Female stars are the talk of the town as Broadway rolls into the final four weeks of openings before the April 27 Tony Awards deadline. Leading the way are Bette Midler, breaking house records at the Shubert Theatre as her revival of Hello, Dolly! heads to its April 20 opening, and Sara Bareilles, who had the rare distinction of making her second Broadway debut last week. A Tony nominee last season for her Waitress score, the pop singer-songwriter stepped into the title role for a 10-week run at the Brooks Atkinson, setting a one-night box office record of $180K.
Add to the list Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard, Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole in War Paint, Sally Field in The Glass Menagerie and Cynthia Nixon and Laura Linney in The Little Foxes, and you’ve got a lot of femme star power lighting up the marquees – and drawing crowds.
Playing seven performances, Dolly broke the house record at the Shubert, selling $1.96 million worth of tickets to beat the previous mark of $1.9 million set by Matilda during a nine-performance New Year’s week. With a top premium ticket asking $748 and an average price of $195.63, it’s little wonder that the Jerry Zaks-directed show, co-starring David Hyde-Pierce, is taking in 20.3 percent above its listed gross potential. Great word-of-mouth during the previews will only increase the ticket frenzy for the Divine One.
Bareilles took over for Jessie Mueller and played four of the show’s eight performances, which took in $1 million at the Nederlander Organization-owned Atkinson, where the average ticket price was $130.47 (up to $163.64 for Bareilles’ shows). So far, Waitress is keeping the top premium price to $270, and the show already has gone clean, returning its $12 million capitalization and looking at a rosy touring picture ahead.
Close, who wowed most of the critics in her return as Norma Desmond in Laurence Connor’s newly staged Sunset at the Nederlanders’ Palace, brought in $1.2 million, filling 80 percent of the storied house’s seats at an average price of $128. War Paint, in which LuPone and Ebersole play battling cosmetics titans Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden, is at the namesake Nederlander, where it sold $911K worth of tickets at an average price of $104.21, filling better than 90 percent of the seats prior to its opening later this week.
On the drama side, Field’s gutsy performance in Sam Gold’s rules-busting Menagerie revival brought in $388K at the Shuberts’ Belasco, 43 percent of potential and an average price of $68.93. Nixon and Linney, who are trading off roles in the Lillian Hellman-penned Foxes, are filling better than 92 percent of the seats at the nonprofit Manhattan Theatre Club’s flagship Samuel Friedman, serving mostly subscribers (hence the modest $260K gross). That show opens April 19.
In other previews news, Groundhog Day has solved its mechanical issues at Jujamcyn Theatres’ August Wilson and tallied $568K, 51 percent of potential prior to its April 17 opening. Amélie, starring Phillipa Soo and opening tomorrow at Jujamcyn’s Walter Kerr, took in $560K and played to near-full houses. Bandstand, led by Laura Osnes at the Shuberts’ Bernard B. Jacobs, took in $171K for its first two previews and opens April 26. The Kevin Kline-led revival of Noël Coward’s Present Laughter, at Jujamcyn’s St. James, brought in $620K and played to about 80 percent of capacity in the 1,400-seat house, where it opens later this week.
Ticket sales across 38 shows totaled $34.4 million during Week 45 of the 2016-17 Broadway season, according to the trade group Broadway League. That $2 million improvement is a 6 percent bump from Week 44, even as the overall average ticket price fell to $110.69 from $112.02. Season-to-date grosses are up about 2 percent, while attendance is down by the same margin.