
The skies were a bit cloudier for another new musical entry, Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s Bright Star, at the Shuberts’ Cort. Based on a song from Martin and Brickell’s beautiful first album together of banjo-driven, country-folk songs, the Walter Bobbie-directed show is generating low-key buzz that’s revealing more appreciation than excitement, and that’s reflected in the ticket sales: The show took in $313K, 34 percent of its $916K potential for eight performances, a slight bump over the week before, with an average ticket price of $43.20. Martin and Brickell have been making the TV rounds promoting the show, but they don’t appear in it, which may be a factor in the stubborn low visibility that will require huzzahs from the critics coming this week if Bright Star has any chance of succeeding. The show opens Thursday.
It was nevertheless a strong Week 43 of the 2015-2016 season, especially for musicals. Andrew Lloyd Webber, Julian Fellowes and Glenn Slater’s School Of Rock jumped $172.4K at the Shuberts’ Winter Garden to $1 million or 74 percent of potential. The Roundabout Theatre Company’s revival of She Loves Me opened to rapturous reviews at Studio 54. Long-runs The Lion King and Wicked returned to their slots at the top of the b.o. list, with the Disney show, at the Nederlander Organization’s Minskoff Theatre, taking in $2 million — a formidable $3435K leap over the week before — at an average ticket price of $150.81 Wicked, at the Nederlanders’ Gershwin, was close behind at $1.9 million, with an average ticket price of $127.07. Hamilton, at the Nederlanders’ Richard Rodgers, remained the Street’s most expensive ticket at $161.82 and took in $1.7 million — more than 30 percent above its gross potential of $1.3 million. Par for the course there.
Several non-musicals were looking good as well: the Jeff Daniels/Michelle Williams starring drama Blackbird was up $71.6K at the Shuberts’ Belasco. The revival of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, in previews at Jujamcyn Theatres’ Walter Kerr, was up $76K, and Stephen Karam’s The Humans, at Second Stage’s Helen Hayes, was up $10.7K.
Total box office for 31 shows was $26.6 million for the week ending Sunday, a 12 percent hike over the week before and just about even with the same week in 2015, according to figures released by the trade group Broadway League.