‘The Band’s Visit‘ Starts Strong On Broadway As Bette Midler Breaks Yet Another Record
By Lee Seymour , CONTRIBUTOR
OCT 17, 2017
Another week, another shattered record left in Bette Midler’s wake. Yawn.
The Tony winner propelled Hello, Dolly! to a new high for the Shubert Theater, grossing $2.37 million. Don’t get me wrong: I’m grateful for the traffic, but coming up with new ways to say how great Ms. Midler is each week becoming an exercise in seriously creative syntax malleability. She’s back where she belongs – who else is arriving?
Well, there’s Bruce Springsteen, for one. Though numbers dipped this week due to a heavily comped opening night, The Boss still grossed almost $2 million off just five performances. Expect him to give Bette a literal run for her money in the coming months.
The Band’s Visit is also making a great impression. It’s a new musical which transferred to Broadway after a rapturously-reviewed run last year at the Atlantic Theatre. Based on the eponymous 2014 Israeli film, it pulled a solid 84% of its potential gross this week off seven performances. It’s also noteworthy as the rare Broadway show with an Arab-centric story, about an Egyptian band stranded in a remote Israeli town (the show’s male lead, Tony Shalhoub, is Lebanese himself).
Also new is Julie Taymor‘s updated revival of David Henry Hwang‘s M. Butterfly, starring Clive Owen. The original took the theater world by storm in ’88, winning the Tony for Best Play and breaking ground for onstage racial parity. Sales aren’t as strong for this version yet – just 63% of its potential – but it’s got room to grow. It enters the market as the second prominent revival of an Asian-centric story – but it’s the only one actually written by someone of Asian heritage (the dated Miss Saigon is sinking by the week and its planned closure in early 2018 is coming none too soon).
Junk, the new play from Pulitzer winner Ayad Akhtar, took just over 50% of its potential in its first week of previews. Not great, but plays have a lower breakeven than musicals, and Lincoln Center is footing the bill regardless, so it’s all good in the nonprofit hood. MTC and Roundabout’s offerings were even more lackluster, with Time And The Conways being one of the least-desired tickets as measured by average price and overall gross.
Otherwise, business after the Columbus Day high was as expected. Most big musicals took a hit as family audiences went back to school, while the few non-musicals stayed relatively stable. Sales overall dipped 1% to $29.9m, up 18% from the same frame last year.
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