The Ars Nova production of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 blazed onto Broadway last week with $1.13 million in ticket sales at the Imperial Theatre, an extraordinary 15 percent above its projected gross potential of $981,302. Nearly every seat was filled for all eight previews in the 1,136-seat Shubert Organization house, with a commendable average ticket price of $130.32. This despite — or perhaps in part because of — a tempest blowing over billing for the musical, which originated at off-Broadway’s Ars Nova, an invaluable developmental nonprofit, then moved after strong notices to commercial off-Broadway runs in tents around town and has now been brought by lead producers Howard & Janet Kagan (Tuck Everlasting, On the Town) to the Broadway bazaar.
The rift, as yet unresolved, was over the official title and whether it would be “The Ars Nova production of…,” as stipulated in the agreement, according to The New York Times, or whether Ars Nova would be listed among the show’s 23 “producers” above the title. There’s much precedent for both kinds of listing, but Ars Nova (did we mention that this is an Ars Nova joint?) deserves the notice for developing one of the most acclaimed musicals of recent seasons. After all, most ticket buyers likely are going on the draw of those great reviews and too-hip-to-miss word-of-mouth, not to mention the star billing of crooner Josh Groban in a title role. But the title’s already too long for short attention spans, and who’s even read War and Peace, from which the tale is drawn? Just call it Vodka!
There was plenty of other action in the District during Week 22 of the 2016-17 season, with two openings and three more shows in previews. A special run of the real Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons at the Nederlander Organization’s Lunt-Fontanne tallied $580K for three performances. The Nathan Lane/John Slattery-led revival of The Front Page was met with mixed-to-positive reviews, full houses and $1.1 million in ticket sales despite many comped seats for the opening at the Shuberts’ Broadhurst Theatre. Worth noting: It’s one of seven non-musicals running, when just a few weeks ago there was but one, Tony winner The Humans, which continues to do well at the Shuberts’ Schoenfeld, bringing in $652K for the week. Also looking strong, in previews, is the revival of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, toplined by Liev Schreiber and Janet McTeer at the Shuberts’ Booth. The comedy Oh, Hello on Broadway is getting laughs at the Shuberts’ Lyceum and improved by $80K over the week before, to $545K.
Cirque du Soleil’s Paramour bounced back into the $1 million club at Ambassador Theatre Group’s Lyric, while — stop the presses — Hamilton dropped below the $2 million line (to a mere $1.99 million) at the Nederlanders’ Richard Rodgers, still a handsome 2.5 percent above “gross potential.”
Total box office income for Week 22 was $27.4 million for 31 shows, according to the trade group Broadway League. That’s an 8 percent bump over Week 21. Average ticket price across all shows $105.85, with the top average price being Hamilton‘s $185.70.