Here’s another Broadway theater that will be open for new business at the turn of the year: The Shubert-owned Booth, one of Broadway’s most desired intimate houses, will go dark after the January 3 shuttering of Robert Askins’ critically acclaimed but audience undernourished Hand To God. Producer Kevin McCollum, who shot the moon this past season with two unorthodox Broadway ventures (the other is the musical Something Rotten!), said Wednesday that Hand To God will transfer to the Vaudeville Theatre in the West End, with performances beginning February 5, 2016.
The scorching comedy, set in a Texas church school and starring Tyrone, the angry-id puppet of a confused teen, cost about $3 million to mount on Broadway and, despite low weekly running costs, was unable to recoup. McCollum hopes to make his faithful partners whole in London and with touring and other productions. The show is also the subject of a lawsuit by the heirs of comedians Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, who claimed copyright infringement over the play’s use of a part of the “Who’s On First” bit made famous by the comic duo. That issue remains unresolved, McCollum told Deadline, saying he couldn’t comment on whether the suit might affect the planned move. Director Moritz von Stuelpnagel will continue his role in London; casting is not yet set.
The comedy opened to rave reviews on April 7 after earlier presentations at off-off-Broadway’s Ensemble Studio Theatre in 2011 and off-Broadway’s MCC Theater in 2013. Along with the critics, the show won celebrity support from the likes of First Amendment hero Norman Lear.
“Having played an extraordinary 9-month run on Broadway, London is the natural next step for a new American play that is this exciting,” McCollum said. “We are thrilled that Hand To God will soon be experienced by audiences all over the world.” Hand To God received five 2015 Tony nominations, including Best Play, Direction of a Play (Moritz von Stuelpnagel), Actor in a Leading Role in a Play (Steven Boyer), Actress in a Leading Role in a Play (Geneva Carr) and Actress in a Featured Role in a Play (Sarah Stiles).