‘Dolly’ Looks Divine As Bette Midler Descends On Broadway; Box Office Thrilled
by Jeremy Gerard
March 20, 2017
Bette Midler stormed back to Broadway this week, returning for the first time since her sold-out run as superagent Sue Mengers in I’ll Eat You Last, back in 2013. This time she has a bit more company, heading up the fourth Main Stem revival of Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart’s Hello, Dolly! (following the original, which ran from January 1964 through December, 1970).
The Jerry Zaks-helmed show, co-starring David Hyde Pierce, opened with a record $40 million advance and rising, and posted sales of $1.4 million for five previews at the Shubert Theatre, 20 per cent above its gross potential and SRO. Average ticket price was a penny-outta-your pocket $196.19. The show opens April 20.
It may be hard to beat the combined draw of a brand-name show and perhaps Broadway’s only distaff equal to Hugh Jackman. Still, the new musicals blossoming on Broadway showed spring-like signs of life as well. Groundhog Day turned a massive set fail during its first preview into a p.r. bonanza thanks to the spirited rebound of cast and crew. When the revolve declined to do its thing early in Act I, the company assembled on stage to the delight of the audience and performed the rest of the show as a concert, treating theatergoers to a truly one-time, only-in-the-live-theater experience. The show took in $213K for two previews at Jujamcyn Theatres’ August Wilson, filling 96 per cent of the seats at an average price of $90.74. The show opens April 17.
Less nailbiting, perhaps, unfolded at Jujamcyn’s Walter Kerr, where Amelie, starring ex-Hamiltonian Phillipa Soo, played seven previews in advance of an April 3 opening and took in $557K, 65 per cent of potential, filling 96 per cent of the seats; average ticket was $87.17. War Paint, which brings Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole to the Nederlander, played seven previews and tallied $776K, a healthy 70 per cent of potential and 92 per cent full houses, with an average ticket price of $103.10. It opens April 6.
A couple of more big revivals were underway in Week 43 of the 2016-2017 season: Cameron Mackintosh’s return of Miss Saigon played eight previews at the Shubert Organization’s Broadway Theatre, posting sales of $955K, 64 per cent of potential and just shy of 90 per cent full at $76.98 on average per ticket. It opens March 23. Jujamcyn’s Kevin Kline-led return of Noel Coward’s Present Laughter, at the St. James, brought in $676K, a little over half of potential and 70 per cent full at an average price of $85.77. It opens April 5.
Total gross across 32 shows was $30 million, an 8 per cent jump from Week 42 and 13 per cent above the same week a year ago, according to the trade group Broadway League. Average ticket price was up as well, to $111 from $108.33. Hamilton, at the Nederlander Organization’s Richard Rodgers, shows no sign of yielding the top-grossing crown, at $2.86 million, and top average ticket price, at $266.89.