Hadestown's commercial future

bear88
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Hadestown's commercial future#1
Posted: 6/13/19 at 3:58am

In his Tony Awards wrapup, Peter Marks of the Washington Post raises doubts about whether Hadestown will have staying power.

"'Hadestown,' whose director, Rachel Chavkin, was among the night’s winners, is thick with atmosphere rather than plot; it will appeal, one suspects, to a narrower swath of theatergoers than a crowd-pleaser like 'Ain’t Too Proud,' which outsells it, week after week. It will remain to be seen if the Tony haul augurs a protracted Broadway life for the show."

Marks didn't like Hadestown to begin with, but he raises a reasonable question. What's the commercial outlook for the show? It's selling out, raised prices even before the Tony nominations, and just collected a haul of awards - including the only one that really seems to matter at the box office, Best Musical. The short-term outlook for the musical looks excellent.

But as much as I enjoyed Hadestown, I do wonder how it will do after the buzz fades. In recent years, shows like Fun Home and The Band's Visit won Best Musical. The latter survived for 10 months after its near-sweep, and Fun Home only lasted a few months longer. 

My personal guess is that Hadestown will do better than those shows. Fun Home, as much as I liked it, was always a tough sell because of its subject matter - though it toured well. The Band's Visit, which I haven't seen yet, seems like a much quieter, smaller show. Hadestown seems like it can be more easily sold as a unique event, certainly with the current cast. Ain't Too Proud, the other hit musical of this season, appeals to a very different audience. Moulin Rouge! could undermine Hadestown simply by stealing some attention - although that won't hurt its box office this year.

What I also don't know is what happens by next spring, when some new musical (or musicals) will have garnered positive word-of-mouth and the original cast starts to move on. I don't see Hadestown as another Dear Evan Hansen or Come From Away in terms of longer-term box office potential. (The secret strength of DEH, I've always thought, it that well-heeled parents - unless they're in Toronto - like it at least as much as their children.)

Am I underestimating Hadestown's intermediate-term commercial potential?

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qolbinau
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Hadestown's commercial future#2
Posted: 6/13/19 at 4:02am
I think it’ll do better than Fun Home and The Band’s Visit but agree it’s no DEH. The show is avant-garde and not something I’d expect will have tourists flocking to it for years to come. But does it matter? The show is certainly on track to make a profit. The success of this show and other ‘arty’ shows like it recently seems like a really healthy thing for the art form. And much to After Eight’s dismay - is only going to hopefully continue to encourage investment in shows that might not scream commercial hit.
"It’s the fractured quality in [Bernadette Peters'] singing voice and line readings that puts across the character as someone for whom resentment is sliding into madness." - NYtimes on Follies (2011).
bear88
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Hadestown's commercial future#3
Posted: 6/13/19 at 4:12am

I agree that the commercial success of a less obviously commercial show is a very healthy thing. I'm very pleased about its success. I'm just honestly curious how long of a run folks on this board guess it might have. 

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dramamama611
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Hadestown's commercial future#4
Posted: 6/13/19 at 6:06am
No doubt it will recoup, but how long will it run? Who knows. 4 years? Enough for its investors to take a gamble on another artistic show. I hope.

I think it has more staying power than Fun Home (nothing too "uncomfortable"), Gentleman's Guide (which struggled most of its run - Hadestown was selling well even before nominations) and even Band's Visit (a very artsy show). I feel Hadestown is a show people WANT to see as opposed to SHOULD see.

I don't agree that its an avant garde show at all. I dont think the cast itself is a big sell...unless the magic is gone with replacements. (Spring Awakening seem to fizzle pretty quickly pnce the entire cast left.)

Nearly every show worries when the new season comes in.
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ChildofEarth
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Hadestown's commercial future#5
Posted: 6/13/19 at 7:27am
The Washington Post is largely terrible anymore, but the writer raises a good question while making some false parallels.

Hadestown could very easily be stunt casted in many of the roles. Will they? Probably. (Just not Oak this time, please...)

But the idea that Ain’t Too Proud is making more money than Hadestown has anything to do with something other than house size at the moment is stretching it a bit.
Malinda5000
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Hadestown's commercial future#6
Posted: 6/13/19 at 8:06am

Having actually seen Hadestown, in my opinion and MY opinion alone, I found the show to be boring and hard to follow.  The opening number was a toe tapper and Andre De Sheilds was great to see after so many years away from the Broadway stage...but afterwards everything fell flat...It didn't do it for me. However, it won Best Musical so there you go.       It may run a bit longer than Fun Home but I don't see this show lasting two years or more. Just saying.   But Congrats are in order for the show's Tony wins.

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Hadestown's commercial future#7
Posted: 6/13/19 at 8:11am

Completely agree regarding the reason why Ain't too proud is making more money. All one needs to know is look at the avarage cost of the ticket (Hadestown is near $160, Ain't too proud is near $130), and when you look at the house capacities of the theater it all adds up.

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JBroadway
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Hadestown's commercial future#8
Posted: 6/13/19 at 8:50am
I’m a big fan of the show, but I agree that realistically we’re looking at 1.5 - 2 years. Maybe 3. And of course I’ll be happy if I’m wrong and it runs longer! But like others have said - the important thing is that it will most likely make a profit.

Also, I think this has the potential to make decent money in licensing. In particular, I could see colleges doing it all the time. Even under Chavkin’s tenure alone, we’ve seen how the show works well in a variety of settings and budgets.
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Hadestown's commercial future#9
Posted: 6/13/19 at 10:58am

This is anecdotal, but I've been surprised at the number of people I've talked to who are familiar with Anais Mitchell's concept album for Hadestown.

Granted it's not The Who's Tommy, but still.

I agree that if it recoups, that's a really good thing for artsy shows in general.

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Hadestown's commercial future#10
Posted: 6/13/19 at 11:32am
Why couldn’t Hadestown essentially be a Come From Away but that actually won the Best Musical Tony (in other words, potentially have even more staying power)?
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trentsketch
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Hadestown's commercial future#11
Posted: 6/13/19 at 11:39am

It's also a more avant-garde show that schools are going to be able to justify field trips to. It's Greek mythology as a musical, after all. My middle/high school students are talking about it a lot, too. 

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bdn223
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Hadestown's commercial future#12
Posted: 6/13/19 at 12:10pm

Warbucks2 said: "Why couldn’t Hadestown essentially be a Come From Away but that actually won the Best Musical Tony (in other words, potentially have even more staying power)?"

Because Come From Away is a feel good musical that is about a relevant historical event that impacted all New Yorkers, and Hadestown is a high concept folk opera adaption of a  depressing Greek myth. They are apples and oranges. The school trip angle is something i don't think many of us thought about, its something that both Come From Away and Dear Evan Hansen  have been able to cash in on for years now. In all honesty, I think Hadestown should run at least 2-3 years in a similar run to A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder and Memphis. The show should be relatively easy to stunt cast though, which should lengthen its run. The current question for Hadestown is how will general non theater going audiences react to it. At this point opening so close to the Tony's the show was able to maximize its profits over avid theater goers. If the average theater goer balks at Hadestown, with the reaction of "How did this win the Tony?" similarly as they did to The Band's Visit, its run will be shortened. At this point though its to early to tell, as the show will ride its wave of award wins to a SRO summer, but when fall begins and its Tony wins become less relevant to the average theatergoer we will get a better idea of the long term prospects of the production. 

52889j
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Hadestown's commercial future#13
Posted: 6/13/19 at 12:11pm

Warbucks2 said: "Why couldn’t Hadestown essentially be a Come From Away but that actually won the Best Musical Tony (in other words, potentially have even more staying power)?"

Come From Away is a unique case because it was embraced by New York City as a valid and interesting piece of art, but it also has massive tourist appeal due to its patriotic, humanist message. Despite taking place in Newfoundland, it's a great thematic fit for folks travelling to New York City for the first time. As many others have said, Hadestown is much more avant garde. Its anti-capitalist message is masked in metaphor. New Yorkers and theatre fans love it, but eventually the audience has to become more tourist based and I'm unsure if it will have big staying power with out-of-towners. I'd love to be wrong though.

 

While we're here...anyone have any casting predictions? I know it likely won't happen until March, but I find it fun to speculate. Hardly a day goes by where I don't wish to see Damon Daunno in this iteration of the show. It'll be interesting to see who they pull in to keep their number up.

 

 

bakerswife372
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Hadestown's commercial future#14
Posted: 6/13/19 at 4:40pm

qolbinau said: "I think it’ll do better than Fun Home and The Band’s Visit but agree it’s no DEH. 

It's not an apples-to-apples comparison given that TBV and DEH both opened in the fall, but Hadestown is way closer to DEH in its average ticket price path than it is to TBV (and nearly double that of Fun Home). In fact, if you compare the grosses in the weeks leading up to the Tonys, Hadestown and DEH are within a few dollars of each other with Hadestown slightly ahead. DEH's avg ticket price exploded after Tony Sunday; I think we'll have a lot more clarity after seeing the next couple weeks' numbers.

 

 

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Hadestown's commercial future#15
Posted: 6/13/19 at 5:49pm

I saw it in previews at the last minute.  I'm 70 - and loved it.  When my 92 year old mother heard I was going, she and her 92 year old friend got tickets and loved it. I was describing it to my daughter, and my 14 year old grandsons both chimed in they knew the mythology (they did - they told it to me) and they wanted to see it.  So I got tickets for them.  (Now I'm broke.) I think it has wide appeal.  I could be off base, but certainly my mother is not the target audience.  Anyway, I hope it succeeds. 

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Hadestown's commercial future#16
Posted: 6/13/19 at 6:12pm

A couple of reactions:

1. This is how good producers earn their keep. You take a property and figure out how to sell it forward. Or you don't. What do you do "after the buzz fades"? You don't let it fade.

2. This is how good critics start sounding silly. I like Marks a lot, even when we don't agree, but he doesn't know the first thing about how to produce a commercial success. 

MollyJeanneMusic
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Hadestown's commercial future#17
Posted: 6/13/19 at 8:06pm

One of the nice things about Hadestown is that the original cast didn't have any humongous names in the cast.  Sure, Patrick Page and Amber Gray are familiar for the Broadway community, but they aren't huge stars outside Midtown.  The fanbase for the show, which has built up quickly, is based around the show, the music, and the direction - things that won't disappear because of an expired contract.  This is in contrast to a show like Great Comet, which had the same director and writers that were inspired by elements beyond Broadway.  Great Comet might've been able to generate a fanbase based on the show alone, but as incredible as Josh Groban was as Pierre, the show ended up becoming "The Josh Groban Show," and once he left, the you-know-what hit the fan, and the show was gone by early September.  If this show does want to stunt cast eventually, it will have already built up a lasting base from the show itself, so it won't need to worry about whether the aftermath of a stunt cast could be deadly. (no pun intended) (never mind yes pun intended i love puns)

"It's you." "It's me. Orpheus." "Eurydice..." *crying*
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SomethingPeculiar
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Hadestown's commercial future#18
Posted: 6/13/19 at 8:09pm

It's a little too early to tell at this point, we might get a better sense of its staying power this fall. My current guess is that it closes January 2021 (almost 2 years), recoups around December 2019, and barring injury/vacations, Andre DeShields and Amber Grey stay with the show through its closing.

bear88
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Hadestown's commercial future#19
Posted: 6/14/19 at 3:35am

HogansHero said: "A couple of reactions:

1. This is how good producers earn their keep. You take a property and figure out how to sell it forward. Or you don't. What do you do "after the buzz fades"? You don't let it fade.

2. This is howgood critics start sounding silly. I like Marks a lot, even when we don't agree, but he doesn't know the first thing about how to produce a commercial success.
"

Well, I share with Marks the ignorance of knowing how to produce a commercially successful Broadway show. It seems hard to maintain buzz. I saw Hadestown a few weeks ago, and the excitement in the packed theater before the show was palpable. It wasn't OBC Hamilton-level buzz, but it was in the ballpark, with celebrities in the audience and the like.

But Hadestown has had a lot of opportunities to get attention during the past few months, with its spring opening, largely positive reviews, Tony nominations, Sunday's performance and win as Best Musical. The producers seem to have made several smart moves, and the size of theater (small) and cast (unknown to the general public, so the show isn't dependent on them) work in their favor now.

Going forward, there aren't the same opportunities to grab attention, aside from the release of the cast recording (which is being drawn out). How do even the smartest producers maintain buzz about a show? At a certain point, doesn't it have to rise or fall on its own merits as popular entertainment with the tourists who will determine its longevity? 

I think Hadestown has some advantages. It's a unique show, based on Greek mythology, that is different without seeming too weird or threatening. (I am surprised when people say they found it confusing; if anything, the story is strikingly simple.) And for a tragedy, it ends on a rather uplifting note. The producers are emphasizing that point relentlessly in the advertising and interviews. The flowers handed out after the show are intended to reinforce that message.

But it's a fine line to walk. Hadestown is selling a unique experience, but the producers don't want to scare people away with something that seems too artsy or avant garde. I wondered if Wait for Me, the most visually striking performance in the theater, was necessarily the right choice for the Tony Awards telecast. At the same time, I'm not sure how much Tony Awards performances matter. 

In short, I don't know what the producers ought to do. 

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Hadestown's commercial future#20
Posted: 6/14/19 at 6:19am

I think it's almost impossible to predict whether a show is going to run for years. Why have so many jukebox biomusicals flopped since Jersey Boys? You could argue about the quality of the artist's catalog and the show's book but Jersey Boys is not high art. Similarly, I wouldn't count out artistic or atmospheric shows just based on that alone. I will never ever understand why the original Cats ran for as long as it did. Great Comet could have run longer and been a POTO-like show with spectacle and melodrama. I know Hadestown is not as immersive as Sleep No More but I think shows like that point to an interest in more unconventional fare. That said, without knowing what the new Moulin Rouge show is like, I would assume that a more melodramatic and straightforward love story would have more commercial appeal. 

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Hadestown's commercial future#21
Posted: 6/14/19 at 7:25am

"I don't agree that its an avant garde show at all. "

I suppose there is a spectrum from The Bodyguard (accessible commercial trash) to Pacific Overtures (avant garde), and it's not quite Pacific Overtures - but at least to me it's closer towards Pacific Overtures in the sense that the story is framed in an unusual way (Adaptation of ancient great names + themes but not really set or stylised in that period at all), has spoken dialogue that doesn't follow a typical prose format, has a score that sounds a little different than the current pop standard (even though there are some pop melodies throughout). It's just an 'odd' show to me that doesn't quite fit the mould of a "Broadway musical" (cf. Tootsie, which to me might have been avant-garde if it was written in 1995, but now listening to the OBC seems rather standard fare). 

"It’s the fractured quality in [Bernadette Peters'] singing voice and line readings that puts across the character as someone for whom resentment is sliding into madness." - NYtimes on Follies (2011).
Updated On: 6/14/19 at 07:25 AM
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Hadestown's commercial future#22
Posted: 6/14/19 at 8:44am
I have friends who want to see the show but are turned off by the ticket prices. $249 for rear Mezz? I think they raised prices after the Tony noms but not since the win. I also haven’t seem a bump in tickets sales this week. I got lucky and found some $119 standard price seats mid-Mezz a few weeks before the Tonys. I keep looking hoping to get that lucky again.
yankeefan7
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Hadestown's commercial future#23
Posted: 6/14/19 at 2:43pm

"1. This is how good producers earn their keep. You take a property and figure out how to sell it forward. Or you don't. What do you do "after the buzz fades"? You don't let it fade."

Good point and I hope they succeed. It is sad to me when a show wins Tony for "Best Musical" and it barely runs for a year. I hope this show has decent 3-4 year run, guess we will see what happens.

After Eight
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Hadestown's commercial future#24
Posted: 6/19/19 at 9:46pm

Qolbinau wrote:

 

"The success of this show and other ‘arty’ shows like it recently seems like a really healthy thing for the art form. And much to After Eight’s dismay - is only going to hopefully continue to encourage investment in shows that might not scream commercial hit."

 

Healthy, you say? Yeah, healthy in the way that weeds are healthy for a flower garden. 

But the simple truth is, the success of what you call "arty" shows --- which have as much resemblance to art as plastic beads do to pearls --- shows that they do indeed scream commercial hit far more loudly than shows without either pretense or pretension.  They start off with the assurance that they have the critics in their pockets,  which assures them media hype, awards, and all the money and success that those things bring.

So could we please stop the sham of deeming these things little engines that could? These are well-polished high-powered Diesel locamotives that know exactly where they're going and get there without having anything dare get in their way.

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Hadestown's commercial future#25
Posted: 6/19/19 at 9:59pm

yankeefan7 said: "It is sad to me when a show wins Tony for "Best Musical" and it barely runs for a year. I hope this show has decent 3-4 year run, guess we will see what happens."

What are you talking about?? Band's Visit and Fun Home are the shortest-running musicals in recent history, but they still both ran a year and a half. 1994's Passion is the shortest-running Best Musical winner in history (280 perfs/9 months).