INDUSTRY: Theater Report- August 16th, 2017, GETTIN' THE BAND BACK TOGETHER, Roundabout's Two New Shows
It has been a wild beginning to the week in terms of Broadway announcements, as not one, not two, but three shows announced main stem intentions for the next year. First, Monday brought a surprise Broadway announcement, as Ken Davenport and his fellow producers revealed that the long-gestating original musical GETTIN' THE BAND BACK TOGETHER will be coming to Broadway's Belasco Theatre beginning in July of 2018.
Then on Tuesday, Hul Luftig announced that he was bringing the Kenny Leon-directed, Berkshire Theater Group production of CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD to the Roundabout-owned Studio 54 beginning in March of next year. Finally, this morning, RTC announced that it's first announced American Airlines tenant of 2018 will be a transfer of the Menier Chocolate Factory's production of Tom Stoppard's TRAVESTIES. These two announcements both answer and raise a number of questions about Roundabout's 2017-2018 Broadway season.
We also learned last night that the original Broadway production of GROUNDHOG DAY will end its run at Broadway's August Wilson Theatre on September 17th. Which means, despite all of the announcements, Broadway now has 11 theaters with vacancies in either the fall and/or spring, including five available for a tenant before the end of 2017.
Gettin' GETTIN' THE BAND BACK TOGETHER Together
Before we get to RTC's slate of shows, let's take a look at what might have driven GTBBT's producers and the Shubert Organization, which owns the Belasco, to announce a Broadway run 363 days before Opening Night.
This obviously isn't the first time that a show has announced for a specific Broadway venue more than a year before opening; we are currently waiting for KING KONG to take the Broadway Theatre in fall 2018. However, it is definitely not the norm, so one must ask why was the show given such a long runway to get the word out.
There seem to be two obvious reasons that work hand-in-hand. GETTIN' THE BAND BACK TOGETHER had its world premiere at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 2013, and almost immediately, held a "pre-Broadway" workshop with Constantine Maroulis and Marilu Henner. However, as other shows continued to find Broadway homes for the next four seasons, Davenport and his musical, which he co-wrote, were left patiently waiting for an invitation to the Great White Way.
So, with all of that downtime between workshop and an eventual Broadway bow, it makes sense that the production would need to be flexible on timing in order to find a Broadway home, and that it would benefit from some extra time in order to solidify the investments needed to get the show ready to run.
The other interesting side of the three-dimensional chess that is Broadway real estate is that the Belasco is currently home to Michael Moore's THE TERMS OF MY SURRENDER, and then, beginning on December 5th, will welcome the one-of-a-kind Tony and Oscar-winner Mark Rylance in FARINELLI AND THE KING. With it's Broadway opening just eight days before Christmas, Claire van Kampen's play with music is currently scheduled to run through March 25th, 2018. If schedules allow, any show starring Rylance has the possibility to extend, which could take this one through the late-April Tony-eligibility deadline.
However, even if it doesn't, a late March closing almost certainly doesn't leave enough time to load out FARINELLI then load in, tech, preview, and open a new commercial run at the Belasco before the awards cutoff.
So, if you think about the situation from The Shuberts' perspective, unless FARINELLI was to extend for five or six months, which is obviously unlikely, they would probably be left with a vacant theater in the tourist-rich summer of 2018, because few open-ended runs want to begin performances in the summer, knowing that the Tony nominations are 10 months away; though it is becoming slightly more common post-HAMILTON.
Therefore, with Davenport itching to get his long-stalled show on Broadway, The Shuberts found a match for Summer 2018, thus insuring that they would have a rent-paying tenant during the Dog Days of the theatrical calendar, and they did the show the favor of giving it a year's worth of leeway to drum up enough interest from investors and audiences to give it the best chance at being successful.
If Davenport is able to make GETTIN' THE BAND BACK TOGETHER a hit, then great, The Shuberts have a hit in the Belasco. However, if it doesn't find an audience, depending on when it closes, the theatre owners could potentially still have enough time to find a different show for the house during the fall. So, getting the show on Broadway is obviously a boon for the producers, and the scheduling situation is a win-win for The Shuberts.
Piecemealing Roundabout's Schedule
As was mentioned in last week's Theater Report column, it's been an interesting time for the Roundabout Theatre Company on Broadway in 2017, as they have waited far longer than normal to announce the shows that will comprise their 2017-2018 Broadway season, leaving some unusual gaps in the slate.
The calendar year opened with HOLIDAY INN wrapping up its limited run at Studio 54, then the non-profit's revival of Arthur Miller's THE PRICE opened at the American Airlines Theatre in March, all while BEAUTIFUL continues to pay rent at the Stephen Sondheim.
Since then, RTC has rented out Studio 54 to the Pulitzer-Prize winning SWEAT, and the American Airlines has welcomed subscription show MARVIN'S ROOM, with TIME AND THE CONWAYS slated to begin previews next month.
So, with the announcements of CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD (which RTC will co-produce as part of its Broadway season) and TRAVESTIES, barring an unforeseen closure from BEAUTIFUL (more on that later), there is only two more slots available for a show in RTC's Broadway season; limited runs in the fall at Studio 54 or in the winter at the American Airlines.
With TIME AND THE CONWAYS scheduled to close on November 26th, and TRAVESTIES slated to begin previews on March 29th, that does leave the venue dark for four months. Interestingly, between MARVIN'S ROOM and THE CONWAYS there is three weeks set aside to move from one show to the other. So, in theory, RTC does have time for a mid-December through early-March run of another show, should it so choose.
As for Studio 54, here have been plenty of rumors bandied about, but as of now, nothing has been confirmed to fill that hole. After back-to-back musicals (SHE LOVES ME and HOLIDAY INN) opening in 2016 at the famed former disco club, RTC currently has no musical on the books for the 17/18 season.
While both Studio 54 and the American Airlines have played host to plays and musicals as part of Roundabout's subscription seasons in recent years, both VIOLET and ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY played the smaller AA to accommodate RTC's CABARET return-engagement in 2014 and 2015, while Studio 54's split has been about 50/50 over the past decade.
Therefore, if Roundabout is going to fit a musical into this season, it is likely to be a limited run at Studio 54 this fall. With CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD not beginning previews until March, RTC does have the flexibility to wait until November to begin performances, but that would leave their largest available house empty for more than four months.
So, until the final piece(s) of the Roundabout puzzle is/are revealed, what show(s) might be added is all just internet conjecture, but it sure is fun internet conjecture.
A BEAUTIFUL Situation
Now over to Roundabout's third Broadway house. If you are looking at last week's Broadway grosses and thinking that BEAUTIFUL's slide down to $675,441 (its third-lowest total of 2017) makes it a likely candidate to close, you might be right, as traditional logic indicates that if a show is slumping during the summer, it will likely fare even worse in the fall. However, for a show that has long-recouped its initial investment, the grosses are nowhere close to catastrophic, especially when you consider BEAUTIFUL's unique box office history.
Last August, BEAUTIFUL was hovering in the low-to-mid 700s, leading many to speculate that it would close around New Years. But, after Labor Day, the show's grosses rocketed up, passing a million dollars twice in October and twice in December, and averaging $927,870 per week through the end of the year. In fact, after Labor Day, BEAUTIFUL was only below $900k four times for an eight-show week during the last four months of the year.
Now, that of course does not guarantee that the show will experience the same phenomenon this year, but if you are hoping that Roundabout will suddenly be gifted with another slot for its 2017-2018 season, I wouldn't be too optimistic. BEAUTIFUL seems like a strong candidate to hang on at the Sondheim through next summer.
Full discloser, Oliver Roth, who hosts BWW's theatre business podcast "The OHenry Report" is a producer on GETTIN' THE BAND BACK TOGETHER
Every week, I will be looking into the status of what's playing when and where on Broadway in BWW's Theater Report.